Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/257

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
247
THE INTRODUCTION OF DOMESTIC ANIMALS.

when they moved into the several parts of Europe, or were they first received by them at a later time.

There is no doubt that the original home of the horse is not Europe, but Central Asia; for since the horse in its natural state depends upon grass for its nourishment and fleetness for its weapon, it could not in the beginning have thriven and multiplied in the thick forest-grown territory of Europe. Much rather should its place of propagation be sought in those steppes where it still roams about in a wild state. Here, too, arose the first nations of riders of which we have historic knowledge, the Mongolians and the Turks, whose existence even at this day is as it were combined with that of the horse. From these regions the horse spread in all directions, especially into the steppes of Southern and Southeastern Russia and into Thrace, until it finally found entrance into the other parts of Europe, but not until after the immigration of the people. This assumption is, at least, strongly favored by the fact that the farther a district of Europe is from those Asiatic steppes, i. e., from the original home of the horse, the later does the tamed horse seem to have made its historic appearance in it. The supposition is further confirmed by the fact that horse-raising among almost every tribe appears as an art derived from neighboring tribes in the East or Northeast. Even in Homer the ox appears exclusively as the draught-animal in land operations at home and in the field, while the horse was used for purposes of war only. Its employment in military operations was determined by swiftness alone. That the value of the horse must originally have depended on its fleetness, can easily be inferred from the name which is repeated in all the branches of the Indo-European language, and signifies nearly "hastening," "quick." The same fact is exemplified by the descriptions of the oldest poets, who, next to its courage, speak most of its swiftness. How beautiful, for example, is the description in Homer!

". . . As when some courser, fed
With barley in the stall, and wont to bathe
In some smooth-flowing river, having snapped
His halter, gayly scampers o'er the plain,
And in the pride of beauty bears aloft
His head and gives his tossing mane to stream
Upon his shoulders, while his flying feet
Bear him to where the mares are wont to graze."

Iliad (Bryant's translation, vi, 644-651).

And what lofty words does the author of the book of Job use in speaking of this animal!—

"He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted;
Neither turneth he back from the sword.
The quiver rattleth against him,
The glittering spear and the shield.