Mention of the horse's existence is to be found in Chinese tradition, which records that during the reign of Hwang-te, who lived before the flood, "Chariots, horses, and bullocks began to be used", and that the same emperor extricated his army "when bewildered in a mist" through the agency of a magnetic pole attached to his chariot, "which always pointed to the south ".
The ancient Chinese work known as the Shoo-King speaks of Yaou, who lived before and after the flood, as riding in a crimson chariot drawn by white horses; and Yu, the person employed by Yaou in perfecting the great work of removing the flood and restoring order to the empire, thus narrates how he accomplished the task: "The deluge rose high and spread wide as the spacious vault of heaven, buried hills and covered mountains with its waters, into which the common people, astonished to stupefaction, sank. I travelled on dry land in a chariot, on water in a boat, in miry places on a sledge, and climbed the sides of hills by means of spikes in my shoes. I went from mountain to mountain felling trees, fed the people on raw food, formed a passage for the waters of the sea on every part of the empire by cutting nine distinct beds and preparing channels to conduct them to the rivers. The waters having subsided, I taught the people to plough and sow, who, while the devastating effects of the flood continued, were constrained to eat uncooked food, and in this way the people were fed, and 10,000 provinces restored to order and prosperity" (Kidd's China).
The quotations tend to prove that the horse had been subjected to domestication, had been used for purposes of pageants and of war, before the flood, and had assisted the Chinese in clearing the inundated provinces of the waters that brought about the deluge 2348 years B.c. Chinese tradition may be considered of too legendary a nature to be worthy of belief. The criticisms of the past tend to prove that this was the general opinion of the learned world, but during the nineteenth century geological research has opened our eyes by demonstrating the vast antiquity of the earth and the existence of man on it during thousands of years before the time of Adam, and as such is the case there is not so much difficulty in believing the Chinese tradition of their 75,000 years of national existence. If, therefore, it has been proved that man inhabited the globe at this early period - 75,000 years ago, - we can easily understand that the human family has descended from ancestors of pre-Adamic origin, and that the tradition of the vast antiquity of the Chinese race, and of the subjugation of the horse during the antediluvian period, is more worthy of credence than the authors who wrote during the eighteenth century suspected. It must, however, be admitted that legends cannot be received as authentic records of the past, neither are the statements handed down to us in ancient history always incapable of refutation. Sometimes they are fables composed after the manner of Plato, but always under the influence of religious sentiment, and in this particular Arabian literature is conspicuous. For instance, we read: "When Allah willed to create the horse, he said to the south wind, 'Condense thyself; I will that a creature should proceed from thee'. Then came the angel Gabriel and took a handful of this matter and presented it to Allah, who formed of it a dark-bay and a dark-chestnut horse." It is also related by many Arabian historians " that after the time of Adam the horse, like many other animals, lived in a wild state, and was first subjugated by Ishmael, the son of Abraham; but that the horses trained by him lost much of their purity, excepting one stock, whose nobleness was preserved by Solomon, the son of David". There is a tradition that some Arabs of the Azed tribe went to Jerusalem to congratulate Solomon on his marriage with the Queen of Sheba. Having fulfilled their mission, they addressed him thus: " O, Prophet of Allah, our country is far distant. and our provisions are exhausted; thou art a great king, bestow upon us wherewith to take us home". Solomon thereupon gave orders to bring from his stables a magnificent stallion, descended from the Ishmael stock. and then dismissed them with these words: "Behold the provisions I bestow upon you for your journey. When hunger assails you, gather fuel, light a fire, place your best rider on this horse, and arm him with a stout lance. Hardly will you have collected your wood and kindled your flame when you will see him return with the produce of successful chase. Go, and may. Allah cover you with His blessing." The Azed took their departure. At their first halt they did as Solomon had prescribed, and neither zebra, gazelle, nor ostrich could escape them. Thus enlightened as to the value of the animal presented to them by the son of David, these Arabs on their return home devoted him to foal-getting, and by carefully selecting dams at length obtained the breed to which, out of gratitude, they gave the name of Zad-el-Rakeb - the support of the horseman. This is the stock whose high renown spread at a later period through the whole world.
The importance of the Eastern horse no horseman will dispute, and the investigation of equine pedigrees will show how largely the Arab horse has contributed to the perfection of almost every breed of horse in existence, which has been effected by the impression he made upon indigenous stock.
It is thought that the use of the ass and the camel preceded that of the horse. Such might have been the case, but we must remember that during the early historic period these animals were used for different purposes, the ass and the camel to carry burdens - namely, tents and their furniture. When Jacob took his departure from Laban, his goods, wives, and children were placed on the backs of camels, and his sons conveyed the corn they obtained from Egypt on asses; yet at the same time Jacob and his sons recognized that horses possessed qualities that rendered them valuable, for we read: "They brought their cattle unto Joseph, and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for horses and for the flocks, and the cattle of the herds", etc. The pastoral life which Jacob and his sons enjoyed did not necessitate the use of the spirited horse, which in early times was employed almost exclusively for war, and whose hoofs, previously to the discovery of the art of shoeing, would have worn down to the quick during those long journeys which the ass and the camel were capable of performing with impunity. But the nervous temperament, showy action, and activity of movement marked the horse out as a likely assistant in battle, and as a conspicuous feature at pageants; and thus we learn that when Joseph carried his father's body to Canaan, he " had with him a large company of chariots and horsemen ", which held a conspicuous position in the funeral procession. This is the first time the Scripture mentions the subjugation of the horse, but there is little doubt that he had been employed by the Egyptians long before this period, and for many years afterwards the breeding of horses was encouraged. This resulted in the production of a fine stock, which Pharaoh was able to select from when he pursued the Israelites across the Red Sea, with " six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt". But before this period communities of men had collected together to form nations. About the year 2217 B.C. Nimrod is supposed to have founded the Babylonian Empire and Assur the Assyrian monarchy, and these states, according to Ctesias, had studied science and art, fashioned implements of war, yoked horses to the chariot, and had trained the charger to undergo the fatigues of battle, before Moses was born (1571 B.C.). Although such was the case, history does not much assist us in determining the class of horse that was employed during these periods, nor does it inform us whether the horse was found wild in these localities, or was imported from China or from other distant lands in the East; nor do we know whether horses emanated from one centre or many, nor whether they were distributed over Asia, Africa, and Europe at one and the same time, thus forming distinct though distant groups of equine communities from which by frequent intercourse the various breeds of horses have been propagated. At the same time it must be admitted that the early accounts given of the horse's existence are somewhat legendary, and it is not until after consulting the Scriptures that we receive any authentic information on this vexed subject, and this too only of a very fragmentary nature. The beautiful description of the war-horse given us by Job proves that the horse was very early appreciated by Eastern peoples, and in no language have his merits been painted with such force and enthusiasm: "Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils is terrible. He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men. He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword. The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield. He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage; neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet. He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha! and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting." Although it is said that the Jews did not make much use of cavalry in battle, owing, perhaps, to the mountainous condition of the country, we learn that Solomon imported both chariots and horses from Egypt, and kept a vast number of them - 40,000 stalls for his chariot horses, 12,000 horses for his cavalry, and 1400 chariots of war, - and these, we are told, were used more for purposes of display than of war. Such may have been the case, and the taunting message sent by Rabshakeh to Hezekiah, that if he should send him 2000 horses he would not be able to put 2000 riders on them, tends to confirm this opinion; but the Canaanites, with whom the Israelites were constantly at war, possessed a vast number of them, and the Philistines, we read, marched against Saul with 30,000 horsemen and chariots. Other nations - the Egyptians and the Greeks - relied much upon the support of horses both in attack and in retreat, so that in Africa, in Asia, and in Europe the distribution of the equine race had been commenced early. As civilization advanced, the demand for horses increased, and the extensive propagation of them became a necessity. Moreover, wars between nations caused them to be dispersed throughout the various regions of the then known world, where, by intermingling with indigenous breeds, new types were produced.
Plate LXXIII. PRJEVALSKY'S MONGOLIAN WILD HORSE.
The small inset shows a group in their original condition.
Photo. by L. Medland, F.I.S.
RESTORATION OF THE FOUR-TOED ANCESTOR OF THE HORSE Protorohippus venticolus.