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Dutchess_III's avatar

How differently do you think American Indian civilizations would have developed if they'd had horses from the beginning?

Asked by Dutchess_III (42437points) October 25th, 2014

Actually, horses evolved in the Americas, but died out about 7,500 years ago.
The Indians, as we know them, didn’t have them until the 1500’s, when Spanish galleons wrecked on American shores. Some horses survived and made their way to shore. From there the Indians quickly domesticated them, and they quickly became a major part of their culture, and I’m sure they made huge strides in their civilizations during the 300 years they had them, before the Europeans came.

What, in your opinion, would have been different if they’d had them for the last 20,000 years? Or last 10,000 years?

Is it possible that the domestication of the horses is what led to world dominance?

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18 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

I’m not sure what you mean by “and I’m sure they made huge strides in their civilizations during the 300 years they had them, before the Europeans came”.

The Europeans came at about the same time Native Americans got horses.

But I don’t view domestication of horses as particularly crucial in the advancement in any particular culture. South American groups had llamas and alpacas, Indian subcontinent groups had elephants, and Middle Eastern groups had camels. There have been plenty of alternatives for transportation and for work.

Kropotkin's avatar

I think they’d have put a man on Mars, and launched a nuclear war against Europe.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Much more significant than the lack of the horse is the curious fact that no civilization in the Americas discovered the utility of the wheel in transport. I suspect that it was organized agriculture that allowed the rise of the Mayan, Inca and Aztec civilizations. Great civilizations only appear once life is about more than finding the next meal. While most North American tribes were involved to some extent in subsistence farming. I’ve read arguments that it was the lack of draft animals which prevented native Americans from settling down as full time farmers. But the counter to that is that there was so much game afoot as well as stuff growing wild that there was little incentive to submit to the drudgery of farming. The draft animal thing has also been proposed as the reason nobody came up with the wheel. But dog teams pulling sleds make me suspicious of that argument. Come to think of it, the plow would probably outrank the horse in importance.

Here2_4's avatar

Some native Americans used plows, on their feet. They wore boot contraptions on their feet, and dug the ground that way. I suspect it was not widely used, as the last I heard, there were only two surviving examples in still recognizable condition. They wore one, and left the other fooy bare to have balance and traction.
I am thinking early form of time out.
I too have pondered the lack of wheels in North America.

Pachy's avatar

Mr. Ed would be President Ed (after a very tight race).

stanleybmanly's avatar

@Pachy Mr. Ed was too smart to want to be President. Ala Karl Rove, he would pull the strings attached to President Wilbur.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@zenvelo Yes, the horses arrived at the same time as the Europeans. I mean, obviously, Spanish galleons wrecking, and releasing horses means the Europeans have arrived. I should have specified “Before the Europeans had such a major impact in North America.”

Also, you said, “South American groups had llamas and alpacas, Indian subcontinent groups had elephants, and Middle Eastern groups had camels. There have been plenty of alternatives for transportation and for work.”
But those continents contained the intelligent kind of animals that could be domesticated and trained. What indigenous animal in North America would have been comparable? The buffalo? Deer?

Here2_4's avatar

I keep trying to imagine if camels had not gone extinct here. Would Sitting Bull have ever thought to climb on one and ride it? Imagining how depictions of the native persons would look if they had camels, that makes me laugh. The Lewis and Clark expedition would have been quite different. I laugh, picturing camels running to the beach with near naked, feathered humans riding, to greet newcomers.
I bet conditions with wagon trains would have been much better traveling with dromedaries!

Dutchess_III's avatar

Camels are nasty and mean.

snowberry's avatar

And they’re great spitters. Don’t forget that.

Here2_4's avatar

Sachegawea would have not put up with the bad behavior. She would have made them behave nicely.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I’m like Ray Barone. A sex camel.

snowberry's avatar

@Dutchess_III According to the Smithsonian, camels were first domesticated about 5,000 years ago.

I also know that with all domesticated animals, some are as mean as they can be while others are very sweet. So I’m assuming that camels follow the same rule. I wish someone could tell us for certain if there’s ever been a sweet natured camel, and what exactly that looks like.

If it were true, My Friend Flicka, Black Beauty, The Black Stallion, and Roy Rogers would all have been about camels instead of horses. Oh what fun!

Here2_4's avatar

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bactrian_camel
Start here. I believe these are more docile, but I don’t remember my source, so I could be wrong. Unfortunately, they are terribly rare.

Dutchess_III's avatar

What animal, native to North America, could the Indians could have domesticated the way the camel, and the ox, and the horse were domesticated in other countries?

Here’s a pretty sweet camel, @snowberry.

Here2_4's avatar

That is the same as my camel!
Aren’t they cool?
I hope they don’t go extinct.

Here2_4's avatar

I might have one of those camels one day after all. Apparently they can be legally bought! There is a Place in Texas where they are sold, but it is a ranch for hired exotic animal hunts. For that reason I will not post a link.

Here2_4's avatar

I found a good ad. Look at the ad from Illinois! There is a picture included. I want to call. It might end up close enough for the camel to walk to his new home. There is no way I could afford him. Not right now. Oh, how I want to!
http://exoticanimalsforsale.net/camels-for-sale.asp

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