Why are horses considered color blind?

The history of the horse


The appearance of the domestic horse varies in its physique, height, coat and color. Depending on the purpose for which horses are bred, their types are divided into so-called cold-blooded, warm-blooded and thoroughbred. The cold-blooded horses usually include horses weighing over 800 kilograms. These breeds were mainly used in field work, in mountain tunnels or for moving trees. Warm-blooded animals, on the other hand, tend to be the typical riding horse type, as they are lighter and more agile. They are also good dressage and show jumping horses. Thoroughbreds are sport horses that are usually very sensitive and can run up to 70 km / h. Half-bloods are a mix of warm-blooded and thorough-blooded animals. The terms cold, warm and whole blood are not based on the warmth or even the amount of blood in the horse, but rather they refer to the horse's temperament. Cold-blooded animals are often quite comfortable and strong and can endure a lot with calm, while thoroughbreds are generally considered to be "crazy", easily excitable and not nearly as easy to handle as cold-blooded horses.
Horses are tiptoe walkers who walk alone on the third, middle toe. The remaining toes have receded and are preserved on the skeleton of the foreleg as rudimentary stylus legs. Because the eyes are on the side of the head, horses can see almost all around (350 °). But what exactly is in front of your nose or behind you, you only notice when you turn your head. Although horses are not color-blind, they cannot distinguish all colors from one another. Horses cannot tell brown, green and gray apart - they see colors such as white, red, yellow and blue particularly well.
Falbe fjord horses in the Swabian Alb. Typical feature: the dark eel line
The movable auricles can be set in all directions.
In order to be safe from predators in their original habitat, different coat colors of the horse developed over time, one of the first of which was a light shade of brown called fallow. Typical representatives are the Norwegian fjord horses, which are also characterized by a distinct dark eel line in the mane.
In order to be able to distinguish a horse from others externally, one can take advantage of the markings on its face, its body and its legs. The most common badges on the face are: star, snip, flake and lantern, whereby a distinction is made between regular and irregular. The markings from forehead to mouth are generally referred to as blaze. Horses can also have a toad mouth, milk mouth or flour mouth, the latter is particularly common in the Mongolian wild horse or the Exmoor pony.
Rarely, depending on the breed and breeding area, also occur eel strokes, some of which continue in the tail and mane. In primitive breeds, crosses (eel line and a horizontal stripe across both shoulders) or stripes on the legs can also occur. Crosses and stripes on the legs are rather rare in horses, but quite common in donkeys.
On the legs one differentiates only the height of the badge, whereby a "high white foot" is the largest, and the "white crown" the smallest. Fur swirls and chestnuts (remains of horn on the inside of the legs, remains of the fifth toe) are also used to identify sport horses. Nowadays competition horses can use electronic chips, on which the personal data of the owner and the horse's life number are stored.
The permanent set of teeth of the horses has 36-44 teeth, the milk teeth of the foals have 24-28 teeth.

Size, age, reproduction:

Depending on the breed, horses reach between 60 and 210 cm shoulder height (withers). Horses with a height at the withers of up to 148 cm are called ponies. All horses that exceed this size are called large horses. The weight of the ponies and large horses can be between 90 kg (Falabella) and 1200 kg (Shire). Horses are physically fully grown at the age of seven. Large horses can live to be around 30 years old, while ponies can, in rare cases, live up to 50 years. The highest age ever recorded for a large horse is 62 years. The age to be reached depends on the breed, housing conditions and use. Mares reach sexual maturity at 12 to 18 months, stallions reach sexual maturity between 12 and 20 months of age. The gestation period for all horses is around 330 days (11 months). The oestrus cycle (horse) begins in spring with the strongest horse and then continues to decrease. Depending on the weather and the environment, the horse can be of different strengths and lengths. In stable housing and with intensive feeding, pregnancies can also be produced in winter. Mares are only horsey every 21 to 24 days. After about 11 months the mare gives birth to her foal, which immediately tries to get up. This is important for a foal in the wild, otherwise it would fall victim to predators.

The horse is a typical herd animal and therefore has a distinctive body language to enable the animals to communicate with one another.

The movable auricles can be set in all directions. When facing forward, the horse shows attention and curiosity, but if they are placed backwards on the head, it is a warning and signals aggressiveness or fear. If the ears hang to the side, this is either a sign of malaise and / or tiredness or an expression of submission, but also relaxation. The latter, if the eyes are half closed, can also be a sign of satisfaction. If the ears are pointed backwards, this is a sign of malaise or - when riding - attention.

There is a clearly defined hierarchy within the herd. In the event of changes within the herd structure, e.g. the addition of a new animal or the departure of a herd member, the order of precedence is redefined. This usually happens through body signals such as threatening gestures, but also bites and kicks, if necessary. The ranking can also be called into question by adolescent animals that change their position in the herd as they develop. Here, however, it can often be observed that the young of a mare that is rather low in the ranking also have a lower ranking, whereby the young of a high-ranking mare also have better prospects of a higher ranking position.

In the wild, a herd consists of several mares - including the lead mare - and their foals as well as a lead stallion. The lead mare leads the herd to the feeding places / drinking troughs and determines when it is time to leave and where to go. Sometimes it is a rather inconspicuous animal that stays a little further away from the herd. The lead stallion, on the other hand, is an imposing animal that has been marked by many competitions. He is responsible for protecting his herd from predators and for passing on his own genes. In the event of an escape, the lead mare runs ahead and the lead stallion behind the herd to drive any remaining animals forward.

As a rule, mares stay together in a herd, while young stallions are driven out of the herd by the lead stallion when they reach sexual maturity and then form young associations. In these they measure their strength against each other in order to one day conquer their own herd by challenging and defeating the lead stallion to a fight. Sometimes individual mares are removed from an existing herd association and form a new herd with a younger stallion.

As a steppe inhabitant, the horse, in contrast to the donkey, is a flight animal, which instinctively tries to avert danger first and foremost by fleeing quickly.

Mares and geldings are particularly widespread in keeping as pets or livestock, and in most cases they fit easily into a more or less large herd group. Stallions are considered difficult to predict because of their strong sex drive and sometimes also because of their hormone-related aggressiveness. If the stallion smells a sturdy mare, he usually tries everything to get to her - if the pasture or the stable is inappropriately fenced, stallions are often injured. They are therefore usually kept on their own pastures or in separate stables.

The wild horse, the ancestral form of the domestic horse, was probably around 3000 BC. First domesticated in Central Asia, some authors assume domestication as early as the 5th millennium BC. Chr. From. There are contradicting theories as to when and where exactly the horse was made usable by humans. Recent studies, based on the evaluation of the mitochondrial DNA of today's domestic horses and fossils of extinct species, indicate that the domestication of the horse did not take place in one place, but independently of one another in several places. An essential indicator for this is the breadth of the genetic variations, which is the same in both test groups. With only one domestication site, a smaller genetic range of variation would have been expected in domestic horses. These tests also found that some of the extinct species were more closely related to today's species than some of today's species were to each other.

Research on mitochondrial DNA in 2002 showed that there were at least 77 strain types in mares, suggesting that different wild horse populations in different regions of the world have been domesticated independently, significantly more than other domestic animal species.

According to a theory for the ancestry of the house horse, which is represented by the hippologists Ewart, Speed, Skorkowski, Ebhardt and Schäfer, at the beginning of domestication there were four archetypes from which today's house horse and pony breeds emerged. The theory is based on radiological examinations, archaeological comparisons and the observation of behavior. According to this theory, the four archetypes can be traced back to various wild horse subspecies, such as tarpans, Przewalski horses and crosses between the two. They can be divided into two types of ponies and two types of horses, and are usually referred to as type 1 to type 4:

Type 1 - northern pony
Type 2 - tundra pony
Type 3 - Ramskopfhorse
Type 4 - steppe horse

History of the domestic horse

The domestication of the horse brought the peoples an extraordinary advantage. Long distances were covered in much less time, which made maintaining great empires easier. Furthermore, they were used as meat suppliers, as is often the case today, and rendered valuable helpers in armed conflicts. New attack and war techniques were only possible through the horse.

The early empires of the Assyrians and Hittites, as well as the Hurrites in the Mitanni state profited from the use of the horse in war. Around 1700 BC The Hyksos invaded Egypt, a nomadic people of unknown origin. Up until then, horses were unknown to the Egyptians, and they were so inferior to the Hyksos in battle that they were able to conquer Egypt.
Steppe zone
Dereivka is often mentioned in Ukraine as the oldest evidence of horse domestication. David Anthony had found horse teeth from the Sredny-Stog culture around 4000 BC. Traces of wear were found indicating the use of bridles for riding (Lit .: Anthony, 1986, 1991). However, recent AMS data show that the animal in question likely originated in the Iron Age.
The early nomadic peoples of Central Asia, from which many equestrian peoples later emerged, invented the saddle and the bridle as early as the third millennium BC. Later the Greek historian Strabo reported on the extraordinary riding skills of the Scythians.
Central Europe
Horse remains from Europe have been documented since the Paleolithic and do not break off even after reforestation after the last Ice Age. From when the horse was domesticated in Europe is controversial because of the difficult distinction between pet and wild animal bones.
At Ergolding, Landshut district, a bony horse snaffle was found together with ceramic remains, dating back to 1400 BC. A similar object comes from Füzesabony in Hungary (1500 BC). This find is the first clue for the coming time of the horse and the rider. In the Urnfield Period (approx. 1300/1200 - 800/750 BC) the famous wagon graves can be found. B. St. Winghardt, a chariot grave from the late Bronze Age from Poing. An arrowhead in a horse whirl, found in a cave of the Blauer Bruch in Kaisersteinbruch in Burgenland, Austria - is evidence of the oldest heavy domestic horses - tells of the first traces of settlement around 800-700 BC. Thus, the use of the domestic horse in southern Germany can be dated to the Urnfield or Younger Bronze Age.
Evidence of horse sacrifices is known from Celtic sanctuaries (e.g. Gournay-sur-Aronde, France).
Horses were used as oracles by the Teutons, a custom that is also documented by the early medieval Slavs (Arkona). In Tacitus' Germania (approx. 98 AD) the following is noted about horses among the Germanic peoples:
“And the widespread custom of questioning the voice and flight of birds is also known here; on the other hand, it is a Germanic peculiarity to also pay attention to signs and indications from horses. At the expense of the general public, molds are kept in the groves and clearings mentioned, which have not been profaned by any service for mortals. They are harnessed to the sacred chariot; the priest and king or head of the tribe walk beside them and watch their neighing and snorting. And one no longer believes any sign, not just among the people: also among the nobles, among the priests; they consider themselves only servants of the gods, whereas the horses are their confidants. "
In the Homeric epics, horses mainly pull chariots, as was customary in the Egyptian New Kingdom and among the Assyrians and Hittites. Horses were also sacrificed at the burial of Patroclus (Iliad 23, 163): "... he threw four strong-necked horses straight onto the stake with violent groans ..." In ancient Greece, the horse was also considered symbolic of death Horses depicted looking through the window on images of heroes predict the hero's death.
Chariots have been out of use since the Geometric Period. Cavalrymen on horses that were bred ever larger turned out to be faster, more agile and thus more effective than fighters on chariots with increasing riding skills.
Traditionally, the second day of the Olympic Games of antiquity was dedicated to competitions and chariot races.
The Greek historian Xenophon wrote in the 4th century BC. The work Peri hippikes ("On the Art of Riding"), in which he gathered knowledge about horses and riding. Most of the advice from this work is still valid today.
The horseshoe was already known to the Romans and was brought to Europe in the 5th century during the Great Migration. The exact origin of this invention is unknown. In contrast, the Romans did not succeed in developing a harness suitable for horses. Appropriate methods of hauling loads with horse carts emerged much later.
middle Ages
The use of the horse as a workhorse was only possible in the Middle Ages with the invention of the collar. Before that, oxen were mainly used in agriculture. The harnesses that were customary up to that point blocked the horses' breath when they were pulling heavily and were only suitable for easy-running wagons, but not for heavy work. The collar made it possible to use horses to pull a plow, for example. Since their labor output was significantly greater than that of oxen, this marked an agricultural revolution.
Horses as riding animals were almost exclusively reserved for the nobility in the Middle Ages. Through the use of mounted fighters in battles, the class of knights was formed. From this initially purely military tradition of riding, the classical courtly art of riding emerged.
Horse breeding also began to develop more strongly during this time, as many rulers wanted to decorate their court with particularly noble horses. On the other hand, the knights, who were getting heavier and heavier due to their armor, needed bigger, stronger and therefore rather large-boned horses.
New world
There were no domesticated horses on the Americas. Although there were originally wild horses in America too, these were extinct before they could be domesticated. Only the Europeans brought the domestic horse to America. In North America some of the horses ran away and formed herds of free-roaming mustangs. This was the first time the Indians encountered horses. The contact changed the way of life of some peoples radically. Above all, the peoples of the prairie were able to capture the bison more easily thanks to the speed of the horse and due to their greater mobility they could undertake further hunting expeditions and thus kill more buffalo than before.
Modern times
After the decline of the age of knights, today's baroque horses emerged from the large, heavy horse type of medieval knights. Spanish horse breeds like the Andalusians had become very popular since the Baroque period.They arose from the refinement of native Spanish horse breeds with Arab horses. In 1562, Emperor Maximilian II imported such horses to Austria. These animals later became the well-known Lipizzaners. Only a few years later, in 1572, the tradition of the Spanish Riding School began in Vienna.
A very different type of horse is the English thoroughbred, whose breeding began in England in the 17th century by crossing imported oriental stallions with English racehorses. Her temperament, perseverance and speed allow her to dominate the prestigious horse racing sport to this day.
The invention of the automobile made the horse largely superfluous as a means of transport and as a workhorse in the course of the 20th century.

Use in the service of man

While thoroughbreds and the somewhat calmer warm-blooded animals are mounts and are also used as draft animals in front of light carriages, the rather massive cold-blooded horses are slower and almost exclusively draft and work animals. The latter were used in the past for pulling heavy carts, for tilling fields (plow horse), for hauling felled trees (back horse) and similar power work. Since modern forestry and agricultural machinery has displaced horses from these areas, cold-blooded animals have become rare these days. In the meantime, horses are increasingly being used again in gardening and forestry work, as they hardly compact the soil and work in the forest more flexibly and more gently than machines.

Even in the 50s and 60s of the last century, tough ponies were used as pit horses, which transported the trolleys between tunnels and cages under the toughest working conditions underground.

Most horses are now kept as sport and leisure horses. Larger ponies such as Haflingers, Norwegians or Tinkers are often kept as leisure horses, which are characterized above all by their ease of feeding and undemanding. The police horse, which mostly comes from the category of larger breeds, such as the Hanoverian or the Westphalian, is still used as a utility horse today. Numerous Haflingers are still kept and trained as pack animals in the German Bundeswehr. Some countries with borders that are difficult to monitor use occasional mounted patrols (e.g. Switzerland). Medical horses are rather rare in the medical rider squadrons.

Before the horse was domesticated, the animals were hunted as meat suppliers. In times of crisis, horse meat was often considered a necessary hunger ration. So received z. B. Soldiers in Stalingrad as a daily ration: 200 g bread, 120 g fresh meat or 200 g horse meat, 50 g cheese or 75 g fresh sausage, 30 g butter, margarine or lard or 120 g jam, 3 servings of drinks and 3 cigarettes, 1 cigar or 25 grams of tobacco. In 2001, an estimated 153,000 tons of horse meat were eaten around the world.

The importance of the horse as a meat producer within the EU is still high. The medication of a horse is only possible without restrictions if the owner has a horse passport in which he declares that the animal will not be used for meat processing. In addition, each drug treatment must be entered. If the horse is to be slaughtered, a minimum interval must be observed.

The Jewish religion forbids the consumption of horse meat. Such an express prohibition does not exist in Islam or Christianity, but eating horse meat was frowned upon in both cultures. From Pope Gregory III. It is reported that in 732 he condemned the eating of horses as a pagan abomination that should be stamped out.

Horses in Mythology and History

The close relationship between humans and horses has meant that in the mythology of many peoples there are numerous horse figures to which great importance is attached.

Greek mythology in particular is rich in horses and horse-like beings:

The centaur is a hybrid of human and horse; instead of a horse's head, the upper body of a human can be seen. There were numerous centaurs, most of them unkind beings. However, the two most famous centaurs, Pholos and Cheiron, were friendly and clever representatives of their race.
Pegasus was a winged, semi-divine horse who aided Bellerophon in numerous heroic acts, including killing the chimera.
The Trojan horse was a wooden horse inside which the Greeks hid to get into the city of Troy and conquer the city.
Bucephalus was the legendary horse of Alexander the Great. Numerous mythical properties were ascribed to it, allegedly it could speak; but it is very likely to go back to a really existing horse.
In addition, the favorite horse of the emperor Caligula, which he supposedly wanted to appoint consul, has become known.

The stallion Rakhsch is known from Persian mythology.

The myth of the legendary unicorn, a horse with goat hooves, a lion's tail and a horn on its forehead, probably originated in India. Unicorns did not appear in Greek mythology, but they did appear in scientific descriptions by Aristotle and Pliny.

In Norse mythology there is Sleipnir, the eight-legged horse of the god Odin, as well as the horses Arvak and Alsvid, who pulled the chariot of the sun across the sky.

Of the two Merseburg spells, the second is a spell to heal the horse's broken foot. Other Old High German authors also wrote spells to cure the horse from its lame condition.

Names, races, coat colors, badges

The male horse is called either a stallion or, if it has been castrated (laid), a gelding. The female horse is called a mare. Young animals are called foals or foals; Annual horses are called yearlings. A horse is an adult at four years of age but can grow up to six years old.

Horse breeds

The horse breeds can be divided into

Small horses and
Large horses

When it comes to admission to a competition, every horse that measures less than 147.3 cm at the withers is a small horse and from a stick height of 148 cm is a large horse. Thus, large horses are what is commonly referred to as a normal horse, not particularly large horses.

Another possible classification is based on the descent and the inherited temperament of the horses. So can

Warmbloods and
Cold-blooded animals
can be distinguished. This nomenclature relates to temperament - the blood temperature is the same in all horses and is normally between 37.5 ° C and 38.2 ° C.

Coat colors

There are a large number of different colors of horses and their names, some of which vary from region to region. The most important basic colors are black, dun, bay, Isabelle, piebald, fox and gray.


The individual colored (mostly white) fur markings and fur swirls are called badges and, in addition to branding and color, are used for identification.

Outdated, colloquial and dialect names

The stallion is the stallion.
Dobbin (short for Robert) as the name of a workhorse has also entered German from English via Wieland's translation of The Merchant of Venice.
Filling is an outdated term for foals, previously used up to four-year-olds.
Ganzer (obsolete) is an uncut stallion.
Gaul is a derogatory term for a horse. The plow horse is a bad horse that is only harnessed to the plow.
Gurre or Gorre is an old mare or a bad horse. The expression Gaul um Gurre means like with like, a bite cucumber or piss cucumber (folk etymologically polished) a quarrelsome woman (cf. mare-bite).
Healer or medicinal horse (out of date) is a young gelding.
Klepper is the colloquial term for a malnourished or decrepit domestic horse.
Kracke is an old bad horse in northern Germany.
In Upper German dialects, mare is a synonym for mare and horse. A mare is so skinny that it actually belongs on the Schindanger. The marshal and possibly the horseradish (cf. English horse-radish) are derived from the word mare.
Mönch is a name for the gelding.
Page is a Low German word for Wallach, which includes the family name Pagenstecher as a professional name for the castrator.
Brush horse is a riding horse.
Renner is a fast, good riding horse.
Rosinante, Don Quixote's old horse, has become a horse nickname.
Ross is a very noble horse who carried his rider into battle as a warhorse. The horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is so named because its extracts are used to treat horses against coughs and worms.
Rune, Ruun or Raune is a Low German expression for Wallach
Strenze (outdated) is a bad mare.
Strute was used for horse herds until the middle of the 17th century and is still used for mare in some West Central German dialects.
Mare in the old meaning horse herd has been preserved, for example, in the place name Stuttgart and in the term stud.
Tööt is a northern Lower Saxony name for mare.
Wutsch is an Alsatian-Palatinate dialect expression for foals.
Zelter was a noble, light riding horse or mule in the Middle Ages, which was particularly suitable for women because of its particularly quiet tent walk (pass walk).
Zosse or Zossen is the colloquial name for a domestic horse. The word probably comes from Yiddish (Hebrew סוס sus means horse) and is used especially in Low German (also Zurre or Zöre).

Source: Wikipedia