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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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A Canadian cavalry recruitment poster
The use of horses in World War I reflected a transitional period in the evolution of armed conflict. Cavalry units were initially considered essential offensive elements of a military force, but over the course of the war, the vulnerability of the horse to modern machine gun and artillery fire fostered interest in mechanized forces. This paralleled the development of tanks that would ultimately replace cavalry in shock tactics. While the perceived value of the horse in war changed dramatically, horses nonetheless played a significant role throughout the war.

All of the major combatants in World War I (1914–1918) began the conflict with cavalry forces. Horses were used by the military mainly for logistical support during the war; they were better than mechanized vehicles at travelling through deep mud and over rough terrain. They were used for reconnaissance and for carrying messengers, as well as pulling artillery, ambulances, and supply wagons. The presence of horses often increased morale among the soldiers at the front, but they also contributed to disease and poor sanitation in camps, caused by their manure and carcasses. The value of horses, and the increasing difficulty of replacing them, was such that by 1917 it was made known to some troops that the loss of a horse was of greater tactical concern than the loss of a human soldier.

Conditions were severe for horses at the front; they were killed by artillery fire, suffered from skin disorders, and were injured by poison gas. Hundreds of thousands of horses died, and many more were treated at veterinary hospitals and sent back to the front. Procuring equine food was a major issue, and Germany lost many horses to starvation through lack of fodder. Several memorials have been erected to commemorate the horses which died. Artists extensively documented the work of horses in the war and horses featured in war poetry, Novels, plays and documentaries .

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Breton horse
The Breton is a breed of draft horse. It was developed in Brittany, a province in northwest France, from native ancestral stock dating back thousands of years. The Breton was created through the crossbreeding of many different European and Oriental breeds. In 1909, a stud book was created, and in 1951 the book was officially closed. The breed is often chestnut in color, and is strong and muscular. There are three distinct subtypes of the Breton, each coming from a different area of Brittany. The Corlay Breton is the smallest type, and is generally used for light draft and under saddle work. The Postier Breton is used for harness and light farm work. The Heavy Draft Breton is the largest subtype, and is generally used for the hardest draft work. It has been used in military, draft and agricultural capacities. The Breton has been used to improve and create many other draft breeds, as well as being bred to produce mules.

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Equus grevyi (aka).jpg
Credit: Aka

Grévy's Zebra, sometimes known as the Imperial Zebra, is the largest species of zebra.

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