Assuming that all Equidae went extinct at around the same time as the American Equidae on OTL (Original TimeLine) Earth, 8000 BCE, and in the same way, via Ice Age... What would have changed for early human civilization?

Info on horse extinction in Americas (OTL):


This question should be different from my other question, due the whole Equidae disappearing, instead of just horses.:

The entire Equidae family? That includes horses, donkeys, and zebras. – Frostfyre

  • $\begingroup$ While I appreciate that you approve of my answer, it is generally a bad idea to accept an answer as the correct/best one when your question is less than an hour old. Doing so may discourage other answers. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Apr 20 '15 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre ... True... it's still too early to decide... there might be more views later... $\endgroup$ – Malady Apr 20 '15 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ Should note that it wouldn't be that simple to get an ice age to eliminate the horse without eliminating all other large mammals in the same event. Mastadons, mammoths, horses, deer, some moose species, Dire wolf, lion, sabertooth cats, giant beavers, whatever this is en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pampatheriidae, and a whole array of animals went at the same time. Extending the extinction event to get all horses would likely have seen many other larger mammal species suffer the same fate. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Apr 20 '15 at 20:20
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    $\begingroup$ More research on it...it appears an ice age event that killed horses but spared us would have seen the horses survival. By 8000BCE, the horse was at least partially domesticated and would have survived any ice age along side us. You'd have to go back to an earlier extinction event (theres several in the past million or two years) and eliminate them before we started to take care of their well being. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Apr 21 '15 at 1:09

Without any equines anywhere in the world for the majority of modern human development (the horse wasn't domesticated until about 4000 BC), there's actually not a whole lot that will change.

Dogs were domesticated about 20,000 years ago and were used during warfare even during WWII by the US Marine Corps. Dog sleds were and are a common means of transportation in remote, snowy regions. Some dogs were trained to pull carts. Working dogs have been a major part of human civilization, as this Wikipedia page attests.

As an answer to your other question mentions, you might see bulls replace horses as mounts in warfare. Dogs will take on or keep more roles that were filled by horses, such as plowing fields. Equines are particularly adept at moving heavy loads across great distances, so there would be more dog-drawn carts and oxen teams. People would probably walk more and you're going to lose a lot of entertainment and prominence: horseracing was the sport of kings. To be fair, though, horse races may be replaced by dog races.

Without horses, however, your car won't have 300 horsepower.

  • $\begingroup$ So for heavy pulling the bovine (like oxen) would replace the equine. $\endgroup$ – ratchet freak Apr 20 '15 at 14:23
  • $\begingroup$ @ratchetfreak Oxen are (generally) castrated bulls in service about as long as horses have been. Good point. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Apr 20 '15 at 14:28

Civilizations without mounted cavalry are less likely to develop trousers. (See "Q: Why Do We Wear Pants? A: Horses" by Alexis Madrigal and "Cultural Evolution of Pants" by Peter Turchin.) So you'd have more cultures where men wear the kilt or a long tunic, even if only because it improves their sperm quality. (See "‘Real men wear kilts’.. The anecdotal evidence that wearing a Scottish kilt has influence on reproductive potential: how much is true?" by Erwin JO Kompanje if you get Scottish Medical Journal.)

The rest depends on whether they invent the wheel. Assuming oxen or dogs or both exist, you still have draft animals, and civilization can develop in spite of a nail.

"Cow goes moo." If you have oxen pulling carts, you have roads. If you have carts and roads, you are likely to eventually end up with someone riding essentially the left or right half of a cart. This becomes the running machine (which came to be called a "dandy horse", "velocipede", or "balance bicycle"), and adding a crank on a chain drive transforms this into a bicycle. With bicycles, the rate of sustained land travel rises to 25 km/h or 15 mph.

"Dog goes woof." If you have dogs pulling sulkies (two-wheeled carts), you have roads. Adapting these to dogless operation (under human, fossil fuel, ethanol, vegetable oil, or electric power) produces the diwheel. You could even end up with a "dogless sulky" used as a tractor to pull carts. Compare the "horseless sulky" photo in "18 Hilarious Modes of Transport Science Gave Up On Too Soon" by Chris Bucholz. There are dog substitutes as well: for example, deer pull sleds in Lapland in much the same way that dogs pull sleds in the North American Arctic.

"And the seal goes ow ow ow." People in your timeline never had the chance to domesticate Equidae. People in our timeline never had the chance to domesticate other families. Perhaps in your timeline, proboscids such as the mastodon and woolly mammoth were domesticated like Earth elephants instead of being hunted to extinction. Seals are related to dogs and cats, two carnivorans that humans have domesticated. People in polar areas could domesticate seals, which could be very slow (they creep on their bellies) but suitable for pulling heavy loads.


In the stone age we would have had less food.

From the bronze-age onwards things are fairly different - the great horse cultures of southwest asia never arise from the Scythians onwards. The Hun and Mongol hordes have to sweep over the west on foot ( or possibly on camels ). The wild vitality of these people does not drive innovation across Europe time and again. The Persian messenger services can't move as fast and so, logistically speaking, empires are likely to be smaller as communications are slower. The world becomes a bigger place.

Mythology has neither unicorn nor centaur.

There is a chance that with only camels or elephants as riding animals, north-western Europe does not achieve the kind of prominence it did in the age of knights - the medieval cavalry never takes the field and strategies that are designed to combat it ( schiltrons etc ) also do not arise. Harold holds England against the Norman invasion. Heavy plate armour is less practical so lighter chainmail is standard. Possibly camel-mounted peoples from the south would be able to sweep in with rapid attacks and seize large areas of Europe and Asia with very little strategy available to combat them at first. This would certainly change the shape and history of the west significantly.

Without the superiority of the knights the crusades might have been harder to achieve and the consequent movement of the plague across Europe may have been slowed, meaning that there would be fewer smaller outbreaks rather than the huge ones that wiped out vast swathes of the population in the middle ages.

The horse and carriage never arises which prevents another form of rapid travel that carried people over longer distances. The difficulty of landward journeys being so much higher would probably favour seafaring as the next most effective way of travelling. People would travel by sea to get between cities in the same country because it was simply faster. This might lead to canals being built and favoured rather than roads and a more water-oriented civilisation.

In farming, oxen would replace horses and donkeys for heavy field work - they are slower and generally less precise, but it's possible that with selective breeding this could change.

Given the influence of equines on the last few thousand years here in the western world, I think a history without them would be more different than most people who haven't studied the field realise.

  • $\begingroup$ Are you contending that the absence of horses ultimately denies the automobile? Not all carriages were powered by horses. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Apr 20 '15 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not - bear in mind this is equines rather than horses, an ox carriage is slow, a llama carriage would lack pulling power - but I'm suggesting that without horses roads are a much slower and less effective means of transport and that water based transportation may be more favourable until something like steam comes along. But if prior transport has favoured water rather than land then making a jump to surfaced roads is considerable shift in paradigm and there are likely to be fewer inland places to go. $\endgroup$ – glenatron Apr 20 '15 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ I suppose it would all depend on where a given society develops as to how soon or desirable road travel becomes, which (almost) inevitably leads to the automobile. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Apr 20 '15 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ Absolutely - and roads may well still be popular, the Inca empire might be a good example of a location where roads were widely used in the absence of equines. $\endgroup$ – glenatron Apr 20 '15 at 16:29
  • $\begingroup$ They didn't get cars, mind ;) $\endgroup$ – glenatron Apr 20 '15 at 16:30

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