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    

Breyerfest 2016 Best Customs Contest Winner Fighting Breyer Horses Lsq Cm CustomAntique German Victorian Felt & Wood Black Horse Pull-toy, Circa-1900, NrVintage 14ct Gold 23.5" Rope Chain With 9ct Gold Horse Pendant, 19.91g - V07 W27Fine Large 19th Century Bay Hunter Horse & Spaniel Dog Landscape Oil Painting Fine Heavy Solid 18ct Gold Designer Horse Head Silver Brooch 18k 750 Lot Of 4 Antique Christmas Ornaments Wax Wire Cotton Dresden Horse Carriage BoatLarge Antique Chinese Famille Verte Porcelain Covered Jar Vase W HorsesBreyer Samba Surprise Black And White Pinto Horse Breyerfest 2016 SrAntique Gold Plated Cameo Swivel Brooch - A Winged Goddess On Two Horse ChariotRare R. Lalique Chevaux Frosted Opalescent Glass Vase Ring Of Horses, 1930Vintage Breyer Traditional Alabaster Matte Fighting Stallion W/blue Ribbon KingFine~hand Carved~gaspeite~turquoise~sterling~3 Horse~bracelet~by Francisco Gomez19thc Antique Kenton Cast Iron Horse, Ladders, Fire Wagon, No ReserveBig~hand Carved~turquoise~sterling Silver~horse Bracelet~by Francisco GomezSandicast Resin Arabian W/original Box Breyer/peter Stone/horse1800s Dent Huge Horse Drawn Cast Iron Fire Wagon Museum Quality OriginalFabulous Striking Cantagalli Majolica Candlestick Winged HorseHand Carved~turquoise~shell~jet~sterling~3 Horse~bracelet~by Francisco GomezEarly Ac Spark Plugs Thermometer Sparky Horse Embossed Tin Advertising SignRare Pair Antique Native American Indian Beaded Dolls-leather With Horse Hair 2016 Breyerfest Sr Sheila Brilliant Chestnut -bobby Jo (working Cow Horse) Mold Chinese Antique Recumbent Horse - Hardstone 18th /19th Century Carved Brush Rest19th Century Racehorse Deception Horse & Jockey Epsom Oaks Winner Oil Painting9ct/ 9k Rose Gold Horse Shoe Victorian Ring, 375 Kangxi Porcelain Teacup Painted With Horses. Marked To Base19th C Antique Leather Strap 13 Brass Horse Sleigh Embossed Bells W/buckle Yqz14" German Antique Paper Mache Horse Pull Toy On Wheels W/glass EyesBreyer Repaint Cm Dapple Grey Raging Rearing Andalusian Stallion Stunning!Huge Lot 64 Littlest Pet Shop Horse Cat Dog Lizard 55 Accessories1930s Kentucky Derby Irtp J-spout Cone Top Fehr's Beer Can Louisville Horse RaceVintage Abbotwares Art Deco Metal Horse Novelty Radio ...look Works NiceRare Clarence Lee Native American Belt Buckle Sterling & 14k Gold Cowboy HorseAntique Trick Pony Cast Iron Mechanical Bank, 1885 Pat DateLovely Vintage Set 6 Galloping Horse Knife Rests 1960s Silver Plated French? BoxQuarter Plate Myers Daguerreotype Of Young Couple In Case With Brass Horse ClaspAntique German Nymphenburg Soldier Officer Rider On Horse Porcelain Figurine Treasure Hunt Appaloosa Gorgeous~hand Carved~turquoise~sterling Silver~horse~bracelet~by Francisco Gomez2016 Breyerfest Sr Sheila Chestnut Bobby Jo Mold, Working Cow Horse Dark Blue Historical Staffordshire Pottery Horse Toddy Cup Plate Adams C1820s Superb Royal Copenhagen 1st Quality 'shetland Pony Standing' # 4609Ukiyo-e Hanga Woodblock Print Edo Period Horses (2) After Kunisada - Aoyama Yqz4 Lord Of The Rings Jointed Horse - 2001 Nlp Inc. Marvel Ent. Action FigureBeautiful Uranium Citrine Glass Wild Brumby / Stallion Figural Kerosene Peg LampOld Fred Harvey Era Bell Trading Sterling Silver Horse Saddle Ring Sz 9Salmon Face Renato Limited Stallion Swiss Watch . Collectors .Mini Tonka Horse Stables SetDraft Horse With Full Harness PairExcellent Antique Vienna Regulator Striking Wall Clock Horse Crown Cira 1900Superb Royal Copenhagen 1st Quality 'shetland Pony Lying' # 4611Breyer Nokota Horse Blue RaonAntique Cast Iron Horse Drawn Kenton Ice WagonVintage Tin Tractor,2 Horse Drawn Wagons,& Windup Steam RollerVintage Long Silver Bars Conchos Sterling Silver Horse Show HeadstallBreyer Jah 1993 Steel Dust Sr Proud Arabian Mare 1500 400393 Horse Dark GreyVintage Breyer Horse #183 Matte Palomino Stallion With Original Ribbon!!!Vintage Hornby Dublo Railway Boxed Wagons Bogie Bolster Horse Box X3Japanese Hanging Scroll : Unkoku Toeki "shoki Riding On Horse" @b668Breyer Stablemate Collectible Pony LotOld Beswick Huntsman On White Horse - Model 868 - A/f - Easy Repair