Horses in America

Question: How did the horse come to North America and when did the indians begin using them?

Answer: The Spaniards brought them over to the "New World." They were domesticated when they came over, but then left to run wild (and returned to their wild roots, so to speak). The Indians began using them after this. So, if Columbus came over in 1492....

I also read somewhere that the Indians didn't want the horses brought over to Jamesport...that it was later that the Plains Indian became interested in the horses.

To answer your "timeline" question, it could have been as early as the 16th century, but sounds more like it was the 17th and 18th century before the Indians became true horseman.

How did horses impact the North American Indian?

When the Spaniards arrived in the late 15th century, Indians had never seen horses. (Horses had been in the Americas in prehistoric times, but had died out.) The biggest impacts that horses had were

1) when mounted, the Indians could kill buffalo. Their food supply changed.
2) horses were seen as a status symbol, and was used as currency for trade. Geronimo, for example, was known to raid and take horses and guns as the spoils of war.
3) because they were nomadic, they could travel farther distances to better winter and summer grounds.

There are hundreds of books on Native American history. If you want to read about a present day Indian horse trainer, read GaWaNi Ponyboy. Also, on Amazon, I did a quick search for

Books > Subjects > History > Americas > Native American > General & Post-Columbus

I would start in this section and go from there.

More info from "The History and Romance of the Horse", by David Alexander.

There were horses in prehistoric America, but they died out before any humans ever had contact them. "The North America Indians never saw a horse until the white man came. Scientists reason that some great plague, similar to our modern viruses, may have swept the Americas and that a few survivors of the species Equidae might have crossed the land bridges to Asia to propagate their kind."

What we now consider wild horses (mustangs) are really domesticated horses that became wild after they were abandoned or escaped from the Spaniards who brought them to the New World. These wild horses were then captured and domesticated again, first by the Indians, and then by white settlers.

One interesting note is that the horses that the Spaniards brought -- mainly Barbs, Moors, and Arabians -- were larger than the typical Mustang of today. They became smaller in the wild, likely as a result of a poorer diet and increased inbreeding.





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