Museum of Natural History Exhibits the Horse May 17-Jan 5, 2009

The Horse will examine the powerful and continuing relationship between the horse and humans. The exhibition will explore the origins of the horse family, extending back over more than 50 million years; examine early interactions between horses and humans that led to horse domestication; and see how horses have, over time, changed warfare, trade, transportation, agriculture, sports, and many other facets of human life. The Horse showcases spectacular fossils and cultural objects from around the world—including many from the Museum’s extraordinary collections. This exhibition will include videos, computer interactives, hands-on activities, and touchable casts.

Horse saddle

Horse saddle
Sakha Republic of Russia (part of Siberia)
© AMNH / Denis Finnin

“The American Museum of Natural History has long focused its research and outreach efforts on the interactions between humans and the natural world, between science and society,” said Museum President Ellen V. Futter. “In keeping with that tradition, The Horse will celebrate this magnificent animal while presenting one of the most fascinating stories in the history of life on Earth—the close and complex relationship between horses and humans. The exhibition will show how the two species have influenced each other through the ages and explore the integral role the horse has played in the history of humanity and civilization.”

Celestial horses

Celestial horse; bronze figurine
China, Han dynasty (206 B.C.E.-220 C.E.)
© AMNH / Denis Finnin

The Horse will showcase spectacular fossils and cultural objects from around the world-including many from the Museum’s extraordinary collections. Highlights include a diorama of horse evolution, the horse in art from the Paleolithic to the present, horse gear and armor from 15th-century Germany, and a horse-drawn fire engine from the 19th century. The exhibition also examines exciting new archaeological discoveries concerning the domestication of the horse and the role of horses in sport from early forms of fox hunting to modern polo, the Triple Crown, and the Olympics.

The Byerley Turk

The Byerley Turk; hand-colored lithograph

Numerous interactive stations throughout the exhibition will invite visitors to measure their strength in horsepower; examine different gaits of a horse by looking through a zoetrope—a device that turns still images into moving ones—based on photos by famous 19th century photographer Eadweard Muybridge; and to learn about the latest developments in the study of horse biology and the role of the horse in modern society. Throughout the exhibition, visitors are introduced to unusual objects and asked to identify them, including such items as a Roman horse shoe, a stirrup, a bit ornament, and a whip used in buzkashi—a sport on horseback played in Central Asia.