The reasons why the horse has been and continues to be so popular is firstly because of their temperament which is based upon their sociability. In the wild they have a naturally sociable lifestyle. They cooperate with each other. This cooperation between horses in the wild is transformed into a cooperation between the horse and human within domestication.
The second reason is that they are a noble creature. They are large and strong and dutiful towards humankind. This, in the words of Desmond Morris has led them to be slaves to humankind and thereafter abuses but they are praised in equal measure.
“If the dog is man’s best friend, then the horse could be well described as man’s best slave.”
“For centuries they have toiled to drag heavy loads in the service of human ambition and then been rewarded at the end of their days with a trip to the knacker’s yard”.
The exploitation of horses comes from their willingness to cooperate and the egocentric human will always exploit that kind of willingness. Combine that with their majestic appearance and graceful athleticism and you have an exceedingly popular domestic animal.
The horse has a proud bearing while being a humble servant. An enticing combination which has guaranteed their place in human society.
In Elizabethan times, the author John Florio wrote:
“England is the paradise of women, the purgatory of men and the hell of horses.”
In the 21st century, for most horses England is a heaven although of course there are still too many abuses. And it might be fair to say that in general people fail to appreciate the body language and social behaviour of this remarkable species of companion animal. The signalling with their anatomy such as their ears and tails are something that people should ideally understand.
It is important, too, for people to understand the horse’s social life. The life between horses rather than being too focused on the relationship between horse and human particularly the rider as the latter dominates.
At the inception of the domestication of the horse, humankind found that they could suddenly travel quickly from place to place thanks to the swiftness of the horse. This helped to progress humankind commercially and socially. It is a classic example of animal exploitation by humankind to their advantage.
Whereas cattle were the beasts of burden, with the introduction of the domestic horse, they were consigned to the slower tasks and the horse became the dominant mode of achieving the tasks requiring speed.
Humankind became more mobile and expansive. They could develop trade routes on land. The horse bestowed on the human greater opportunity for cultural exchanges as they were able to meet each other over long distances.
“For thousands of years, right up to the arrival of the internal combustion engine, the horse was the vehicle of the human conquest of the earth.”
Below are some pages on dog history.