Where Did Horses Come From?

Over a period of 60 million years, horses have become what we know them to be today. It has taken this long for the modern horse (Equus caballus) to evolve into the family Equidae from it's earliest ancestor (Eohippus).

This family includes donkeys, zebras and domestic horses, as well as the lesser knows asses of Asia and Africa, and Przewalksi's wild horse. Experts think that the modern horse's ancestors were three primitive varieties of horse. From these three primitive types, it is believed that two types of ponies and two types of horses evolved, from which came all modern horse types and breeds.

Three Primitive Types of Horse

Przewalksi' Horse

This is thought to be the only full survivor of the three primitive types of horse. It used to live in central Asia and Europe back in prehistoric times. They have the appearance of an ass rather than a modern horse, with rough features and a tufty tail.

The Forest Horse

Many modern horses are from their Forest horse ancestors which lived in Europe. They had bigger hooves to help it move around in wet and woody conditions, with think hair for warmth.


The look of the modern horse's head may have come from the Tarpan. It evolved in semi-desert surroundings in Asia and Europe, and had a slim appearance.

Four Basic Horse Types


The Exmoor pony is one of Britain's oldest breeds, and is thought to be similar to Pony Type 1. This type used to live in the north-west of Europe. To help it survive wet and cold conditions, they had thick coats, a bushy tail and a busy mane.


Horse Type 3 lived mainly in desert and were very tough. They inhabited the desert areas of Asia. To lose heat in hot conditions, they had fine coats and a slim build. The Akhal-Teke is likely to be a descendant.


Pony Type 2 used to live in Asia and Europe. They were built with a big frame and were resistant to cold conditions. The Highland pony is assumed to be a descendant.


This is one of the largest modern horse breeds. Percherons descended from the Arab horse, which many people believe was derived from Horse Type 4.