Tuesday, December 8, 2015


Horse: How the Horse Has Shaped Human Civilization
© 2006 J. Edward Chamberlin
288 pages

How do I love thee, O horse? Let me count the ways.   J. Edward Chamberlin’s Horse begins with one lonely native American mare separated from her tribe  recounting, from long memory, the many centuries that horses and humans have traveled together. Even after moving to more conventional historical narrative, the book remains highly storied, drawing much from art and poetry and   never far removed from recollections of Blackfoot, Greek, Chinese, or other horse-related mythology.  In terms of history, war and sports predominate, with the scant mention made to an actual workhorse   appearing and vanishing in the last chapter like the twinkling of a star.  The history itself sits under the shadow of mythology;  the author's claim that chariots were used more to taxi infantry to the battle than as weapons themselves is illustrated with nothing more than The Illiad, and he manages to put the cart before the horse (ho, ho) by referring to Islamic expansion as a reaction to the Crusades. Say again?   There’s useful information here – on the evolution of  different breeds, saddles,  riding styles – but  it’s altogether very general.  It’s a loving tribute to creatures that inspire awe and have been at the center of human history for thousands of years, but shouldn’ t be approached for too much substantial history.


  1. Why does it seem that man's best friend, next to his dog, is his horse?

  2. I think horses win as far as civilized man goes -- they're our transportation, farmhands, millers, etc. Dogs may have been more useful prior to farming -- I'm looking forward to reading "The Invaders" next year to dig into that question!

  3. You might want to try: How the Dog became the Dog - From Wolves to our Best Friends by Mark Derr. It looks like exactly what you're after. Haven't read it (yet) so can't vouch for it though.

  4. Thanks for the recommendation! The reviews seem mixed, but if I can find a local copy I may go for it.


Thank you for visiting! Because of some very clever spambots, I've had to start moderating comments more strictly, but they're approved throughout the day.