Subject:      precolumbian Amerindian horse?
From: (Yuri Kuchinsky 17784)
Date:         1997/09/10
Message-ID:   <5v6bu0$c26$>
Newsgroups:   sci.archaeology.mesoamerican,sci.archaeology,

[this is the second part of my article]


By Yuri Kuchinsky.

THE INDIAN AND THE HORSE, 1955, by Frank Gilbert Roe, University
of Oklahoma Press, Norman.

And now, let's look at some of the Northern tribes.

A very interesting account was supplied by an explorer Jacques de
Saint-Pierre in 1750-52. He describes some tribes in the far
interior in the Rocky Mountains area that were expert horse
breeders and traders (p. 97). No Europeans had penetrated there
at this point!

Another account comes from Antony Henday in 1754. He was the
first European in some of the territories of the Sarcee Indians
west of Hudson Bay. He describes

     ... the friends and neighbouring allies of the Sarcee, the
     Blackfoot, as possessing horses in 1754, and "well
     supplied". (p. 106)

Roe reports further,

     For this declaration he was denounced and discredited as a
     mere liar for nearly twenty years, until vindicated by the
     testimony of Matthew Cocking, 1772-73. The "Archithinue"
     (Blackfoot) were not even the first horse Indians whom
     Henday met. (p. 106)

The interesting thing here is that it seems that the early European
arrivals already were disputing at that very early time whether or
not the Indians had the horse previously to the European arrival!
And if _they_ were not so sure, how can we be? This to me is
extremely revealing...

The author says this about the Snake Indians,

     We should in any event be compelled to date the Snake
     [Shoshoni] horses not later, and very probably much earlier,
     than 1700. (p. 128)

Roe says the following of the situation in the North-West in

     In view of the conventional application to Plains tribes,
     par excellence, of such terms as "characteristic" or
     "typical" horse Indians, it is curious to note that among
     those who were apparently the earliest to possess horses in
     really large quantities -- which perhaps implies, among the
     earliest to possess them at all -- were some of the more
     northerly tribes living to the westward of the first (main)
     range of the Rocky Mountains. (p. 123)

I think this is quite significant as well...

Another big problem Roe tries to deal with is What kinds of
horses did the Natives have? What was the breed of the Indian
pony, and how did it emerge? Again, he seems to be quite confused
about possible solutions to this conundrum,

     There is one problem that may never be solved. It would be
     of immense interest and value, both to the historical
     student and to the zoologist more purely, to learn what
     agglomeration of European, Asiatic, or Hispano-American
     breeds combined to produce the wild or "Indian" pony of the
     North American continent, with its hang-dog appearance so
     little suggestive of its almost inexhaustible stamina, and
     its inescapable "pinto" coloration. (p. 135)

And yet, he himself, provides an interesting clue to the possible

     There is also a small and very ancient breed which was
     indigenous to Europe in prehistoric times, the Polish
     "Konink". This creature ... certainly presents a very
     striking resemblance to the Indian pony in its
     disproportionately large, hang-dog head...(p. 139)

The author also deals at some length with the situation with
horses in South America. It is very clear, according to him, that
the S. American feral or wild horses were very different from N.
American. The author remarks that earliest horses of S. America
were much more like the Spanish horses. In N. America, earliest
horses were different, they were pinto, or piebald.

     Yet in one most important characteristic, the historical
     wild horses of S. America (baguales) and those of the
     northern continent were or are fundamentally different. The
     difference is one of colour. In the Northern Plains area the
     Indian pony is almost typically a pinto. (p. 144)

The author is really puzzled,

     Once again, why in the north and not in the south? ...why
     ... in the north exclusively ... should these peculiar
     coloration phenomena occur in such large numbers? (p. 151)

The author quotes from a noted authority on American horse,
Francis D. Haines (THE APPALOOSA HORSE, 1951) and says,

     Haines has very skilfully summarized a mass of evidence
     tending to support his conclusions that the ancestors of the
     Appaloosa reach back in a very similar (and readily
     identifiable) form and colouring to a great antiquity across
     an enormous Eurasiatic territory, stretching from far
     eastern China to the Adriatic. (p. 153)

This conclusion by Haines is extremely important. Haines clearly
thinks that the Indian pony derived from the Asian, or old European
horse somehow.

Now, guess what was the theory of Haines as to how that ancient
Old World horse reached America? Believe it or not, he thought it
...was brought over by the Spanish -- from the Netherlands!
Myself, I think this is rather unbelievable. If it indeed came
from Europe, the Vikings were far more likely to bring it than
the Spanish who were very particular that their horses should be
of uniform colour.

What are my conclusions to all this? It seems to me that the
Indian pony derived from the ancient Old World stock, and very
early on. Whether that pony was brought over by the Vikings, or
by other North Europeans, or by the Chinese from the West, or by
both, is anybody's guess at this point, I suppose.

It is very clear to me that the derivation of the Indian pony
cannot be considered as settled at this point in time. Perhaps
some more recent literature casts additional light on these
matters, but I have not been able to look at it as yet.

Now we already do have one seemingly solid case of horse remains
in a very early precolumbian context in Milwaukee, as posted by Hu
McCulloch in article .

[begin quote:]

: In the Milwaukee Public Museum there is the skull of a mustang
: excavated in 1936 by W.C. McKern from a mound on
: Spencer Lake in NW Wisconsin (47BT2), and vouched for by
: McKern in the _Wisconsin Archaeologist_, Vol. 45, #2
: (June 1964), pp. 118-120.  Says McKern , "there
: remains no reasonable question as to the legitimacy
: of the horse skull that we found as a burial association placed
: in the mound by its builders."

[end quote]

I believe there are other such cases also, not posted here as yet.

Best regards,


Below are some of the sources that Roe mostly relied on in the
above analyses:

Denhardt, Robert Moorman, HORSE OF THE AMERICAS, Norman, 1947

American Anthropologist, Vol. XL (1938), 112-17

Haines, Frances D., THE APPALOOSA HORSE, Lewiston, Idaho, 1951

Roe, Frank Gilbert, THE INDIAN AND THE HORSE, 1955, University of
Oklahoma Press, Norman.

Webb, Walter Prescott, THE GREAT PLAINS, New York, 1931

Wissler, Clark, INFLUENCE OF THE HORSE, American Anthropologist,
Vol. XVI, 1914, 1-25

Yuri Kuchinsky in Toronto -=O=- [22]

It is a far, far better thing to have a firm anchor in nonsense than
to put out on the troubled seas of thought -=O=- John K. Galbraith

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