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MY KINGDOM FOR A HORSE: The Significance of The Horse in Human History


MY KINGDOM FOR A HORSE: The Significance of The Horse in Human History

October 08, 2019  |  by Bill Dobbins

MY KINGDOM FOR A HORSE The Significance of The Horse in Human History

By Bill Dobbins


King Richard: A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!

Catesby: Withdraw, my lord; I’ll help you to a horse.

King Richard: Slave! I have set my life upon a cast, And I will stand the hazard of the die.

Richard The Third Act 5, scene 4, 7–10 | Source:

The Arabian. This type of horse was used by the Saracens during the Crusades, battling against knights mounted on much larger and less nimble chargers. | Source:
curtis indian
Edwin S. Curtis documented the vanishing culture of the plains Indians and their dependence on horses. Photo from 1904. | Source:

Until the era of the motor car and the internal combustion engine, which began at the end of the 19th century, the horse played a central and significant part in human history for many thousands of years.  This is why you see so many artistic depictions of horses throughout time – including paintings, sculptures, and, in the modern era, photography.

The horse (Equus ferus caballus)[2][3] is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus. It is an odd-toed ungulate mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature, Eohippus, into the large, single-toed animal of today. Humans began domesticating horses around 4000 BC, and their domestication is believed to have been widespread by 3000 BC. Horses in the subspecies caballus are domesticated, although some domesticated populations live in the wild as feral horses. These feral populations are not true wild horses, as this term is used to describe horses that have never been domesticated, such as the endangered Przewalski’s horse, a separate subspecies, and the only remaining true wild horse. There is an extensive, specialized vocabulary used to describe equine-related concepts, covering everything from anatomy to life stages, size, colorsmarkingsbreedslocomotion, and behavior. – Wikipedia

horse ancestor
An early ancestor of the modern horse. | Source:
han dynasty
Any ancient sculpture of horse and rider from the Chinese Han Dynasty. | Source:
winged horse
The horse in mythology: Pegasus, the flying horse. | Source:
Horses can’t fly, but some of them are terrific jumpers. Useful in both war and in hunting as well as races like the steeplechase. | Source:

The horse has been used by humans for riding and put to work doing everything from fighting wars to pulling carts and wagons to plowing to powering various kinds of machines.  Until the introduction of the railroad, the fastest a human could travel was on the back of a horse.  Horses have been used in the war in every form from mounted medieval knights, the ancient equivalent of tanks, to fast and mobile calvary, including the Mongols, the Japanese Samurai, and plains Indians.

The Egyptians and others harnessed horses to chariots, a devastating weapon of war back in the day.  In many cultures, the number of horses a man owned was a measure of his wealth.  Alexander the Great had a horse named Bucephalus who was widely celebrated in the ancient world.  Racing horses to see which is the fastest is also an ancient sport and can be found in almost all cultures which had these animals.  We still celebrate great racehorses like Secretariat or Man o War.

Chariots pulled by horses were very effective weapons of war in Egypt and other ancient cultures. | Source:
The Trojan Horse of myth and legend. | Source:
Rulers like Napoleon often had themselves depicted on horseback in sculpture and painting. | Source:
largest statue in rome
This knight on horseback is the largest statue in Rome. | Source:

“Horses have played a monumental role in the development of the modern world, ” according to the Equine Heritage Institute.  “The use of the horse revolutionized agriculture, helped develop cities, improved transportation, and communication, facilitated imperialism and nation-building and revolutionized warfare. They contributed to medical breakthroughs and battle victories and remain a cultural icon to this day.”

There were once a number of different species of horse but today only one remains.  It has close relatives, such as the zebra.  But a major difference is that a zebra can be tamed but not domesticated.  The horse is a domesticated animal that can be tamed and used to perform any number of tasks.

This is a study of a horse by Leonardo da Vinci. He also designed a huge bronze statue of a horse that was too ambitious to be realized at the time. | Source:
Horse competing in Dressage, a very stylized type of equestrian competition. | Source:

The evolution of the horse, a mammal of the family Equidae, occurred over a geologic time scale of 50 million years, transforming the small, dog-sized,[1] forest-dwelling Eohippus into the modern horsePaleozoologists have been able to piece together a more complete outline of the evolutionary lineage of the modern horse than of any other animal. Much of this evolution took place in North America, where horses originated but became extinct about 10,000 years ago.[2] – Wikipedia

Horses are native to Eurasia and were not found on any other continent until exported. There were no native horses in Africa.  None in Australia either.  In the Americas, the only work animal that inhabitants had was the llama – that is, until the Conquistadors brought horses with them, some of which escaped and gave rise to the wild herds from which American Indians were able to capture and tame their ponies and which cowboys used for their work handling cattle.

mongol horses
The Mongols swept from Asia into Europe mounted on a breed of tough little horses. | Source:
A small group of Conquistadors conquered much larger indigenous forces to a large degree with the use of horses, which the forces they battled against had never seen before. | Source:
indian horse
The plains Indians were able to live their largely nomadic lifestyle and hunt animals like buffalo by taming the descendants of horses originally brought to the Americas by the Conquistadors. | Source:
The Mustang is the descendant of the horses brought to the Americas by the Spanish Conquistadors. | Source:

Horses over time were bred to fulfill a variety of jobs and purposes.  In the Crusades, European knights mounted on massive mounts battled Arabs on smaller and faster types of horses.  Quarter horses are quick and nimble, able to sprint short distances at very fast speeds, while Clydesdales are big and powerful, used for tasks like pulling the Budweiser wagon.  Thoroughbreds are specialized for certain kinds of racing, other horses are designed to be jumpers and animals like the Lipizzaner Stallions are acrobats and dancers.

Remington 4
“I don’t do anything that can’t be done from the back of a horse.” Tom Selleck in the movie Monte Waslh. | Source:
Clydesdales pulling the Budweiser wagon. | Source:
The greatest racehorse: Tripple Crown winner Secretariat. | Source:
police horses
Horses are used by police for crowd control, as they have been for a very long time. | Source:

Today the horse no longer has the utility as in the past.  While there are still some practical uses for horses, such as working on horseback at a cattle ranch or used by police for crowd control, the horse is more often used for entertainment or pleasure in today’s world.

But because of it’s importance to humans for so many thousands of years the horse has frequently been the subject of art – in paintings, sculptures and in modern times photography.

In the 19th century, before the invention of the internal combustion engine, horses were very important to human culture. Painter Thomas Gainsborough was noted for his depictions of these animals. | Source:
Painter and sculptor Fredrick Remington created a lot of art featuring horses. | Source:
Mounted cavalry was an important part of armies right up through WWI. And, unfortunately, to some degree in WWII. | Source:
Chief, the last calvary horse. When I was a kid I stabled my horse where Chief resided and got to know him. In his late 20s, Chief was no longer ridden but wandered about, following kids like a friendly dog. | Source:


Bill Dobbins Sarah Lyons dressing room-SMALL-1

 Bill Dobbins is a professional photographer, videographer and writer based in Los Angeles.  His work has been exhibited as fine art in two museums, a number of galleries, and he has published eight books, including two fine art photo books:

The Women: Photographs of The Top Female Bodybuilders (Artisan) Modern Amazons (Taschen)





My horse for a kingdom.
My horse for a kingdom. | Source:
For Sale: A kingdom or will swap for a horse.
For Sale: A kingdom or will swap for a horse. | Source:
My Kingdom for a Horse, "I said my kingdom for a horse !"
My Kingdom for a Horse, “I said my kingdom for a horse !” | Source:
October 08, 2019

About the Author

Bill Dobbins

Bill Dobbins

Bill Dobbins THE BODY PHOTOGAPHER became well known for his male and female physique photos - images of the aesthetic, athletic body. Using the same distinctive personal style, characterized by strong graphics and a classic look in both color and BW, Bill Dobbins has also developed a body of work featuring fashion, beauty and glamor photos In a world in which so many images create a level of "noise" that makes it hard for advertisers to be noticed, Bill's work cuts right through the confusion and grabs the eye. Bill has created two art photos books: The Women: Photographs of the Top Female Bodybuilders (Artisan) and Modern Amazons (Taschen) and his fine art work has appeared in two museums and several galleries. WEBSITES BILL DOBBINS PHOTOGRAPHY BILL DOBBINS ART THE FEMALE PHYSIQUE WEBZINE/GALLERY EMAIL:

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