Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Time Travelers: Wild Horses: Galloping Through Time by Kelly Milner Halls

Watching those sleek three-year-olds, long, delicate legs stretching out to cover the track in the famous races of the Triple Crown, it is hard to imagine that the first ancestor of the horse was an eight-inch high creature with four horny toes on its front legs and three on its rear legs. No majestic master of the steppes was this little "dawn horse" either; preyed upon by land and river carnivores, the shy Hyracotherium met its extinction 45 million years ago, long before any would-be human wrangler appeared. But its relatives persisted, evolving through the Mesohippus to Merychippus as a grazing herd animal progressively running faster as its toes evolved into speedy hooves.

By the time Pliohippus evolved, with its one sturdy and swift hoof on each foot, its kind, still small at 12 hands high, had acquired wide-set eyes to spot predators and special adaptations of the skull which enabled the characteristic range of whinnies with which the herd communicated, and this nearly modern horse ranged widely across North America. Despite its land of origin, however, its inheritor, Equus, the modern horse, which successfully emigrated across the land bridge to Asia, soon became extinct in the Americas, leaving its migrant descendants across Asia and Europe to become the horse of human history and legend.

Kelly Milner Halls' Wild Horses: Galloping Through Time (Darby Creek Exceptional Titles) goes on to tell the story of Equus and how they became the work horse and war horse of our own story, changing the face of civilization throughout Eurasia.

Halls features especially the intriguing story of the Przewalski horse, the last and almost vanished descendants of those wild horses first hunted for food and depicted by our early ancestors in those famous cave paintings at Lascaux. Like their cousins the zebras, Prazewalski horses have short stiff black manes, no forelocks, a dark strip down the center of the back, and even occasional barred hindquarters. A "rescued" species, less than 1900 Przewleskis are alive today, despite heroic efforts to shelter them in the wild and breed them in captivity after their numbers were decimated during World War II.

Halls also describes the historic horses of Europe and the Middle East--the Tarpan, the Sorraia, the Camargue and the Konik, and the Caspian and the Arabian, and does not neglect the wild horses of Africa--the various zebra relatives, the Namibia horse, and the wild ass. She then turns again back to North America where Equus began, with the story of the wild horses reintroduced by the Conquistadors and other explorers--the mustangs, Abaco Barbs, and even the burros of our own recent times.

Illustrated lushly with colored photos and detailed drawings, Wild Horses: Galloping Through Time (Darby Creek Exceptional Titles) is a fascinating study of the animal which, with its strength and speed, so thoroughly shaped much of human life. Author Halls also appends listings of sources of information and sites where wild horses may be studied and observed in North America, organizations which specialize in wild horse rescue, and an extensive bibliography of journal articles, books, and web sites, as well as a full index, to round out this thoroughly researched and readable nonfiction book.

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  • I'm so glad you enjoyed reading WILD HORSES, a book inspired by the little mustang I adopted when I was 12. It was truly a labor of love, so I'm glad you found value in those pages.


    Kelly Milner Halls

    By Blogger Kelly Milner Halls, at 3:50 AM  

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