Hagerman’s Horse

Extinct creatures are always interesting to read about. Dinosaurs take up most of the press and rightly so. People are captivated by the towering lizards with their mysterious disappearance and, more specifically, the possibility raised by the Jurrasic series of films that they might be brought back to life. However, while dinosaurs were certainly exotic and exciting, there are other extinct creatures that are equally interesting. Today’s article will feature one such extinct creature. Hagerman’s Horse is an extinct member of the horse kind that was found in North America. We will be discussing this extinct variant and considering whether it should be its own species at all.

Hagerman’s Horse was first discovered by Edward Cope in 1892 and given the name Equus simplicidens. However, the common name did not come about until the 1930s when it was rediscovered in Hagerman Idaho.  Numerous complete specimens were found along with hundreds of partials. Some of these fossils were incredibly well preserved, even preserving the fragile hyoid bone that serves as attachment for muscles in the throat. Believed to live about 3.5 million years ago, Hagerman’s Horse weighed in around 850 pounds maximum and closely resembled a modern Arabian horse.  It is believed to be the oldest known horse.

Scientists have debated for years over the proper place of Hagerman’s Horse in the equine family.  Some have proposed that it is a species of zebra, while others have insisted it has more in common with horses.  It does share some features with zebras such as mouth structure and teeth.  Since dental characteristics are used to build equid phylogenies, this is very important. However, Hagerman’s Horse is not totally zebra. It shares some structural similarities of its skull with donkeys so the struggle to understand where exactly it belongs is somewhat understandable.  In order to understand exactly what Hagerman’s Horse is, we need to examine living zebras.

Modern zebras are very similar to one another. They are distinguished largely on minor morphological characteristics, at least externally.  There are three species and they are told apart by the patterns of their stripes. The mountain zebra (Equus zebra) is believed to be the oldest zebra species. It can be identified by a small fold of skin called a dewlap that is absent from the other two species. Grevy’s zebra (Equus grevys) is the largest known zebra and the one most similar to Hagerman’s Horse. Burchell’s zebra (Equus burchells) is very similar to Grevy’s zebra, with one of the few differences being the aforementioned striping. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequencing done on these species has led evolutionists to conclude that the mountain zebra branched off first. However, there are problems with this view.

The biggest issue for the evolutionary interpretation of zebra origins comes from what they usual posit as their greatest friend: fossils. Fossils of Grevy’s and Burchell’s zebras are found back into what the evolutionists posit is two-million-year-old strata.   If the mountain zebra was the first species of zebra, it should be found further back than that. It isn’t. In fact, fossils of the mountain zebra barely go back half a million years.  This should not be the case if it speciated out first.

With this in mind, note that evolutionists do not consider Hagerman’s Horse to be directly ancestral to zebras, in spite of the obvious similarities. Instead, because it purportedly lived earlier than any zebra species, it is declared ancestral to modern horses, from which zebras eventually split, nevermind the incredible similarity between Hagerman’s Horse and modern zebras. The evidence does not fit the theory, so the evidence is rejected out of hand. That is not science, that is a religion.

I believe Hagerman’s Horse is actually an extinct species of zebra based on its remarkable similarity to modern zebras and its donkey-like skull structure. Perhaps it is even a subspecies of Grevy’s Zebra.  If this is the case, then evolutionists have several remarkable problems, which is why I suspect they are overlooking the evidence for Hagerman’s Horse being Hagerman’s Zebra. The first problem they have is how did it get to North America? Assuming Pangea did exist, which I’m on the fence about, does not help considering it is believed to have broken apart 170 million years before horses evolved.  This means that zebras should not be in North America only three and a half million years ago.  Yet they are and in huge numbers.

A second problem facing evolutionists if they remove Hagerman’s Horse from the horses and place it among the zebras is that they no longer have a first member of the Equus genus. Hagerman’s Horse is postulated to be the original equine, from which all other equines descended.  While this could also be true, if it was, all it would demonstrate is horses remain horses. However, its remarkable similarity to zebras, Grevy’s zebra in particular, makes this seem somewhat unlikely.

As a creationist, I would have no problem shuffling Hagerman’s Horse over to the zebroid half of the equines. However, not having been able to examine the fossils carefully of any zebroids leaves me in an awkward position. Based on the data I can find, it appears Hagerman’s Horse has been misclassified, but I cannot confirm this by direct observation.  Thus for the moment, I will tentatively suggest that it should be called Hagerman’s Zebra. However, leaving it where it currently sits certainly causes creationists no issues. All horses do descend from a common ancestor: a horse.  If that ancestor is Hagerman’s Horse, so be it. It is still a horse turning into a horse.

It does matter to the evolutionist where Hagerman’s Horse is placed, hence my suspicions about its classification. If it is, as I suspect, a zebroid, rather than a true horse, then they have to explain its existence in North America, and they are stripped of their original equid and must find another.  These problems mean Hagerman’s Horse is unlikely to assume the mantle of Hagerman’s Zebra any time soon, but not because it is not a zebra. Rather because calling it a zebra would be inconvenient for the worldview of those holding the power in the scientific realm.

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