Uses of Horses Throughout History

Jessica McDaniel
Written by
Last update:

Uses of Horses Throughout History: Horse Domestication

Although the exact location is unknown, it is speculated to have happened in the northern part of the Eurasian Steppe around 5,500 years ago. It wasn’t until a few years later that the Asians began to spread horses all throughout Asia and Europe.

The introduction of horses to the Americas is still unknown, but it is thought that horses were brought to the North and South America by the Spanish and Portuguese, possibly via Europe, sometime between 1493 and 1520.

Although the acquisition of horses happened during different years, the domestication of horses occurred only once.

Uses of Horses Throughout History: War

Horses have been used throughout history for war. The main use has been finding, carrying and delivering messages as well as carrying personnel. They have also been used to build morale in cavalry and to hold swords, armor and shields, as well as just as weapons of destruction using their strength.

But horses were not only used for war, they have also been used for transportation. It has played a key part in conquering lands much quicker. Before buildings and roads were developed, a major part in transporting supplies was horses. Soldiers, supplies and even the wounded were carried by horses to the front lines, as well as from camps to cities.

In today's world, the main usage of horses is recreational therapy. People that cannot walk normally can get on a horse and use it as a means of transportation as well as an activity. A lot of the explanation on why horses are used for this is because of the relationship formed with the horse. The horse will become more dependable on the person that is using it as opposed to pulling and long ropes by themselves.

These are the different uses of horses in history..

Early War Horses

Were Swift, Agile and Deadly on the Battlefield.

The earliest uses of horses throughout history date back to 2500 BCE made of literary references, cave paintings, and sculptures. The Bronze Age warrior in China is often pictured on horseback wielding a spear or sword. Horses were first introduced to Persia around 800 BCE, and from there were introduced to the Middle East, Northern India, and Africa and from which the Europeans eventually discovered the horse.

The natural speed, agility, and strength of the horse made it successful in battle. Evidence of early war horses is found by examining the art of a region. In Egypt, Assyria, and Scythia, horses were clearly part of the military as evidenced by the artwork.

Uses of Horses Throughout History: Middle Ages

The Middle Ages (500-1500) witnessed substantial advances in the field of equine (horse) domestication. The last couple of centuries saw a big spurt in horse breeding as horsemanship became one of the major skills of the knight.

The life of a knight on horseback has been described in some detail (peripherally) by writers such as Froissart, and in great fullness, by contemporaries. The knight's horse provided transportation, freedom of movement, protection, as well as a status symbol that denoted wealth. Knights relied on their horses for war, and therefore the quality and kind of horse was a deciding factor in most of their military tactics.

Prior to the beginning of the Christian era, the horse was yet to be tamed and domesticated. It is not known if the success of the earlier warlike civilizations of the ancient world was due to the quality of their horses, their horsemanship or both. “Persians ruled the world” for 30 years, and Alexander’s victories over them were attributed to the greatness of his own steeds, whose marvelous speed and endurance were emphasized by their enemies. The story of Bucephalus, who was the mount of Alexander, overshadowed all other existing equines.

Uses of Horses Throughout History: Napoleonic Wars

In 1813, during Napoleonic wars, there was one horse for every twelve soldiers. With that many horses on the battlefield, you can be sure they played a role in the Napoleonic Wars.

Horses played an important role in cavalry units. Light cavalry units, like hussars and lancers and dragoons could strike with great speed. Cavalry units trained together for a very long time. Skilled riders, and horses became a cohesive unit that used the force of the horses to aid them against cannon.

Pack horses, like mules, were useful to the logistical part of Napoleonic wars. They were also used by many armies to pull their artillery pieces, like cannons and heavy guns.

Draft Horses, such as the Percheron, are used to draw the carriage of the captain general. Any lieutenant can ride a special horse that was used solely for this purpose.

The American Civil War

The horse was not only used as a means of transport, or for racing, it was also an important animal to have in farming. Before the development of motorized machinery, the horse (especially the work horse) was a very important animal. Horses were used for agriculture, warfare, transport, trade, travel, and communication. Horses were also used to power devices such as mills, threshing machines and pumps.

After the war had ended, many of the horses were auctioned off to civilians. Most of them were used as work horses to till the fields and transport goods near towns and cities.

These horses made it easier for the indigenous people to create a new economy after they had lost so much. While the war had torn through their country, leaving many of them homeless, the horse was something that they could use to make a living.

World War I & II

Petroleum never had a role in the Second World War; planes and tanks simply rolled across distant lands without a drop of oil being used.

Horses were still used in a variety of ways. The horse was used to pull field cannons and caissons, while other horses were trained to be used for transport across the land or oceans.

Towards the end of the war, the United States Quartermaster had a big problem. As the war was winding down, but the need for horses was still quite high. The Quartermaster was about to run out of horses.

The government began to round up mustangs from the wild with no regard for the breed, health, or age.

Though many were rounded up and used as pack horses, many were put down due to their poor conditions and lack of training.

Horses for Transportation

Humans have been using horses to travel for about 5,000 years, since man first domesticated them. Horses were excellent forms of transportation when they were first domesticated, and still remain the best way to travel over long distances in a short amount of time. However, horses are no longer used for long-haul travel since the invention of the car. Since cars became the norm around a hundred years ago, horses have almost become obsolete as a form of transportation.

Today, horses are still used for other purposes, and are still used as a primary form of transportation in some places around the world. They are also still used for doing sports such as racing and jumping. Horses have to be trained to do such a high-risk activity though, since they can be dangerous if not trained right.

Horses are also still used for pulling, especially in farming. Almost all farming still done through pulling, since the invention of mechanical contraptions to pull equipment.

Horses also play a large part in transportation in the military. They are used to carry supplies, haul artillery pieces, and even to transport armies into battle.

Horses for Work

Horses have been used for centuries for a variety of work roles, from managing livestock to plowing fields. In the United States, horses are still used in parades and in competitions such as jumping, barrel racing and rodeos.

Work horses are generally of the draught horse type, with a large build and a calm disposition. This is desirable because the horse can be worked for many hours at a time without creating a lot of excitement and energy, which is wasted energy.

Horses as Companions

Horses have been used for centuries as steady companions and pack animals. From herding to transportation and agriculture, the horse is one of the greatest animals to man. Interestingly, horses were discovered for riding around 2,500 BC, and were used for fighting around 700 BC. The use of horses for transportation began about 5500 BC.

As mentioned above, horses were discovered to have been used as riding animals around 2,500 BC. The animals were used in battle, which was around the seventh century BC. While the act of riding was discovered at this time, the horse was not used for racing until the fourth century BC.

In terms of their use sure agriculture, horses were used for their pulling power. While donkeys were used for similar purposes, the horse was generally considered a better pulling animal, as unlike donkeys, it was not interested in crop wastes or spoiled food. As a result, the horse was a significant piece of farming equipment.

Horses in History

Horses have been used throughout history for various purposes. In the past, horses were used for transportation. The horse has been an essential part of armies during many conflicts and is seen as a symbol of power. Even today, the horse is still used by armies for ceremonial purposes.

Before the invention of the automobile, horses were used for travel and everyday transportation. They were used to pull carriages. Horses were also used for farming and some tasks such as plowing. Because of this, horses had to be hardy and strong.

Be sure to think about how your horse will fit into your lifestyle and needs when buying a horse. If you want your horse to wear a fancy saddle and be ridden in parades, he will need to be that type of horse. If you want your horse to be a farmhand or plow the fields, he will need to be that type of horse.

If you simply want to ride your horse and to have him accompany you on leisurely walks or rides, then choose one that fits those needs. You will be more likely to take good care of your horse if you have a horse that fits into your lifestyle.