Cave Painting of a Horse. Click to Enlarge.

Horses and their impact on culture ancient and modern

Guest Post by JENNY SHARP

Cave Painting of a Horse
Cave Painting of a Horse. Click to Enlarge.
Since the dawning of time there has existed a unique bond between man and horse. As soon as man was able, he tamed the horse and that relationship began. As with dogs, it is perhaps these primitive, mutually beneficial connections between men and animals that have sustained the bond between them. For centuries the horse has allowed man to hunt, defend himself, travel and increase food production through the use of the plough. Where would we be as a species without the horse? Years behind.

The Bond Between Man and Horse

These days you will need to study the best cash isa rates in order to be able to plan financially for horse ownership. Cars are far cheaper to run. Horses have not at the centre of our culture since the invention of the internal combustion engine. We no longer rely on them in the same way, and yet this connection is still there. This bond is particularly well recognised in a rescue situation, which suggests there may be a primitive memory of mutual aid hidden deep within the collective consciousness of man. Cave paintings of horses have been found as long ago as 2500 BC, and depictions of the horse, and pride in them, has not stopped since. The aristocracy would often have their portraits painted standing or seated on their favourite horse, as a sign of prestige. Owners of prized Arabian horses took them into their own homes to protect them.

Horses in Our Consciousness

This association between horses and men is more immediate in our consciousness than one might think. Although they are no longer our vehicles, or our engines, we still see them around us in a helping capacity. Police horses have one such role, and there is no precious little sympathy for rioters or hooligans who attack them. They are considered untouchable. Their innocence and bravery is admired. There is a tenderness towards the horse then, in our collective consciousness. A respect. Wherever people encounter horses today, the animal has the capacity to provoke emotion, usually either respect, or affection. It is hard to have negative emotions about horses. There is something gentle about them that just transcends that sort of emotion.

Horses Honoured

Words that are associated with horses would usually include ‘nobility’, since they have been associated with royalty and the aristocracy for centuries, in all cultures. The well bred would always be adept riders, able to hunt all day if necessary. Kings and Queens throughout British history have been great horse lovers – Queen Elizabeth is a keen horsewoman, as are all her family. Princess Anne competed in the Olympics and Princes Charles, William and Harry all play polo to a high standard. They were introduced to horses from almost before they could walk. This association between nobility and the horse can be seen in other cultures, too.

Painting of the Darley Arabian
Painting of the Darley Arabian. Click to Enlarge.

In the Arabian peninsular the horse was bred specifically and competitively as a status symbol, prized for it’s endurance, and close relationship with its owner. The legend goes that Muhammad chose the five best mares to breed from by taking a herd of them on a long journey, until they were exhausted and thirsty. He then let them go near to an oasis, but before they reached it, desperate to drink the water, he called them back. The five mares who returned to him were celebrated as the most faithful, and became his favourite and only breeding stock. They were called The Five, or Al Khamsa. Whether this is a myth or the truth, some claim that every Arabian horse is descended from one of these five mares, the most loyal and noble of them all. A pure bred Arabian horse from the best stock can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars today.

A Deep Bond of Trust

Nichole Graham and Astro
Nicole Graham comforts Astro while he is given an injection to calm him to aid his rescue. Image courtesy Newspix/Rex Feature. Click to Enlarge

There was national joy when Astro the horse was rescued from the quick sand on a beach in the UK recently. The pictures were immensely moving. What touched many people was the relationship between the Australian owner, Nicole Graham and her elderly horse. She refused to leave, and stayed with him as he sank deeper and deeper, putting her own life in danger. She held his head, and he rested against her, exhausted, but comforted by her presence. It was only when he had been sedated that a tractor could finally pull the horse from the quick sand, with minutes to spare before the incoming tide drowned him. The event was striking because of the closeness between horse and owner was revealed, so publicly. Perhaps it is a closeness that is usually hidden, and private. Whatever the reason, the rescue made the headlines, and foregrounded the deep feelings between horses and their owners.

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3 thoughts on “Horses and their impact on culture ancient and modern”

  1. a nice read! Very sad then that horses are also being used and abused by mankind in races where many get injured or die, some spend long periods of time in stables rather than fields and some of them get shipped for horse meat. Horses the world over deserve better than that. I wish all ppl could see horses the way the article describes them


  2. For all horse lovers, this was a very moving article. The picture of the horse stuck in quicksand with it’s owner cradling his head in her lap says more than any words can about the bond between horse and those that love them.


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