Horse elongated neck and legs - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 03-06-2018, 03:55 PM Thread Starter
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Horse elongated neck and legs

How has the horses neck and legs evolved over time? do you think it's part of evolution? I was wondering how the long neck or legs even benefits the modern horse of today.

Thoughts?

-Jess
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post #2 of 5 Old 03-06-2018, 04:22 PM
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I think you have to look at it in two ways: what is "natural evolution" and what is "genetically modified" aka what we humans have bred into them over generations to suit our needs for work, pleasure, and competition.

For example, over time we have increasingly bred longer legs and necks into Thoroughbreds, Sporthorse-types, etc for use in racing and sports such as Jumping and Hunters. The opposite is true for cow horses, where we continue to breed them relatively short and stocky as that is better suited to the purpose.

With many species, getting larger or smaller goes hand-in-hand with avoiding predators and/or getting better access to food and basic needs for living and reproducing. I believe that is also true of the horse, but once we began domesticating them I think we interrupted natural evolution and thus began our own genetic modifications to suit our own wants and needs, the same as with dogs.

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post #3 of 5 Old 03-06-2018, 04:25 PM Thread Starter
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yes I agree. But you im looking at it in more of "natural selection" such as teeth... changed over time because of their diet. And hoofs changed over time. I was wondering what other structure of part changed over time without humans interrupting
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post #4 of 5 Old 03-06-2018, 04:42 PM
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Hmmm...been a while since I've had to dig through my horse evolution knowledge for such specific info from my Zoology courses haha! And even then I don't think we did a whole lot of in-depth stuff on the horse specifically...more generalized perssiodactyls.

You'd probably get more accurate information from someplace like the American Museum of Natural History's Exhibit on the Horse. They have pretty decent info on the teeth and toes/hooves specifically. A bit of the info could maybe now be contested based on the latest research and studies (as in stuff just put out in the last year or so) but overall it's still pretty accurate and probably what you are after.

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post #5 of 5 Old 03-06-2018, 06:14 PM
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I’m generalising as this is a massive and complicated subject.

The branches of ancient horses were different sizes depending on their environment. The forest tree browsers would’ve developed longer necks and legs to reach up to leaves but were not built for speed given the trees and shrubs. As a result they'd have been stockier with muscles. Hiding would’ve been more effective as they couldn’t run in a straight line.

With the advent of open grasslands the grazers adapted to survive by developing new mouth, digestive and leg structures. Their size varied greatly but if they were developing longer legs to avoid predators, then they’ll have longer necks as well so they can feed.

The new environment drives the anatomical changes to the legs: longer legs would give distance; slow moving and heavy muscle changed to lighter, energy storing, explosive, tendons and ligaments, while the stance changed to upright on a single toe (think how some runners land on the ball of the foot as it’s springier than landing on the entire foot). I seem to remember that with upright limbs the body size can increase, as standing crouched, on three or four toes and a larger portion of the foot, would limit the weight of the body.

I agree with @k9kenai , you'd be better going to a knowledgeable website.
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