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    

Antique American Late 18th Early 19th C Figural Cleaver Chopper Horse Form Aafa Stunning Art Deco Barolac Opalescent Sea Horse & Fish Handled Vase C.1930 Horses In Barnyard Antique Oil Painting John Frederick Herring Jr. (1820–1907)Vintage P. Forem Middle-eastern Orientalist Arabian City Donkey Oil PaintingOld Fred Harvey Navajo Stamped Silver & Turquoise Bracelet W/ Horses DogsFunky Retro Vintage Ceramic Stylised Horse - Uber Cool Mid-century Bitossi EamesFine Rare 16/17c Chinese Ming Dynasty Carved Jade Imperial Horse Figure PendantAntique Sterling Silver Vesta Case Fob Chain Hunting Locket Match Safe HorseVery Fine Chinese Natural Celadon Jade & 14k Gold Horse Figure Beaded NecklaceAntique Breyer Traditional Horse, Clydesdale Stallion, Glossy Dapple Grey *lookCarrera Y Carrera Heavy 18k Gold .30ct Vs1/f Diamond Horse Motif Cuff BraceletIslamic Tray British Iraq Arab Jews Arabian Ottoman World War Arabic WritingBreyer Horse Roy Rogers And Trigger Porcelain Rare!! No Reserve! With Box # 8125Old Chiseled Snakes Dogs Horses Fred Harvey Navajo Turquoise Cuff BraceletVintage 1959 Impressionist Oil Painting, New Orleans Horse & CarriageAntique 1900's Chettinad India Life Size Temple Horse Carving Mask Amazing YqzLego Vintage Minifigure Lion Black Falcons Castle Knight Horse Barding Sword LotFine Large 19th Century Impressionist Girl & Toy Horse Antique Oil Painting1993 Magic The Gathering Arabian Night Library Of Alexandria U3 L Bgs 9.5 (pwcc)Copper/zinc Horse As Decorative Folk Art From Antique Weathervane 31"longAntique Cast Iron Horse Drawn Cultivator Wheel ~ Vtg Farm Barn Decor Steampunk English Sterling Cup Horse Head Stirrup Mug 14ozRenato Men's Stallion Limited #51/360 Red Dial Swiss Eta Chronograph WatchAntique Victorian Era Horse Drawn Ice Wagon Old Tin & Wood Occupational ToyOoak Cm Breyer Marwari Black Bay W/lots Of White Custom Model HorseAntique 1800s Wood & Iron Horse Drawn Harness Whiffle Tree Yoke Farm Tool DecorFine Large English 1900's Dapple Grey Horse Stable Portrait Antique Oil PaintingFranklin Mint 1:16 Wells Fargo Overland Stagecoach Model 4 Horse Team Stand SetAntique Eapg O'hara Glass Company Horse Shoe Pedestal Cake StandVintage W.e.h. Sterling Silver Antique Finish Lucky Horse Shoe Money Clip 24gLladro 3 Wild Fighting Horses ~ Large Figurine ~ Sculpture ~ Authentic ~ Mint!Old Standing Horse Weathervane, Old & Original ,green Grape Lightning Rod BallAntique 'wood Kentisbeare Maker' Horse BrassAntique Queen Victoria 1887 Horse BrassAntique Victorian Agate Horse Shoe Hoof Silver Carnelian Thistle Seal Fob 1870'sLrg Antique Full Plate Tintype Photograph, Prize Horse, Silk Embroidered Mat, NrVintage Hagen Renaker Mini Head Up Buckskin Horse, Monrovia ~ 3 In. Old Fred Harvey Era Sterling Silver Turquoise Dog Horse Cuff Bracelet Extra NiceWonderful Pure Bronze Horse And Jockey Racehorse StatueAwesome Breyer Horse Delivery Wagon With Clydesdale Team No Reserve! With Box !Interesting Antique Chinese Carved White Jade Horse Figure PendantBreyer King Fighting Stallion Glossy Gray Appaloosa Horse Vintage 1961-1967Fine Old Chinese Cast Bronze Gold Gilt Tibetan Lungta Wind Horse StatueVintage & Scarce Salco 40mm Lead Horse Drawn Gypsy Caravan + GypsiesHagen Renaker 1953 Designers Workshop Clover Horse Figurine Laying DownVintage 60's Dinky 073 Land Rover & Horse Trailer Mint/boxed RarityStone Thoroughbred - Florae Grande - 2002 Equilocity Special Run - Htf!!10 Antique Style Cast Iron Horse Bridle / Harness Hooks Rustic Farm Cowboy DecorAntique French Dragoon Cuirassiers Cavalry Brass Helmet Tulle - Horse Hair PlumeOld 1930s Fred Harvey Era Navajo Sterling Thunderbird, Horse+arrow Cuff BraceletVintage Hagen-renaker Palomino Morgan Mare Horse Figurine ~ Heather BrokenSuperb 19thc Ormolu Bronze Horse French Mantel Clock - Original Antique ClocksLego Vintage Minifigure Lion Crusaders 10x Castle Knight Horse Barding Sword LotVintage 1950-60's Tonka Farm Stake Truck & Horse TrailerVintage Horse Shoe Sterling Silver 14k Gold Original Hook Bracelet Singned SonyaPeter Stone Ish Ideal Stock Horse All Spice 1 Of 10 ModelBreyer Horse Proud Arabian MareTeal Blue Blob Top Pony Soda Bottle Mineral Water With Star On BaseBreyer Traditional Horse #1301 Treasure Hunt Silver Mold Dun19c French Figural Bronze Horse Tamers Horses Of Marly Signed By Crozatier Nores