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    

1:6th Custom Western Clint Eastwood Cowboy Figure With Horse And SaddleL@@k Early Vintage Beswick Gloss Light Chestnut Arab Xayal Horse #1265 Stunning!Vintage Hagen-renaker Arabian Stallion Abu Farwa Porcelain Horse FigurineZeugitana / Carthage, Tanit, Horse, Ae 26, Bronze, 208-202 B.c.L@@k Stunning Rare Now Vintage Beswick Rocking Horse Horse Gambolling Foal #996Beswick Pottery ' Canadian Mountie ' On Horse Back - A/f *4L@@k Stunning Rare Vintage Beswick Rocking Horse Horse Foal Facing Left #997Vintage Hagen-renaker Monrovia California Porcelain Horse Foal Needs TlcLadies Carrera Y Carrera Sculptured Titanium & Solid 18k Gold Horse Watch19th C Tin Cookie Cutter -- Running Horse *Beswick Horse Racehorse And Jockey Early Model EcOriginal Oil Painting Of Brown Horse / Hunter By Famous Artist Marguerite KirmseVintage Beautiful Diamond Pattern Victor Sterling Silver Buckle Horse HeadstallBeswick Horse Welsh Cob StallionVintage Britains Lead Horse Drawn Field ArtilleryCustom Cm Breyer Peter Stone Horse Chips Stock Horse By L. Elkjer+++beautiful+++Vintage 1950's Western Childs Room Rodeo Cowboy Horse Figural Statue LampLow Reserve Antique German Hac Vienna Regulator Striking Wall Clock Horse CrownRare Htf Vintage 1961 Breyer #30 Glossy Shaded Alabaster King Fighting Stallion!Antique Hallmarked Sterling Silver Horse Shoe Desk Top Letter ClipBreyer White Gray Arabian Stallion New Mold Sahran ~nice~ Vintage Chinese Hand Carved Jade/hardstone Model Of A Horse On Wood Base C.1930Original Classic Bohlin Sterling Fred Harman Bucking Horse Trophy Buckle -- RareBreyer Of Susecion & Le Fire, Arabian Mare And Foal - Original Fine! Antique Russian Baltic Eastern European Bronze Relief Plaque Man On HorseWw2 Governor Generals Horse Guards Tunic & Beret. Armoured Corp. With DogtagsVtg Sterling Silver Retired Rare James Avery Carriage Horse Buggy Coach 3d CharmBeswick Pottery Grey ' Welsh Mountain Pony ' *37Good Victorian Queens South Africa Medal (qsa) Imp: Lt. HorseVintage Wooden Horse Toy - Kay Bojesen, DenmarkMarx 1930's Cowboy Rider On Horse With Lasso Tin Wind-up Toy, Lone Ranger, WorksScottish Shetland Silver Brooch Sleipner & Odins Horse Edinburgh 1993 O3Vintage Sterling Silver Conchos Ferruled Browband Horse Show HeadstallBeswick Horse Stocky Jogging Rare Collectors Ed BlackEstate Antique Pull Toy HorseNative American Medicine Hat War Paint Pony Huge Lot Of She-ra Figures Horses Crystal Castle Swan Falls Playset He-man DollsVintage Britians 1962 British Royal Horse Artillery At The Gallop1930s Britain Cast Metal 22" Queens Horse Drawn Her Majestys Coronation Coach Custom Cm Breyer Stablemate Horse G1 Morgan To Andalusian X L. Elkjer++++wow+++Breyer Fleabit Gray Asb Saddlebred Tsc John Waynes Horse Duke ~excellent~Breyer Horse Trad. Size "silver" Valentino Mold, Nice And White, Hard To FindVintage Porcelain Ceramic Horse Figurine Statue Sculpture 1950's White GrayVintage Breyer Animal Creations Indian Pony Model No 174 Appaloosa 11" LgVery Unusual Vintage Royal Doulton Blue Arabian Potter Art Series Ware VaseAntique 1950's Roy Rogers Trigger Horse And Figure Original Toys Western Lot Vintage/antique Kenton Cast Iron Toy Overland Circus Bandwagon/band W/horsesBeswick Horse Pinto Pony First VersiomnVintage Equestrian Jewellery 3d Galloping Horses Brooch Stock Pin Moving TailLot Of 38 Schleich Animal Figurines *horses Cows Dogs*Lego Friends Emma's Horse Trailer #3186 New In Sealed Factory Package RetiredC.150 A.d British Found Roman Period Ae Bronze Zoomorphic Type Horse Brooch.vfAntique Tin Litho Toy Horse & Cart Age??? Maker??? Penny Toy???Breyer Sahran Sr Flagship Retailer Ashquar Mold Model Horse. Not LsqRare 15cm Toy Story Bullseye The Horse Toy FigureVintage Nils Olsson Handcarved/handpainted Swedish Folk Art Dala Horse W LabelNative Bracelet-big Turquoise Charms,thunderbirds,horse,chief Maiden Bench BeadsMarvellous 19thc Ormolu French Horse Rider Mantel Clock Original Antique ClocksSonnett Orig. Ceramic Sculpture Corgi Cowboy And His Stick Horse, One-of-kind!Superb Early 2nd Version Vintage Beswick White Matt Shire Horse Foal Left #1053