My research seeks to understand when, why, and how horses shaped human history by studying horse equipment and ancient animal bones. In this exhibit, you can explore the history of horses in the American West.
Horses first evolved in North America. Some of their early ancestors lived 30–40 million years ago and were small, three-toed browsers that fed on leaves of woody plants. By the last Ice Age, large single-toed animals, who fed on grasses (similar to the horses we know today), had become widespread. These wild horses went extinct about 10,000 years ago, possibly due to a combination of climate change and human hunting.
In the 16th century, Spanish colonists brought horses from Europe, reintroducing them into the deserts and grasslands of western North America. Some Native peoples quickly became master horsemen, developing new ways of riding, controlling, and herding horses (along with donkeys and mules). Horses and Indigenous people formed deep cultural and economic bonds that shaped the West, and persist into the 21st century. ASL
William Taylor, PhD
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Curator of Archaeology