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Portal:Horses

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Horses

Horse and foal
The horse (Equus ferus caballus) is a hoofed (ungulate) mammal, a subspecies of one of seven extant species of the family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today. Humans began to domesticate horses around 4000 BC, and their domestication is believed to have been widespread by 3000 BC; by 2000 BC the use of domesticated horses had spread throughout the Eurasian continent. Although most horses today are domesticated, there are still populations of wild and feral horses. There are over 300 breeds of horses in the world today, developed for many different uses.

The horses anatomy enables them to make use of speed to escape predators and they have a well-developed sense of balance and a strong fight-or-flight instinct. Related to this need to flee from predators in the wild is an unusual trait: horses are able to sleep both standing up and lying down. Horses and humans interact in many ways, including a wide variety of sport competitions, non-competitive recreational pursuits and working activities. A wide variety of riding and driving techniques have been developed, using many different styles of equipment and methods of control. Many products are derived from horses, including meat, milk, hide, hair, bone, and pharmaceuticals extracted from the urine of pregnant mares.

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"Odin rides to Hel" (1908)
In Norse mythology, Sleipnir (Old Norse "slippy" or "the slipper" is an eight-legged horse. Sleipnir is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. In both sources, Sleipnir is Odin's steed, is the child of Loki and Svaðilfari, is described as the best of all horses, and is sometimes ridden to the location of Hel. The Prose Edda contains extended information regarding the circumstances of Sleipnir's birth, and details that he is gray in color.

Additionally, Sleipnir is mentioned in a riddle found in the 13th century legendary saga Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks, in the 13th century legendary saga Völsunga saga as the ancestor of the horse Grani, and book I of Gesta Danorum, written in the 12th century by Saxo Grammaticus, contains an episode considered by many scholars to involve Sleipnir. Sleipnir is generally accepted as depicted on two 8th century Gotlandic image stones; the Tjängvide image stone and the Ardre VIII image stone.

Scholarly theories have been proposed regarding Sleipnir's potential connection to shamanic practices among the Norse pagans. In modern times, Sleipnir appears in Icelandic folklore as the creator of Ásbyrgi, in works of art, literature, in the names of ships, and as the name of a web browser.

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A Percheron in harness
The Percheron is a breed of draft horses that originated in the Perche valley in northern France. Percherons are usually gray or black in color. They are well-muscled, and known for their intelligence and willingness to work. Although their exact origins are unknown, the ancestors of the breed were present in the valley by the 1600s. They were originally bred for use as a war horse. Over time, they began to be used for pulling stage coaches, and later for agriculture and hauling heavy goods. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Arabian blood was added to the breed. In the late 1800s, exports of Percherons from France to the United States and other countries rose exponentially, and in 1893 the first purely Percheron stud book was created in France.

The current US Percheron registry was created in 1934. In World War I, the breed was used extensively by the British. In the 1930s, Percherons accounted for 70% of the draft horse population in the United States, but their numbers declined substantially after World War II. However, the population began to recover, and as of 2009, around 2,500 horses are registered annually in the United States alone. Today, the breed is still used extensively for draft work, and in France they are used for food. They have been crossed with several light horse breeds, such as the Criollo, to produce horses for range work and competition. Purebred Percherons are used for forestry work and pulling carriages, as well as under saddle work, including competition in English riding disciplines such as show jumping.

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Anatomy of a horse from a 9th century AH (15th century AD) Egyptian document at the University Library, Istanbul.
Credit: Seyyed Hossein Nasr (1976). Islamic Science:An Illustrated Study, World of Islam Festival Publishing Ltd.. ISBN 090503502X

Anatomy of a horse from a 9th century AH (15th century AD) Egyptian document at the University Library, Istanbul.

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