Photo by Karla Bollinger - WY Squaw Creek Miniature Horse Ranch

Horse Evolution - Fact or Horse Manure?

By Arthur Biele

    High School and College textbooks still make the claim that the modern horse evolved from a small, not very horse like animal, called Eohippus. I am going to show that horses did not evolve at all from Eohippus. I will present the facts to you but leave it up to you to decide if today's horse evolved from a species that was not an equine.   

    According to the horse series, the horse started as Eohippus, a four toed animal that lived 50 million years ago. Eohippus evolves into a larger three toed creature called Mesohippus. Mesohippus then evolves into the Merychippus, which still had three toes, but two were smaller than the one in the middle. Then finally it evolved into an Equus, a modern day horse with one toe or hoof.

    Now I will tell why the above statement is incorrect. The Eohippus was discovered in 1841 by Richard Owen, one of the best paleontologists of his time and also the inventor of the word "Dinosaur." Professor Owen did not call his fossil discovery Eohippus because, upon careful observation, it did not look like a "hippus" (horse) at all. He called it "Hyracotherium" because it resembled a modern day Hyrax (a rabbit like creature), also known as a Cony, a Rock Badger, or a Daman. The skull and teeth of Hyracotherium is different than that of the Hyrax, but if you fleshed out the full bone structure, including its' arched back, it would look very similar to a Hyrax. Textbooks, such as our 'Exploring Life Science' take great liberties when they flesh out Eohippus to make it look more like a mini-horse.


    How did Hyracotherium come to be called Eohippus? Charles Darwin could not find any evidence of 'Changes in Living Things Over Time' in the fossil record for his Theory of Evolution. Paleontologist and evolutionist Stephen Gould (Natural History, May 1977) writes of Darwin's prediction that the fossil record will ultimately reveal the gradual and continual 'Changes in Living Things Over Time' that the theory of evolution depends on:

   "The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches: the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils. Yet Darwin was so wedded to gradualism that he wagered his entire theory on a denial of this literal record: "The geological record is extremely imperfect and this fact will to a large extent explain why we do not find interminable varieties, connecting together all the extinct and existing forms of life by the finest graduated steps. He, who rejects these views on the nature of the geologic records, will rightly reject my whole theory."

   Darwin believed that future exploration of the fossil record would turn up the missing intermediate fossils his theory predicts.

    In the 1860's, a man named Othniel Charles Marsh of Yale University became a supporter of Charles Darwin and a defender of Darwin's Theory of Evolution. From reading Darwin's book Origins of the Species ... he knew that Charles Darwin was very concerned about the great lack of transitional fossils in the fossil record. Marsh paid people to dig up and bring him fossils from the American west. He was hoping to collect enough fossils to demonstrate a major evolutionary transformation of a species into a new quite different species. An abundance of horse fossils were brought to him. They varied enough that he was able to arrange a selection of them into an evolutionary order starting with Mesohippus, then Merychippus, and finally Equus. These all looked like horses with minor changes, mostly in size. Marsh had in his collection a fossil of a creature that he named Orohippus which means Mountain horse. Eohippus had been discovered by David Cope, Marsh's chief rival. Orohippus looks just like the Eohippus in our textbook illustration except that a premolar in Eohippus had become a molar in Orohippus. Marsh chose to place Orohippus at the base of the horse series as the ancestor of all the horses. Thomas Huxley, the chief defender of Darwin's theory, came to America to see Marsh's horse series. It was at this time that it was decided that Eohippus (dawn horse) would be used in the horse evolution illustration instead of Orohippus. This horse series has remained this way in textbooks ever since.

    Today, one could just as easily arrange modern horses in a similar evolutionary manner from the 17" tall Fallabella to the 7 foot tall English Shire Horse.

     If Hyracotherium, Eohippus, and Orohippus were eliminated from the horse series, all we would have is a series of horses evolving into slightly different horses.

     Here are examples of prominent scientists rejecting the Marsh's Textbook horse series:

Draft Horse

    Evolutionist and Professor G.A. Kerkut, in his book Implications of Evolution, writes about the horse series:

"The evolution of the horse provides one of the keystones in the teaching of evolutionary doctrine, though the actual story depends on who is telling it and when the story is being told. In fact, one could easily discuss the evolution of the story of the evolution of the horse. ... In the first place, it is not clear that Hyracotherium was the ancestral horse". G. A. Kerkut, Implications of Evolution, 1960, pg 149.

    H.G. Coffin, Creation: Accident or Design? (1969), pp. 194-195. writes:

"The first animal in the series, Hyracotherium (Eohippus) is so different from the modern horse and so different from the next one in the series that there is a big question concerning its right to a place in the series ... [It has] a slender face with the eyes midway along the side, the presence of canine teeth, and not much of a diastema [space between front teeth and back teeth], arched back and long tail."

    Botanist H. Nilsson maintains that while Hyracotherium does not resemble present-day horses in any way, they were remarkably similar to the present-day Hyrax. He writes (Synthetische Artbildung):

"The family tree of the horse is beautiful and continuous ONLY IN THE TEXTBOOKS [Emphasis mine]. In the reality provided by the results of research it is put together in three parts, of which only the last can be described as including the horses. The forms of the first part are just as much little horses as the present day damans are horses. The construction of the whole Cenozoic family tree of the horse is therefore a very artificial one, since it is put together from non-equivalent parts, and cannot therefore be a continuous transformation series."

    In 1980, paleontologist Colin Patterson had the horse series removed from display at the British Museum in London, and geologist Dr. David Raup had Eohippus removed from the horse series display at the Field Museum in Chicago. Pressure from angry evolutionists forced Dr. Patterson to reinstate the horse display at the British Museum. These scientists were the Curators of their respective Museums at the time and believed the horse series to be grossly misleading the public.

    Finally, the Hyracotherium (Eohippus) has been utterly kicked out of the horse family by science. Horses fall under the scientific classification called perissodactyls. Reference: Phylogenetic systematics of basal perissodactyls Froehlich, DJ, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 1999, 19(1): 140

    What the rest about of the horse series? It is simply horses evolving into horses simply by expressing the rich variety of genetic traits contained in their genetic make up.

    The diversity of sizes, shapes, and other variations of horses can easily be accounted for by natural selection favoring the expression of different existing genes existing in a changing environment. Another means of a change in gene expression is the loss of existing genes due to small population of a species becoming isolated, usually through migration. This causes them to be cut off from the larger gene pool of the much larger population of their species.

    Also, feeding habits, environmental changes can account for all horse size variation. Variations in sizes of living horses today are compatible to those of all horses of the past. Long term trends in diet changes can also account for the tooth evolution observed in the fossil record. The presence of certain proteins in the diet can trigger the transformation of horse molars from cutting type to grazing type in the offspring.

    Many of the horse types are known to overlap and coexist at the same time and this overlapping continues to grow as more fossils are found. For example, in northeast Oregon, a three toed Neohipparian (type of Merychippus) and one toed Pliohippus (type of Equus) were found in the same rock layer, thus proving that one could have not evolved from one another.

    The birth of three toed horses still happens today. O.C. Marsh himself noted that some horses in the American southwest had three toes of almost equal size, thus corresponding to the feet of the extinct Protohippus which allegedly roamed the Western US 15 million years ago.  

    Paleontologist David Raup wrote:

"Darwin's theory of natural selection has always been closely linked to evidence from fossils, and probably most people assume that the fossils provide a very important part of the general argument that is made in favor of Darwinian interpretations of the history of life. Unfortunately this is not strictly true. ...  The evidence we find in the geologic record is not nearly as compatible with Darwinian natural selection as we would like it to be. Darwin was completely aware of this. He was embarrassed by the fossil record, because it didn't look the way he predicted it would, and, as a result, he devoted a long section of The Origin of the Speciesto an attempt to explain and rationalize the differences...Darwin's general solution to the incompatibility of fossil evidence and his theory was to say the fossil record was a very imcomplete one...Well we are now about 120 year after Darwin, and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded.We now have a quarter million fossil species, but the situation hasn't changed much. The record of evolution is surprisingly jerky, and ironically, we have fewer examples of evolutionary transition [changes over time of species] than we had in Darwin's time.  By this I mean that some of the classic cases of Darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse, in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information-that what appeared to be a nice simple progression when relatively few data were available now appears to be more complex and much less gradualistic.  So Darwin's problem has not been alleviated..."