Last updateFri, 23 Mar 2018 12pm

First slaughtered, then milked, finally ridden, domesticated horses appeared 5,500 years ago

In Mexico, nearly 50 years ago, Jocotepec photographer John Frost and I traveled to distant, tiny pueblitos, photographing well-trained horses, and experimenting with borrowed, clearly unfamiliar, tractors.

I filmed horses at work – more important than ever if machinery was going to displace caballos. Besides, the clattering, smoke-belching Farmall and John Deere tractors scared not only local livestock, but also Mexican farm families. Frost was amused by one farmer’s complaint that the machinery emitted a roar of an unendurable future.      

Horses were first domesticated on the plains of North Kazakhstan some 5,500 years ago. That was thousands of years earlier than could be comprehended by most humans who were to drink their milk, then kill and eat them. Finally, humans learned to ride them like kings. 

Taming horses in Kazakhstan changed human history, reshaping everything from transportation and agriculture to modern warfare. But experts long struggled to pinpoint when, where and how the life-changing “horse-conversion” first occurred.

Now, archaeologists say they have the answer, after finding the world’s oldest horse corrals among the Kazakh people of the ancient Botai culture (located between the Caspian Sea and Mongolia).  

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