Horses are among the first animals depicted in art. Outlines of what appear to be Asiatic Wild Horses on the walls of the Chauvet Cave in France date to 30,000 BC, while the spotted horses at the Pech Merle Cave, which may be examples of an ancient breed called the Knabstrup, go back to 25,000 BC. These paintings make the ones at Lascaux from 17,000 BC seem positively contemporary—those horses are probably ancient relatives of the Tarpan, now extinct.

Though not domesticated until some 6,000 years ago, horses quickly became important assets of the nomadic peoples of Kazakhstan and Mongolia, who bred horses as beasts of burden, to transportation to ride into battle against other rival tribes, and as a source of food, from meat to milk. Wealth was largely determined by the number of horses in one’s stable, while skill at breeding and riding alike was highly prized.

By the time of the ancient Parthian, Greek, Mesopotamian, and Persian cultures, horses were firmly associated with power; in Scythian society, horses were frequently buried with their owners. No longer relegated to the walls of caves, horses now appeared in decorative terracotta or marble reliefs on palace walls, in tapestries and rugs, within mosaics, and as bronze or stone sculptures. Bronze and terracotta were also favorite media of Chinese, Indian, and Japanese artists, who also drew and printed images of horses on scrolls, small works on paper, and woodblock prints.

The horses in these works of art, as well as those by more recent European and American artists, carried kings, rode bravely into battle, jousted, chased foxes amid scores of hounds, and played games, from polo to thoroughbred racing. Horses were idealized for their strength and mythologized for their supernatural powers. In the Bible, the appearance of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse signaled the coming of the Last Judgment, while hybrid creatures called unicorns were thought to be heroic, healing creatures who could only be tamed by virgins. The myth of the centaur may have evolved from the first look non-horse-riding cultures got of men on horseback (centaurs have the body and legs of a horse plus the body, arms, and head of a man), while the winged Pegasus embodies two enduring human preoccupations, great strength and the ability to fly.

Naturally, the rich history of horses made them prime targets for popularization as objects of decorative art and even furniture. Horses have been made into everything from table lamps to bookends to salt-and-pepper shakers, and what child's room would be complete without a rocking horse? Bottle openers with horse-head handles are common, as are horse-shaped coin banks. Numerous manufacturers made mantel clocks whose faces were set in carriages pulled by teams of brass horses. And horses have been used to decorate textiles from scarves to tablecloths.

In jewelry, horses can be found in pins and brooches, sometimes studded with rhinestones, sometimes left as simple sterling silver, often employing modernist, abstract designs. There are horse-themed cufflinks, horse and horseshoe charm bracelets, and horse-head earrings. Horses have also been known to appear on buttons and belt buckles, too.

For fans of art pottery, horses and equestrian figurals have been favorites of Staffordshire and Meissen potteries since at least the Victorian Era, while American firms such as McCoy and Llardo made numerous styles of horse figurines through the mid-20th century. French glass manufacturers Daum and Lalique rode the horse wave, as did Steuben and Heisey, whose Oscar horse mold has also been used by Imperial and Fenton...

For contemporary horse collectors, the most recognizable horses may be the ones used in advertising during the past two centuries. Horses have adorned to outsides of cigar boxes, tobacco tins, and whiskey bottles, although they have also appeared on healthier goods such as crate labels advertising asparagus, melons, and pears. Clydesdale horses have been the mascots of Budweiser beer since the repeal of Prohibition, while Mobil’s red Pegasus logo has been around almost as long.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

National Carousel Association

National Carousel Association

Since 1973, the National Carousel Association has been dedicated to preserving and restoring carousels and carousel… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

24 Inch Horse Head Brushed Finish Metal Art Wall Stencil Cabin Barn ShopFine Large 19th Century Hunting Gentleman Rider Horse Dog Portrait Oil Painting Breyer Horse Rare Vintage Florentine Five Gaiter Decorator Beswick Appaloosa (spotted Walking Pony) 1516Mixed Lot Of 12 Breyer Traditional Horses With Cigar, Vtg Khemosabi, Spirit Australian Boer War Qv South Africa Medal 1084 Tpr: W. V. Mcjennett, Aus HorseAntique Art Deco Era Bronzed Horse Statue Abbotwares Equestrian Tube Old RadioDinky # 33r-pre War Two Tone Express Parcels Mechanical Horse And Trailer #rare#Ww1 Australian Light Horse Leather Bandolier, Anzac, Aif, Deceased Estate Susecion & Le Fire - Mare & Foal - Breyer Traditional Model HorsesFine Scene Of 19th Century Arabs & Horses Landscape Oil PaintingLarge 19th Century English Horse Stable Barn Scene Dog Farmer Antique PaintingCool Maureen Love Double Horse Plaque M-89Peter Stone Pstb20006 Spyplane Thoroughbred Model HorseVintage Hagen Renaker Amir White Arabian Stallion Horse 7" Orig StickerWestern Med Bottle Hhh Horse Medicine Sacramento Ca Apple Green Tone!! Color1860s Arny & Shinn Georgetown D.c. Green Pony Squat Blop Top Bottle PontilHagen Renaker Dw Morgan Horse Palomino Lippet With 3 Stickers B-68Breyerfest 2015 Sr Haute Couture Leopard Appaloosa Kalakhaari Marwari Sold Out!Custom Cm Breyer Peter Stone Horse Chips Stock Horse By L. Elkjer+++beautiful+++Lladro Horses GallopingHagen Renaker Dw Arabian Horse Doeskin Amir B-83Vintage 1969 Zippo Lossproof Lighter Horse Sports Series In Original Box New19thc Leather 4' Horse Harness Strap W 22 Brass Sleigh BellsLg Antique Velvet Smoking Tobacco Figural Lady & Horses Advertising Litho SignLarge Beswick 2 Horses Shire Stagecoach Horse And Cart Bes Wick AnimalJax Armless Horse Rider Irtp Flat Top Beer Can Jackson New Orleans, Louisiana LaBreyer 1479 Renaissance Horse And Rider Limited Edition Gift Set - NibAntique Estate Hand Carved Meerschaum Smoking Pipe 2 Stallion Horse Amber #2 YqzVintage Swedish Hand Carved/painted Orange Early Dala 4 " Horse 1930's-40's Breyer Blue Dun/grulla Galiceno Oddity Test? Unusual Criollo Model Horse* 1987 Zippo Lighter Rare Marlboro Cigarettes Man On Horse Rare Mint In BoxBreyer # 1279 Nokota Horse 2007 Benefit ModelCustom Cm Breyer Peter Stone Horse Chips Clydesdale Prego Mare X L. ElkjerGanache Breyerfest 2015 Sr Glossy Bay Ashquar Arabian Stallion Limited! Sold OutMobile Pegasus Flying Horse Drive Safely License Plate Topper Emblem TagLladro Figurine Porcelain 'ride On Little Horse, Pony' Large 9” # 1251 RetiredAntique 19th Century Snuff Mull Box Rams Horn Celtic? Horse Head Hunting ThemeAntique Georgian Victorian Bilston Enamel Horse Head Revolving Locket Pendant C1905 Antique 12k Gold Gf Equestrian Figural Horse Head Photo Locket & ChainAntique Sterling Silver Horse Racing Trophy Cup By Dieges And ClustBreyer 510022 Fortuna Decorator Marabella Horse Dark Variation With CertificateVintage 1957 Econolite Motion Light Snow Scene Lamp With Bridge Church + Horses Nice Large Early Tin Horse Cookie Cutter,dough Mare Fireplace ChristmasVintage Breyer Molding Co Black Horse Gray Hooves 9" - Many Listed 1890's Tin Lithograph Horse Drawn Carriage Varnish & Paint Advertising Sign #2Vintage 1966 Bonanza Figures & Horses American Characters LotPeter Stone Maximillion Warmblood Dressage Plastic Model Horse 2007 Nr Peter Stone Thoroughbred Bingo Too Glossy AppaloosaVintage Breyer B.m.c. Horse Mixed Esate Lot Brown Gray Dapple Chestnut HorsesBreyer Classic Horse Lot W/ Mesteno FiguresVintage Breyer Model Horse Dapple Grey BelgianOld Celluloid & Tin Racing Horses *vintage Japan Wind-up ToyAntique Victorian RepoussÉ Lucky Horse Shoe, Clover, Wishbone Gf Pendant LocketFine 1900's English School Jockey Horse Racing Track Fall Oil Painting SignedBreyer Chalky Plastic Alabaster Western HorseVintage Flocked Stormy Breyer Custom Horse1890's Tin Lithograph Horse Drawn Carriage Varnish & Paint Advertising Sign #118s 21jewel Hamilton 940 Railroad Rare Gold Inaid Horse And Rider Extra FineCirca.2500 B.c Large Bronze Age Harappan Culture Terracotta Statue Idol - Horse