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Discussion Starter #1
I just watched a little PBS video
on the evolution of horses, and ended up scrolling down to the comments.

Yes, I know.

In any case, one commenter started to think about the fact that horses became extinct in North America, but not before migrating to the Eurasian continent. The commenter then proceeded to contemplate the turn of History if the North American aborigines had got the idea to domesticate the horse instead of the Kazakhs. Just imagine intellectual powerhouses like the Mayas, Aztecs with the productivity boost that the horse afforded to Eurasian civilizations.

When you see your horse tonight, remember its ancestors may well be the reason we're not the ones living on a reservation.
 

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Mayaz and Aztecs with horses. Yeah, that would have been something. I have to say, I'm glad it didn't happen that way.
 
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Does anyone remember the book "Yesterday's Horses" by Jean Slaughter Doty about the girl who finds a pocket of primitive horses who escaped extinction who hold the key to saving domesticated horses from a deadly disease? I remember reading it as a kid, and thinking that somewhere, in all the vastness that is North America, it really isn't all that much of a stretch that a small group of horses may have survived at one point to intermingle with the second wave of horses, thus making the horse truly indigenous to the North American continent.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Does anyone remember the book "Yesterday's Horses" by Jean Slaughter Doty about the girl who finds a pocket of primitive horses who escaped extinction who hold the key to saving domesticated horses from a deadly disease? I remember reading it as a kid, and thinking that somewhere, in all the vastness that is North America, it really isn't all that much of a stretch that a small group of horses may have survived at one point to intermingle with the second wave of horses, thus making the horse truly indigenous to the North American continent.
I think that's probably unlikely. Horses are such a successful species in adapting to difficult eco systems that their herds would not have remained small and inconspicuous for long, had they existed. I'm also not aware of any other predators that could have kept them out of humans' sight through heavy predation. There are furthermore no geographically isolated areas (like remote, inaccessible mountain valleys) that would contain and protect such a herd.
 

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The wheel may have something to do with it. And large sailing ships.
The recent history of the aboriginal Americas had more to do with smallpox and measles than the wheel.

One of my often-recommended books, The Horse, The Epic History of Our Noble Companion by Wendy Williams, is a wonderful read, describes the origins of the horse from Eohippus to the true feral horses that exist today, with a lot of engaging side ventures. I learned a TON from this book.
 

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Domestication occurred 6000 years ago. And the wheel would be a great response to having a powerful engine available to go places with.
Arguably, human pulled 2-wheel carts are a good way to transport goods if no animal power is available. But the wheel was invented after domestication of the horse, so...chicken or egg?

The recent history of the aboriginal Americas had more to do with smallpox and measles than the wheel...
Undoubtedly. The Comanche, IIRC, lost 80% of their population to illness before being 'conquered' by whites. While healthy, they kicked white butts. However, the westward movement of whites was fueled by the almost limitless numbers coming from Europe, backed by a civilization whose weapons and vast armies were backed and moved by transport systems involving wheels and the economic system easy transport allowed.

I recently read a book by a British general discussing the US Civil War. He made the interesting argument that the South lost in large part because its very philosophy of governance involved state and local rights to the point the Confederate government could only fight piecemeal. It seems to me his argument would apply even more strongly to the natives fighting our invasion - and in terms of morality, it is hard to avoid the conclusion the natives were in the right. A 1904 book on "Indian Wars and Fighters" - if I remember the title correctly - made a good case for the morality of the natives over the invaders, although the battles were analyzed from a white perspective.

Disease undoubtedly played a big role, but technology, organized armies, LOGISTICS (where most wars are won or lost), factories and sheer numbers meant only one outcome. And I would argue the wheel played an important role. In the end, it was a societal conflict with most of the advantages lying on one side. The outcome of wars has little to do with morality. It can be affected by how societies organize and what behaviors they admire.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
The recent history of the aboriginal Americas had more to do with smallpox and measles than the wheel.

One of my often-recommended books, The Horse, The Epic History of Our Noble Companion by Wendy Williams, is a wonderful read, describes the origins of the horse from Eohippus to the true feral horses that exist today, with a lot of engaging side ventures. I learned a TON from this book.
Well, the commenter I referred to was more imagining the technological advances that would have occurred had the horse been domesticated here. Europeans may well have encountered a powerful cavalry force upon arrival, and the productivity gains in agriculture and trade would have accelerated technological advances in the existing civilization of the Americas. Moreover, those advances would have spread more rapidly and the development of more powerful nation states more likely. Imagine you can transport goods, information, and manpower using horses instead of jogging. The leveraging of that must have been a powerful advantage.

Just look at what the Mongols did to Europe with their "horse power."
 

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I'm a fan of Jared Diamond's Guns Germs and Steel, which explores why European cultures dominated American and African cultures. Disease -- not just human but also animal diseases play an enormous role in history. We like to think it is technology (or innate superiority, or God's will), not the effects of new diseases on unexposed populations, but the facts are there.

All the horse power in world won't matter if you're all dying of the measles.

There's another book I think called The Horse The Wheel and Language which among other things reviews the earliest domestications of the horse in Eurasia. Interesting things I learned from that book included that the invention of the horse collar revolutionized the use of the horse as a draft animal (can't use a ox yoke on a horse, and a horse can't pull much with a chest strap, it cuts off his breathing). And, the invention of the stirrup revolutionized horseback warfare.
 

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I just watched a little PBS video PBS video on the evolution of horses, and ended up scrolling down to the comments.

Yes, I know.

In any case, one commenter started to think about the fact that horses became extinct in North America, but not before migrating to the Eurasian continent. The commenter then proceeded to contemplate the turn of History if the North American aborigines had got the idea to domesticate the horse instead of the Kazakhs. Just imagine intellectual powerhouses like the Mayas, Aztecs with the productivity boost that the horse afforded to Eurasian civilizations.

When you see your horse tonight, remember its ancestors may well be the reason we're not the ones living on a reservation.
Horses didn't actually boost productivity all that much compared with such giant breakthroughs as agriculture (2000 years before horse domestication) and then the Industrial Revolution. Depending on the soil, oxen plow just as well. What they did do is give mobility to warriors, in treeless geographical areas -- the steppes and plains of dry-temperate northern hemisphere climates.They mostly facilitated war.
 

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@SilverMaple

Wasn't the ancient horse in question named something like "Zipper" and the girls mother was a scientist who helped her cover up her wild pony to researchers? It was quite good. I think I checked it out from the library a number of times, back when they put little pictures on the spines of the topic (in this case a horse head) and I would pick up as many as I was allowed to take.



A really good book for thinking about alternative histories is Past-watch" by Orson Scott Card, and it explores a Mayan/ Aztec driven timeline. It was quite good.
 
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