They domesticated the horse around 3500 BC, vastly increasing the possibilities of nomadic life, and subsequently their economy and culture emphasized horse breeding, horse riding and nomadic pastoral ism ; this usually involved trading with settled peoples around the steppe edges. They developed the chariot, wagon, cavalry and horse archery and introduced innovations such as the bridle, bit and stirrup, and the very rapid rate at which innovations crossed the steppe lands spread these widely, to be copied by settled peoples bordering the steppes.
The boundary of 13th century Mongol Empire and location of today's Mongols in modern Mongolia, Russia and China. Historically, areas to the north of China including Manchuria, Mongolia, and Xinjiang were inhabited by nomadic tribes. Early periods in Chinese history involved conflict with the nomadic peoples to the west of the Wei valley.
An early theory proposed by Owen Baltimore suggesting that the nomadic tribes could have been self-sufficient was criticized by later scholars, who questioned whether their raids may have been motivated by necessity rather than greed. Anatomy Kazan identified this imbalance in production as the cause of instability in the Steppe nomadic cultures.
Later scholars argued that peace along China's northern border largely depended on whether the nomads could obtain the essential grains and textiles they needed through peaceful means such as trade or intermarriage. Several tribes organized to form the Xiongnu, a tribal confederation that gave the nomadic tribes the upper hand in their dealings with the settled agricultural Chinese people.
During the Tang dynasty, Turks would cross the Yellow River when it was frozen to raid China. Contemporary Tang sources noted the superiority of Turkic horses.
The Xinjiang (Kerry) were a tributary tribe who controlled an area abundant in resources like gold, tin and iron. The Turks used the iron tribute paid by the Kerry to make weapons, armor and saddle parts.
Turks were nomadic hunters and would sometimes conceal military activities under the pretense of hunting. Their raids into China were organized by a Kagan and success in these campaigns had a significant influence on a tribal leader's prestige.
In the 6th c. the Torture Khanate consolidated their dominance over the northern steppe region through a series of military victories against the Shiva, Khan, Roman, Typhus, Karakhoja, and Ada. By the end of the 6th century, following the Torture civil war, the short-lived empire had split into the Eastern and Western Turkic Khanates, before it was conquered by the Tang in 630 and 657, respectively.
Nomad ism persists in the steppe lands, though it has generally been disapproved of by modern regimes, who have often discouraged it with varying degrees of coercion. Chronologically, there have been several “waves” of invasions of either Europe, the Near East, India, and/or China from the steppe.
“Ancient Inner Asian Nomads: Their Economical Basis and Its Significance in Chinese History.” Dancing with the Horse Riders: The Tang, the Turks, and the Uighurs.
Mongols, Turks, and others: Eurasian nomads and the sedentary world (Brill's Inner Asian Library, 11). Early riders: The beginnings of mounted warfare in Asia and Europe.
Golden, Peter B. Nomads and their neighbors in the Russian Steppe: Turks, Khazar and Qipchaqs (Various Collected Studies). Warriors of the steppe: A military history of Central Asia, 500 B.C.
Vladivostok : Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences; reprinted in: The Early State, Its Alternatives and Analogues. Nomad ism, Evolution, and World-Systems: Pastoral Societies in Theories of Historical Development.
Moscow: Center for Civilizational Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences. Litter, Mary A. ; Cruel, Jews H. ; Raul wing, Peter (Editor).
Selected writings on chariots and other early vehicles, riding, and harness (Culture and history of the ancient Near East, 6). Shipped, Thomas “Tom” A. Goths and Huns: The rediscovery of Northern culture in the nineteenth century, in The Medieval legacy: A symposium.
Dense: University Press of Southern Denmark, 1981 (ISBN 87-7492-393-5), pp. Wikimedia Commons has media related to Eurasian nomads.
There were dozens of these tribes and the names of some of theme Huns of Attila, the Mongols of Genghis Khan, the Tartars of Tamerlanelive on as legends of adventure and brutal conquest. Their homeland was the flat, endless, virtually treeless sea of grass that formed the Eurasian stepped staggeringly vast realm that stretched from what is now the Ukraine to Mongolia.
To the people in the settled cultures and empires that bordered central EurasiaGreeks, Romans, Persians, Chinese, and othersthe steppe (or “prairie”) frontier was a barrier beyond which civilization could not sustain itself. For centuries, the thundering of their horses hooves, pounding down out of the steppe, brought terror to settled civilizations from China to Rome.
The horse nomads were thus incapable of recording their own histories beyond the paucity of outdoor rock inscriptions and scribe-written documents that have come down to us from the few tribes just named. For centuries, treasure-hunting grave robbers traveled out onto the endless steppe to destructively plunder the earthen tomb mounds that the nomads left behind.
The artifacts recovered and analyzed by the archaeologists are the only means we have to confirm or deny the written accounts of the ancient and medieval chroniclers. Writers in the civilized cultures who observed the nomads stressed that these people did everything on horseback, to include performing bodily functions.
At times of crisis, which were frequent on the unforgiving steppe, they would make a small incision in a vein in their horse's neck and slurp a little of its blood while it obediently stood there. The people of the Scythian horse nomad tribe loved mad drunken binges on wine they obtained by trade with the Greeks.
The chiefs of the tribes often had large tents that were permanently set up on huge flat-bed wagons pulled by a couple dozen oxen. The religion of many horse nomads included the worship of the God of the Great Blue Sky, whom the Mongols called Tenure.
Eventually, the great majority of the horse nomads converted to Islam, though a very few became Buddhist, Christian, or even Jewish. It is a truism of history and anthropology that when agriculture enabled the creation of the first ancient settled cultureswith their towns and citiespeople suddenly had wealth that was worth fighting over and the institution of formalized warfare was created.
Military leaders who were defeated in battle by horse nomad armies, were, in a few famous documented cases, subject to having the tops of their skulls made into drinking cups by their victorious steppe-land enemies. The ancient Greek writer Herodotus wrote that it was common procedure for Scythian horse nomad warriors, who lived in what is now the Ukraine, to make gold-lined drinking cups from the skull tops of slain enemies, sawed off along the line of the brow.
Modern readers are on their own to decide if such stories told by the Greeks, Chinese, and other settled cultures about the violent nature of the horse nomads are true or are merely malicious rumor. Even the most productive archeological digs need an established textual narrative to place the dug-up artifacts in context.
Around the edges of the Eurasian steppe were settled, stationary, “civilized” cultures with houses, temples, farms, towns, and cities. At various periods in history, these included the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Russians to the west, the Persians in what is now Iran to the south, various Mesopotamian cultures to the southwest, and the Chinese to the southeast.
The horse nomads were contemptuous of the settled people as a race of dull, stay-at-home nothing's who were slaves of the dirt they farmed and the houses they lived in. But the nomads still envied what they perceived as the wealth and sheltered living of the settled cultures, even if the truth was that life was hard for a sedentary peasant farmer.
Sometimesand this is what always got the most attention from “civilized” writersthe nomads conducted rampaging raids into the territory of the settled cultures, snatching up all the loot they could carry, and vanishing back into the steppes again. As proud as the nomads were of their independent lifestyle, some part of their minds was always enticed by the prospect of being able to come out of the cold and wind and snow and rain and blazing summer heat to seek comfort under real roofs.
At this point, I must digress to defend what I wrote in the preceding paragraphs against recent scholarship that asserts the contrary. Dr. Christopher I. Beck with, whose book Empires of the Silk Road I made heavy use of in my research, argues against the traditional view of the horse nomads that I have adopted as my own in writing this work.
Dr. Beck with's thesis is that the traditional view of the horse nomads as being particularly tough, particularly violent, particularly warlike people am a mistaken stereotype. My reading of the literature, taking full note of the biases of the authors, tells me that the “stereotype” is fundamentally true.
Quite obviously, the settled, sedentary, so-called “civilized” cultures of ancient and medieval Rome, Persia, Byzantium, and China built and used military organizations of tremendous power and destructiveness. And these “civilized” cultures provide plenty of gruesome stories about how disputes over succession to the throne were resolved with daggers in the dark.
But still maintain that the horse nomads were an order of magnitude above their settled contemporaries in their individual and collective sheer hardness of character; in their individual and collective sheer quickness to employ violence to resolve disputes ranging from the ownership of a single deer carcass to the boundaries of an empire. Various scholars have noted that livestock herding cultures tend to embrace a shoot-first-ask-questions-later mentalitywhether they do their shooting with ancient bows and arrows or modern Colt revolvers.
This tendency is probably due to the fact that the property most precious to herding peopletheir livestock so easily stolen (“rustled”). As Dr. Beck with correctly points out, the nomads acquired the vast majority of their luxury goods through peaceful trade with the settled cultures.
But even so, the fact remains that the nomads maintained an instantaneous readiness to revert to raids and warfare if the settled people did anything that impinged on trade. But I assert that the harsh natural environment of the stepped the culture the nomads created to cope with that environmentwere uniquely suited to producing people like Mo tun of the Hsiung-nu, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, and Tamerlane.
These individuals embodied a combination of astounding personal warrior prowess plus the organizational savvy to build empires. Yes, throughout history, the armies of “civilized” cultures have killed staggering numbers of people, committing massacres and genocides along the way.
All the foregoing causes me to doubt the revisionist thesis that the horse nomads were no more tough or aggressive than their settled contemporaries. The style of fighting of the Eurasian horse nomads was to shoot bows and arrows from horseback, just like the plains Indians of North America.
Nomad horse archers were so skilled they could have several arrows in the air at the same moment, all in a line, point to tail feathers, flying to strike the enemy. The unique type of bow employed by the Eurasian horse nomads made a decisive contribution to their military dominance over their foes.
Once it was invented and then perfected by the first of the Eurasian horse peoples, its basic form remained unchanged for centuries aside from minor variations peculiar to the various tribes. This double resistance of the bow's material to being bent thus imparted tremendous forward impulsion to the arrow at the instant the archer released the string.
This device thus imparted an additional mechanical advantage of increased leverage to even further speed the arrow at its target. It is important to stress the truly blistering speed and impact power of arrows launched from horse nomad composite recurve bows.
The foot soldiers of sedentary cultures typically carried large, thick, heavy shields on their left arms for protection from enemy blows. The famous longbow of medieval Wales and England, which was made from a single, uniform piece of yew wood, equaled the nomad bows in the range and penetrating power of its arrows.
It is telling that when the horse nomads invaded the forested lands of Central Europe, the cool, damp weather of that part of the world caused the natural substance-based glues holding their laminated bows together to deteriorate. They had a plethora of different shapes of arrowheads, each optimized for a specific purpose, such as piercing an enemy warrior's armor or stunning a bird in mid flight.
With a proper bit, the horse suddenly becomes as responsive as a top-class sports car to the commands of a skilled and experienced human rider. It is striking to realize how superbly the early horse nomads controlled their steeds without the benefit of stirrups.
Stirrups did not start to come into common use on the Eurasian steppe until sometime around 500 AD, which was quite late in the history of the horse nomads. They were essentially abuse proof and would willingly carry on under conditions that would kill a beautiful modern Thoroughbred horse.
The Greeks, Persians, Romans, Chinese, and Russians all originally preferred to fight on foot, hacking their enemies at face-to-face distance with swords or thrusting spears. The nomads' mastery of horse-mounted archery gave them a nearly invincible combination of high mobility and missile power.
That is, they could gallop circles around foes who were either on foot or ineptly attempting to ride and, with their arrows, they could kill from a distance that was safe for themselves. Never coming within the reach of the clumsy masses of enemy foot soldiers, the galloping nomads would smother their foes with a hail of arrows.
Only when the enemy army had been reduced to a bloody, arrow-riddled, panic-stricken shambles would the nomad horse archers sling their bows, draw their own swords and lances, and gallop in for the final face-to-face kill. After making an initial attack on an enemy army, the nomad warriors would pretend to flee the battlefield in panic.
Their wrongfully elated enemies would tend to chase after them with a false sense of triumph, forfeiting the cohesion of their organizational structure as a result. The wild and free nature of horse nomad society did not translate into undisciplined, sloppy performance on the battlefield.
It was a Roman army attempting to achieve this purpose that was annihilated by Parthia horse archers at the Battle of Carriage in 53 BC. A certain number of Chinese armies suffered a similar fate at the eastern end of the Eurasian steppe.
And nomad horse archers were always the ideal military force to conduct lightning-quick hit-and-run raids into the territory of settled cultures. But when the nomads came off the steppe and into the home territories of settled cultures for the purpose of permanent conquest they found the power of their style of war diluted.
Swift, free-ranging maneuvers by masses of horse warriors are easy on the flat, treeless, wide open, hard ground of the steppe. But such maneuvers are restricted on ground that is cut up by irrigation ditches, villages, woodlots, forested hills and mountains, and sodden rice paddies.
A significant logistical problem that became more aggravated for nomad armies the farther they got off the steppe was lack of wide open pasturage on which to graze their thousands of horses. Among the horse nomads, only the Mongols of Genghis Khan and his successors fully mastered the military problem of walled cities as described below.
The Mongols were two or three orders of magnitude of organization and sophistication above the previous waves of horse peoples in the art and science of war. When invading a foreign country, they had an uncanny ability to have several large units of troopsthat were separated from each other by hundreds of milestone in perfect coordination with each other without the benefit of radio communications.
Once the Mongols brought their forces onto a localized battlefield, they efficiently coordinated the movements of their military units with a sophisticated signal system employing flags and drums. The Mongols made a practice of conducting mass wild game hunts as large-scale military unit training exercises.
The imperiousness of the Mongols to brutally harsh weather enabled them to employ gambits such as launching invasions of foreign countries during the dead of winter when frozen solid major rivers would be no impediment to the movement of thousands of horse warriors. As described above, horse nomad armies prior to the Mongols always had problems attacking the large cities of their sedentary, urbanized foes.
The Mongols were different in that they did possess a large and state-of-the-art force of stone-throwing siege engines such as catapults and trebuchets, along with battering rams, to demolish the protective walls of enemy cities. Jutland this is the critical pointevery single one of the siege engineers serving in the Mongol army was a non-Mongol recruited from a previously conquered sedentary culture.
While the Mongols conquered astoundingly vast areas of steppe and desert lands quickly and with apparent ease, their conquest of urbanized China was slow and difficult. In the year 1235 AD, a Mongol war council planned simultaneous invasions of Korea and Poland.
It seems certain that these real-life women gave rise to the ancient Greek legends of the Amazons as recorded by Herodotus and other authors living at that time. Modern archeologists have dug up numerous graves across Eurasia in which a female skeleton had bowed leg bones, attesting to a life on horseback.
Archaeologists working in the Ukraine have excavated the graves of large numbers of horse nomad warriors dating to the 4th and 5th Centuries BC. As of this writing, archaeologists have dug up well over a hundred such graves in which a woman was buried with weapons of various kinds and horse riding gear at her side.
Another statistic from a recent archaeological campaign is that about fifteen percent of all female graves examined contained weapons and horse gear. Scientific analysis of these women's remains shows that a number of them died as young adults, that is, at the appropriate age for military service.
To complete the picture, several skeletons of apparent women warriors show obvious evidence of combat wounds such as arrowheads embedded in bones or blows to the skull. No Greek, Roman, or Chinese woman could serve as an equal in an army that preferred to fight on foot, hacking away with a heavy sword or spear and pure brawn.
The modern-day remnants of the ancient horse nomad cultures have a few women who ride and bear arms in their local militias. It would be intellectually responsible to add the caveat that we should not claim too much from the apparent female warrior graves dug up by archaeologists.
Interested readers of today are apt to want to conclude that women rode and fought as equals with their men in exotic, easily romanticized cultures of centuries ago. Stillwhen peer-reviewed archaeologists dig up the graves of women who were buried with horse gear and weapons in precisely that region of the world where the ancient Greek author Herodotus claimed the Amazons lived, a certain amount of credulity is justified.
The Lena TV episode titled “The Debt, Part I,” from Season Three, provides a fun, campybut essentially accurateprimer in the culture, politics, and warfare of the Eurasian horse nomads on the ancient Chinese frontier. As the centuries of ancient and medieval times rolled on, a repeating pattern emerged in the relationship between the horse nomads and the settled cultures.
Every few generations, a new wave of nomads would suddenly erupt out of the steppe to attack and terrorize the settled cultures, whether Roman, Russian, Arab, Chinese, or whatever. The best speculation is that the eruptions were caused in varying proportions by population growth spurts stressing the resource base, droughts drying up the pasture lands, the emergence of a particularly aggressive and charismatic leader, and perhaps the confluence of simple greed and boredom.
Finally, sometimes the nomads would succeed in completely conquering a settled culture and then ruling over it as dominant nobility and royalty. An economy of herding livestock across the harsh steppe in a constant search for new pastures can support only a very few people.
An economy of settled farming can support millions of rural peasants, townspeople, government bureaucrats, and so on. When the settled people referred to huge numbers of nomads attacking them in vast “hordes” it was a misnomer.
The settled people probably got the impression of great numbers of nomads due to the way the high speed and mobility of the nomads enabled the same small group of horse warriors to appear in several scattered locations seemingly at the same time. In the settled cultures, with all their dozens of different skills and trades, only a small percentage of the males could be trained and paid to be full time soldiers.
Also, the frequently brutal harshness of trying to make a day-to-day living on the steppe forged a people who were fundamentally tough, resilient, and self-reliantprecisely the traits of the successful warrior. The nomad rulers had to rely on technical advisers from among the settled people for advice on what to tell all the millions of peasants and tradesmen to do.
Genghis Khan started the huge Mongol Empire that within three generations conquered most of Asia and a large part of Europe. After another few generations, the Chinese people rebelled and drove their now soft and weak Mongol masters out of the country.
Fortunately perhaps, today's Mongol horse nomads are more interested in hosting lucrative adventure tourist groups than they are in world conquest. And the typical modern Mongol nomad Ger tent has a satellite dish affixed to it with a TV inside.
The Chinese sought to weaken the physical and moral character of nomad regimes by gradually corrupting them with a steady flow of luxury goods. At the same time, they would attempt to sow internal dissension and conflict within a nomad nation with sophisticated deceitful rumor campaigns.
When an indigenous Chinese dynasty was in power, such as the Han, it took exceptionally strong leadership such as that provided by Wu-ti, the famous “Martial Emperor,” to wage victorious war on the nomads. A similar paradigm played out at the European end of the steppe when the settled cultures enjoyed the strongest rareleadership of a Marcus Aurelius, a Flavius Genius, or a Charlemagne.
Generally in the West, the only thing that could be consistently relied upon to stop the nomads was the high, massive, multi-tiered, essentially impregnable city walls of Constantinople. They were kept functioning by successive generations of bureaucrats who were usually able to hold things together through the reigns of the occasional weak or incompetent or insane emperor.
They were createdand they were maintained over timely nothing but the charisma, skill, and personal brute force of the tough guy at the top. The instant heroic leadership at the top became lacking, a horse nomad empire was prone to rapidly disintegrate.
Any horse nomad empire that lasted longer than three generations of a ruling dynasty should be considered remarkable for its longevity. Suppose, for example, that a certain tribe receives a severe defeat at the hands of the Chinese at the far eastern end of the steppe.
The influence of the ancient and medieval Eurasian horse nomads on modern popular culture has been significant. The fictional “Riders of Rohan,” also called “the Rohirrim,” from the fantasy epic books and movies The Lord of the Rings, and the fictional “Dothan” people from the Game of Thrones fantasy books and TV series, are obviously modeled on the Eurasian nomad cultures of factual history, and quite closely so.
At the same time, their use of heavy protective armor, conical helmets, and long spears when riding into their fictional battles call to mind the real world ancient Dalmatian tribes. The swarthy and violently uncouth imaginary Dothan, with their lack of sophisticated body armor, are a clear echo of the factual ancient Huns.
There were dozens of distinct horse nomad tribes, representing numerous ethnicities, that emerged from Central Asia during the ancient and medieval eras. A useful tool for trying to sort out the chaotic history of these people is a typology, a “scorecard,” that attempts to tabulate who did what to whom in what sequence where and when.
In this typology of the central Asian horse tribes, the five major ethnic groupings of them (Iranians, Huns, Magyars, Turks, and Mongols) are listed with Roman numerals. A very few selected groups who do not have a listing of their own, but who have some unique importance to the story, are denoted with bold font within the body of the text.
People of any number of different ethnicities could, and did, attach themselves to the core group of a tribe as the survival needs of the moment dictated. In any event, the Hsiung-nu and their Hun descendants carved out a destiny for themselves that made them distinct from the other Turkic and Mongol peoples.
The originally fair-skinned Magyars would have become darker as they intermingled with other ethnic groups during their migration, that lasted several generations, to what is now Hungary. The Huns apparently became a mixed race group that grew progressively more “white” as they migrated west and intermingled with numerous tribes.
I invite readers to obtain a more specific idea of my debt to numerous scholars by consulting my “Bibliographical Essay” and “Acknowledgments” sections below. Others believe that the Scythians, who lived on the treeless steppes of southern Russia, first tamed the horse around 3,000 B.C.
The importance of the horse in exploration, agriculture, war, and sports is documented in ancient art and mythology, from the Scythians and Assyrians through Greek and Roman cultures and on to the present day. Nomadic caravans traveling via horse reached the foothills of the Asian mountains, and on northward and eastward into Asia.
This way of life was centered around horses, which were used as mounts, pack animals, and as a source of food (both for horse meat and mare's milk). Over the centuries, using chariots as well as mounted warriors, nomadic armies of Mongols struck south of the Great Wall and into the heart of Europe.
Genghis Khan established an imperial circuit of communications similar to the famous Pony Express of the American West. Genghis Khan’s system had way stations for post riders established in strategic locations across the empire.
This system enabled commands to be rapidly dispersed and news to be brought swiftly to the capital. His decline began when he could no longer mobilize and unify the mounted nomadic warriors as his grandfather, uncle, and brother had.
These are invariably spoken of in a set order: horses, cattle (including yaks), camels, sheep, and goats. In the words of a herder who lives outside Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia's capital, “We Mongols respect horse as our companion of night and day.
In this country where horses are equated with freedom and well-being, the take’s return is profoundly meaningful. I’ve said on several previous occasions that domestic animals are far from outside the Tet Zoo remit.
On the contrary, I find them to be of great interest, and I think that their diversity, evolution and behavior is something that we should pay attention to more often. The article you’re reading now is a weird spin off of the Tetra pod Zoology podcast (known in-universe as the TetZoopodcats) and relates specifically to a question we were asked by Tet Zoo regular Richard Hing.
I should say to begin with that it’s becoming ever-easier for me to write about domestic horse breeds and their history because I now own quite a few books devoted to these subjects. While there’s a very obvious European (and British) bias to these books, the good news is that at least some of them do discuss the breeds from places like sub-Saharan Africa.
The majority of African horse breeds are derivatives of a domestication event that was centered in Asia Minor and the Mediterranean fringes. I really want to avoid the subject of pre-dynastic horses and domestication history (and taxonomy) here since it’s very complicated and there’s lots to say.
I will say that horses were seemingly domesticated several times, from wild populations that almost certainly differed in proportions and other characteristics. They have proportionally long ears and a bulging forehead region that apparently reflects the presence of large frontal sinuses (Bennett 2008).
This is a long-headed, long-legged horse with flat shoulders, a low-set tail and sloping hindquarters, and it can be virtually any shade of brown, black or gray. They’ve repeatedly been crossed with Arab horses, so much so that a large pool of hybrids now exists, and several Barb strains have been bred.
A form with a Roman-nosed appearance is associated with Tripoli, and smaller-bodied versions have been bred in mountainous parts of Algeria and Morocco. One hybrid population, mostly associated with Libya, has a distinctive-enough look that it’s treated as a distinct breed, the Libyan barb or North African horse.
From here, they were taken to South America where breeds like the Argentine Criollo, Puerto Rican Pass Fine and Machado are apparently derived from them. I should also note briefly that Barbs may have originated in Spain in the first place, an idea which is consistent with archaeological and genetic data suggesting that the Iberian Peninsula was both a Pleistocene refuge for wild horses, and a domestication center for animals that were later taken around the Mediterranean fringes and across northern Africa (Jansen et al.
Animals I’ve seen in photos have a gently bulging forehead and slightly concave dorsal face profile like that seen in North African Barbs. Many comments made about the Angola have a negative connotation: it’s described as having thin legs, a proportionally big, dorsally convex and unattractive head, a flat croup (= rump), and a long back.
They include the Fulani, the Bahr-el-Ghazal of Chad, the Hausa and Born of Nigeria, and the Niagara, Dermal, Moss, Songhai and Height of the great ‘bend region’ of the Niger River (Hendricks 2007). Fulani horses are small and hardy, they’re highly variable, and they have features indicative of an Afro-Turkic/Oriental ancestry.
Pictures show a long, narrow face, slender proportions overall and a function as both a pack and saddle horse. Again, it paints a picture of substantial movement of horse breeds, and a long and complex history of hybridization and retrogression (Paisley et al.
In fact, it’s obvious that “he importance of ponies in West Africa has been seriously underestimated because the process of replacement by the larger and more prestigious horses brought across the desert was already advanced during the period when the first observers were writing” (Blench 1993, p. 103). Several groups of people in what is now Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and elsewhere in western and Central Africa are recorded as using and breeding horses, and of using them extensively in battle.
In Chad, the powerful Aguirre Kingdom used mounted cavalry, equipped with quilted armor worn over leather and chain mail, during the 18th century at least, and armored horses were in fact used extensively across central and eastern Sudan Africa. Plateau State in Nigeria was inhabited by people with a rich and interesting horse-based culture.
The Pit people of Nigeria also used their small hill ponies when hunting game. Sadly, all of these animals seem to have declined substantially in recent decades with a 1990 survey finding only three in use among one of the relevant ethnic groups (Blench 1993).
A remarkable tradition apparently used by people across the region concerns the deliberate cutting of the horse’s back such that it bled, the clotting blood then being used as an adhesive to help the (bareback) rider stay in place. Blench (1993) quoted UMM (1910) on this, and noted that it seemed so bizarre (and cruel) that it would ordinarily be worthy of dismissal as a traveler’s tale.
Some authors provided extra information, saying that the skin was opened on the back such that a swollen pad (and eventually a giant roughened area of scar tissue) formed and functioned as a sort of built-in saddle. A Berm man (the Berm or Biro are indigenous to the Jo's Plateau in Nigeria) was quoted as saying “A horse is like a man; you send it out to bring a tired man home, you give it water to drink, you walk miles to find it grass to eat, it carries you to hunt and to war, when it is tired you dismount and carry your load on your own head.
When you die, and they lead it towards your grave, its spirit may fly out of its body in its anxiety to find you” (Musical 1982, p. 23-24). Ponies kept by the Berm were killed when their owner died and the corpse was then wrapped in the skin (Davies, in Blench 1993).
Axes, spears, saddles and bits and reins were used by these people as they rode, and Master apparently featured a remarkable image where Gamer warriors, crossing the Logon River in canoes, are leading their swimming horses behind them (Blench 1993). Master also referred to the sight of 3000-4000 Gamer warriors, about one-third of which were mounted, so they apparently owned a great many horses.
It’s apparently has exceptionally hard hooves, relatively short legs and a longish back (Goodall 1963). These features are all related to its sure-footedness on rough, rocky terrain, and it’s this characteristic which had made the Auto a popular and reliable horse used extensively during the Boer War.
The Auto seems to have originated as a cross between Arab, Persian and Thoroughbred horses during the middle of the 17th century and to have been brought to Southern Africa by Dutch and Portuguese people. The origins and history of miniature horses is confusing, in part because people have crossed small individuals of many breeds to create small-stature animals.
They probably descend from horses imported to the region for military purposes and don’t have (contra some ideas on their origins) any direct links to Auto ponies used by endemic people. I don’t know anywhere near as much as I might like, but the few sources I’ve consulted show that western, central and Southern Africa at least have a rich and diverse history of equestrianism.
Horses have also been used extensively in war, in ceremonial fashion or as working or riding animals in many African countries even well south of the Sahara. Ethnographic and linguistic evidence for the prehistory of African ruminant livestock, horses and ponies.
In And ah, B., Spoke, A., Shaw, C. & Sinclair, P. (eds) The Archaeology of Africa: Food, Metals and Towns. The Luciano horse maternal lineage based on mitochondrial D-loop sequence variation.
The romance and excitement of this colorful culture has captured the imagination of the Western World and it has become a favorite subject for books, paintings and movies. The Indian acquisition of the horse reminds me of the somewhat analogous technological revolution in our society caused by the invention and ubiquitous spread of motor vehicles.
Given our rapid exhaustion of oil and gas reserves and our pollution of the environment, one wonders if the glory days of the motor vehicle will last much longer than that of the mounted Indian. It is a strange quirk of fate that equines originated in North America, but became extinct here though they continued to thrive in Asia after crossing the Bering Straits.
It is interesting to speculate as to how different history would have been if the horse had stayed in North America and the enormous advantage to civilization had developed first on this side of the ocean. In his wonderful book, American Colonies, Taylor says that this revolt was the greatest setback inflicted by natives on European expansion in North America.
Certainly resourceful hunters managed to kill buffalo with techniques like approaching using wolf hides as cover or driving herds over a precipice, but this did not provide great abundance with any continuity. Around tribal centers game tended to become less plentiful and sought refuge in the no man’s land between rivals which caused frequent clashes between hunting parties.
The origins of modern Europeans are shrouded in mystery and wracked by controversy. One major source of contention over the origins of the precursor to modern European cultures is over whether they involved the movement of actual people or merely the exchange of ideas.
Around 5,000 BP or 3,000 BC a Bronze Age culture began to spread across Europe, probably from the steppes of Eurasia. The original position of many European archaeologists, however, was that the second instance, at least, represented an invasion.
In 3,000 BC, nomadic naturalists from the steppes of Eurasia replaced and interbred with the Neolithic farmers who had settled Europe about 4,000 years earlier. More recent views also contend that Neolithic farmers from Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) began to spread across Europe around 7,000 BC without much interbreeding with the native hunter-gatherers.
Although there are still many unanswered questions, sequencing of ancient human genomes has revealed that these culture changes in Europe were partially the result of a migration of people. The earlier migration of farmers from Anatolia is beyond the scope of this article, but recent research suggests that the dawn of Bronze Age Europe was due to the expansion of the Yamaha culture.
The Yamaha migrated from modern-day western Russia or the Ukraine and into the plains of Central Europe. Eurasia has hundreds of different ancient human genomes that can be studied in order to decipher past migration within Eurasian populations.
More ancient genomes to sequence means more data and thus higher resolution results. The Yamaha crossed enormous distances, likely because of a newly domesticated animal at the time, the horse.
The domestication of the horse would have given nomadic groups more mobility allowing them to go greater distances. Through investigating ancient genomes, scientists were able to track how the virus has followed human populations over the course of history.
The Yamaha were nomadic naturalists who originally lived on the steppes of Eurasia before moving west. Before the arrival of the Yamaha, European tombs were large and communal and appear to have belonged to more than one family.
More mobility would have allowed for less time for the development of large multi-family communities such as clans. Their use of bronze and copper may have given them an advantage over the mostly Neolithic, Stone Age inhabitants of Europe at the time.
It has even been suggested that European women may have found Yamaha men more desirable for marriage because of their prowess as warriors and their superior technology. This would make their purpose similar to the Greek and Roman colonies established across the Mediterranean.
It is also possible that they could have been raiders intending to become rich from plunder and gain glory in battle to establish their place in their society, similar to the Vikings. This makes sense since these recent findings would suggest that the Germanic people and the Celts were their descendants.
It is hard, if not impossible, in many cases to determine the language associated with an archaeological culture. Despite this problem, there are ways to determine the language most likely spoken by an archaeological culture.
The two main views are that the speakers of Proto-Indo-European, the hypothetical ancestor of Indo-European languages, were either Anatolian farmers who began to expand from their homeland in 7000 BC, or pastorals nomads from the steppes of Eurasia who began to spread out from their homeland around 4000 BC. Urban cultures, which include the Yamaha, buried their dead in graves that were covered by dirt mounds.
The speakers of Proto-Indo-European were part of what archaeologists and linguists call Proto-Indo-European (PIE) culture. For now, PIE culture is largely theoretical and has been created by drawing inferences from what Proto-Indo-European words reveal about their society.
This suggests that the speakers of the language were familiar with these animals and crops and may have raised them. PIE culture was at least partly sedentary, raising crops like wheat barley and probably living in waddle and daub structures.
If they adopted farming from the local non-Indo-European cultures, we would expect words related to agriculture to be foreign loanwords, and not in the original Proto-Indo-European lexicon. Alternatively, the fact that there are original PIE words for domestic barley and wheat suggests that Proto-Indo-European speakers, whoever they were, were already familiar with farming when they became a distinct linguistic group.
The origin of the first Indo-European languages, according to the Urban Hypothesis, is about 1,000 years after the time when the Yamaha are believed to have moved out from their homeland, but everything else seems to fit. This suggests at least a plausible connection between the Yamaha and the Indo-European languages though it may not make them the original speakers of Proto-Indo-European.
This is understandable since the people that recorded history tend to be from the sedentary agricultural societies that pastorals nomads had a habit of raiding. It makes sense that agricultural civilizations would have a dim view of these nomadic raiders and paint them in a negative light.
It is also true that, sometimes, nomadic naturalists are warlike as innumerable examples in history show. They did engage in occasional raids, but there is also evidence that there was significant trade and communication between different nomadic groups and farming communities.
Evidence is mounting that pastorals nomads helped to create a vast trade network stretching across much of Eurasia in which goods and information were transferred. Nonetheless, they helped create an inter-continental trade network that connected agricultural civilizations across the ancient world.
It could be said that the first movement towards economic and cultural globalization was implemented by pastorals nomads wandering the steppes of central Eurasia. Nomadic herders left a strong genetic mark on Europeans and Asians.
Thousands of horsemen may have swept into Bronze Age Europe, transforming the local population. Mitochondrial genomes reveal an east to west Cline of steppe ancestry in Corded Ware populations.
They work hard to keep their ancient cultural beliefs and behaviors alive, surviving against the odds of climate change and urban encroachment on their territorial lands. The Koch people of southern and eastern Afghanistan survive in decreasing numbers because of the pressures of war and internal strife, but a few thousand continue to live as their ancestors did, herding sheep, goats, and camels.
Or they did, until mining, big game hunting, and even foreign beer grain-growing corporations interrupted the culture’s nomadic way of life. In fact, safari tourism is actually proving detrimental to the Masai because prioritizing wildlife viewings can rob naturalists of their necessary grazing land.
However, a significant population are still full-time nomadic naturalists, herding sheep, yak, goats, horses, camels, and dogs, living in temporary structures we know as yurts. Like their neighbors the Duke people, the Satan reindeer herders of icy Northern Mongolia’s subarctic Khövsgöl IMAG region are a tiny subgroup of about 40 families living in symbiosis with their animals, moving up to 10 times a year.
But in the summer, small groups trek throughout the region with their sheep, mules, and goats, seeking good grazing terrain throughout the high mountain passes. Many trekkers cross through the Add people’s Himalayan territories, but tribal tourism is not a main source of sustainable income for this indigenous group.
Often referred to with ethnic slurs such as “Pikey,” Pikers,” or “Tinkers,” Irish travelers are ostracized and scorned as criminals and worse. The extremely close-knit Irish traveling community is a diaspora of contemporary nomads living in parts of Europe and enclaves in the United States.
They live in ever-moving caravans and have strict gender rules: Men travel and work with the animals, and women marry young and tend to domestic chores. They speak an unwritten language called Gammon or Shelia, a blend of Irish Gaelic, Hebrew, Greek, and English.
Irish travelers represent a solid example of peripatetic nomads, who’ve maintained their migratory ways by making their home construction skills valuable to the societies that enveloped their ancestral homelands, rather than assimilating. Horse chariot -- Detail of a bronze mirror c. 5th-6th century excavated Eta-Funayama Cumulus in Japan.
Horses in East Asian warfare are inextricably linked with the strategic and tactical evolution of armed conflict. A warrior on horseback or horse-drawn chariot changed the balance of power between civilizations.
When both sides had horses, battles turned on the strength and strategy of their mounted horsemen, or cavalry. King Ruling of Zhao (340 BCE-295 BCE), after realizing the advantages of light cavalry warfare over that of the heavy and cumbersome chariots, instituted reforms generally known as “” (wearing of the HU- nomadic people's attire, and shooting arrows from horseback), which greatly increased the combat-effectiveness of the army of Zhao.
Conservative forces opposed change, which affected the proportional balance amongst cavalrymen, horse-drawn chariots and infantrymen in Chinese armies. The benefits of using horses as light cavalry against chariots in warfare was understood when the Chinese confronted incursions from nomadic tribes of the steppes.
Feeding horses was a significant problem; and many people were driven from their land so that the Imperial horses would have adequate pastures. Climate and fodder south of the Yangtze River were unfit for horses raised on the grasslands of the western steppes.
The Chinese army lacked a sufficient number of good quality horses. The strategic factor considered most essential in warfare was controlled exclusively by the merchant-traders of the most likely enemies.
The Chinese used chariots for horse-based warfare until light cavalry forces became common during the Warring States era (402-221 BC); and speedy cavalry accounted in part for the success of the Qin dynasty (221 BCE–206 BCE). The Chinese warhorses were cultivated from the vast herds roaming free on the grassy plains of northeastern China and the Mongolian plateau.
The hardy Central Asian horses were generally short-legged with barrel chests. Speed was not anticipated from this configuration, but strength and endurance are characteristic features.
During the Jin dynasty (265–420), records of thousands of “armored horses illustrate the development of warfare in this period. The map of Asia in 800 shows Tang China in relation to its neighbors, including the Uighur Empire of Mongolia.
Horses and skilled horsemen were often in short supply in agrarian China, and cavalry were a distinct minority in most Sui dynasty (581–618) and Tang Dynasty (618–907) armies. The Song (960–1279) through Ming dynasty (1368–1644) armies relied on an officially supervised tea-for-horse trading systems which evolved over centuries.
Although records of horses in Japan are found as far back as the Common period, they played little or no role in early Japanese agriculture or military conflicts until horses from the continent were introduced in the 4th century. The Kojak and Nixon Shoji mention horses in battle.
Samurai fought as cavalry for many centuries, and horses were used both as draft animals and for war. The increasingly elaborate decorations on harnesses and saddles of the samurai suggests the value accorded to these war horses.
Amongst the samurai, Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543–1616) was known as an excellent horseman, which forms the foundation of an anecdote about the shogun's character. One day he and his troops had to cross a very narrow bridge over a raging river.
Ieyasu dismounted, led the horse over the bridge to the other side, and then he re-mounted his steed. At Nikki, the burial place of the horse ridden by Ieyasu Tokugawa in the Battle of Sekigahara is marked with an inscribed stone.
In PRE- Meiji Japan, horses were only considered in a context of warfare and transportation of cargo. As a general rule non-samurai and women did not ride in a saddle as this was reserved for samurai warriors, however, Tome Dozen was an exception to the general rule The appearance of women and non-samurai on horseback in Meiji period prints represented an innovative development.
Since 1958, a statue of a horse at Yasukuni Shrine has acknowledged the equine contributions in Japanese military actions; and opened, full bottles of water are often left at the statues. Other public memorials in other locations in Japan commemorate horses in Japanese warfare, e.g., the Yogi Shrine in Kyoto.
This Villa horse rider pottery is among the National Treasures of Breathe Korean horse is the smallest of the East Asian breeds, but the breed is very strong with noteworthy stamina in terms of its size. In the 12th century, Urchin tribes began to violate the Goryeo-Jurchen borders, and eventually invaded Gorge.
After experiencing the invasion by the Urchin, Korean general Run Gwen realized that Gorge lacked efficient cavalry units. He reorganized the Gorge military into a professional army that would contain decent and well-trained cavalry units.
In 1107, the Urchin were ultimately defeated, and surrendered to Run Gwen. To mark the victory, General Run built nine fortresses to the northeast of the Goryeo-Jurchen borders ( 9, ).
By 1225 Genghis Khan's empire stretched from the Caspian Sea and northern China; and his horses grew to be highly prized throughout Asia. Mongolian horses were known for their hardiness, endurance and stamina.
Descendants of Genghis Khan's horses remain in great number in Mongolia. The limited pasture lands in Eastern Europe affected the westward movement of Mongolian mounted forces.
The empires of China had at various points in history engaged their nomadic neighbors in combat with reduced effectiveness in cavalry combat, and have a various time instituted reforms to meet a highly mobile adversary that fought principally on horseback; one such important reform as clearly recorded in Chinese historical text was King Ruling of Zhao (340BC-395BC), who advocated the principle of , the “wearing of HU nomadic people's clothing, and the firing of arrows from horseback” during the Spring and Autumn period, which greatly helped increase combat effectiveness against the cavalries of the nomadic combatants. Nomadic opponents at the borders of the various empires of China generally used the horse effectively in warfare, which only slowly developed into changes in the way horses were used.
The Chinese scholar Song QI (, 998-1061) explained, “The reason why our enemies to the north and west are able to withstand China is precisely because they have many horses and their men are adept at riding; this is their strength.
Traditionally, the horse has been used as a pack animal, essential in providing logistical support for military forces. Wood relief, 17th century Vietnam, showing a mounted archer with his bow fully drawn while galloping forward, in the foreground a kneeling arquebusier is taking aim.
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Hired Swords: The Rise of Private Warrior Power in Early Japan, p. 37, p. 37, at Google Books ^ Turnbull, Stephen R. (2002). Archived 2012-05-18 at the Payback Machine ^ Sidney Institute (NSW, Australia), Tokugawa Ieyasu ^ Chamberlain, Basil Hall.
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Annals DES emperors Du Japan (Nixon DAI Michigan). Paris: Royal Asiatic Society, Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland.
CLC 5850691 Nguyen The DON, 2001 “Collection of LE dynasty weapons in NGC Khan”. Despite the draw of the city, hundreds of thousands of Mongolians continue to preserve a way of life that goes back at least a millennium.
These nomadic families still drive their herds across the vast steppes of what is the world’s most sparsely populated country after Greenland. These large, portable tents made of felt, plastic tarps, and ornate wooden slats protect nomadic families from some of the coldest temperatures on the planet.
They are about ten meters in diameter, and each contains a small kitchen (consisting of a sink and maybe an electric burner), beds along the sides, a shrine to ancestors or holy figures, and a fireplace in the center. Smoke produced by the fire escapes through a hole in the center of the roof.
When it rains, the water splashes inside until the family pulls a tarp across the Ger for protection. A blue Buddhist prayer flag hangs from the center of a Ger on the steppes of Mongolia.
Many families own large herds of horses that roam the fenceless steppe, and fermented mare’s milk, which the Mongolians call area, is a popular drink. Traditionally, Mongolian nomads’ skill on horseback has been essential for guarding their herds and driving them to pasture.
Though these days herders sometimes round up their animals from the seat of a motorbike, nomadic Mongolians still prize horse riding as both a practical necessity and profound connection to their ancestors and communities. According to the World Bank, between 60 and 70 percent of the nomadic population now has access to electricity.
But many gets now feature solar panels that, at least sporadically, “feed” the nomadic families’ mobile phones, radios, televisions, and electric lights. As it is elsewhere in Asia, the biggest change in Mongolian society is the trend toward urbanization.
The nomadic families who can afford it increasingly send at least one of their children to the city to go to school. Many of these kids prefer to stay there, especially those who find good work.
A young man prepares his lasso before spurring his horse into a nearby herd. Ironically, many of these new urbanites still live in gets, and one of the challenges for city officials is how to provide services to these massive “Ger slums,” as they are sometimes called.
As it often does around the world, the hope for a job in the big city sometimes pays off. In Ulaanbaatar, an estimated 50 to 60 percent of the city lives in a Ger shantytown.
And yes, the city lights continue to attract large numbers away from the horses and goats. But even the kids who go to school in the city return regularly to the fields, where they learn the ways of the generations who came before them.
The Worst Natural Disasters Of The 21st Century Bajaj People: “Sea Nomads” Of The Far East44 Colorized Photos That Bring The Streets Of Century-Old New York City To Life In addition to mastery of horse riding, Mongolian nomads also know how to handle a camel. Nomadic families often manage herds of goats, sheep, cattle, and/or horses numbering in the hundreds.
More than half of Mongolians are Buddhists, and one common act of worship is to spin prayer wheels like these in Ulaanbaatar to earn merit. The centerpiece of the Gandantegchinlen Monastery in Mongolia’s capital city of Ulaanbaatar is this 80-foot tall statue of the Buddha.
The glowing, backlit statue of history’s most famous Mongolians, Genghis Khan, watches over Sükhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar. The capital city has rapidly urbanized over the past half century.
Still, hundreds of thousands of Mongolians continue to live in gets on the open steppes. The simple Ger structures also include splashes of bright decoration, such as this door.
Nomads also tie prayer flags outdoors at the bases of certain holy mountains. Though threatened by urbanization and other modern forces, nomadic life persists in Mongolia.