Evolution of the Horse

Curt Sewell is the author of God at Ground Zero

Evolution(?) of the Horse

Author: Curt Sewell
Subject: Creation Overviews
Date: 11/8/1999

A famous fossil-hunter and Professor of Vertebrate Paleontology, Othniel C. Marsh, during the 1870’s, found bones and teeth in Wyoming and Nebraska which he put together into what he said were thirty different kinds of fossil horses. He assembled these into a series showing what he called the development of the modern horse; this was displayed at Yale University, and has been copied by numerous other museums. The series includes:

  • Eohippus (or “dawn horse”) — Eocene epoch, 60 MY (million years old),
  • Orohippus,
  • Epihippus,
  • Miohippus — Oligocene epoch, 40 MY,
  • Parahippus,
  • Merychippus — Miocene, 26 MY,
  • Pliohippus — Pliocene, 7 MY,
  • Plesippus
  • Equus (modern horse).

The earliest of this series, Eohippus, is properly called Hyracotherium. This is not horse-like; it has 4 toes and 18 pairs of ribs, and its feet are padded and dog-like. The next-oldest, Orohippus, had 15 pairs of ribs. Pliohippus had 19 pairs, and the modern Equus has 18 pairs. Does this sound like a genuine series of transitions? Especially not, when we consider that fossils of Eohippus and the modern Equus have been found side by side in surface rocks.

Francis Hitching is a well-known evolutionist, but he criticizes this “horse series.” He wrote:. Francis Hitching, “The Neck of the Giraffe — Where Darwin Went Wrong,” (New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1982), pp. 28-30.

“A complete series of horse fossils is not found in any one place in the world arranged in rock strata in the proper evolutionary order from bottom to top. The sequence depends on arranging Old World and New World fossils side by side, and there is considerable dispute as to what order they should go in.”

A. Kerkut is also an evolutionist who recognizes that the theory has some faults. His main problem with the horse series is that the original fossils are not available — everything on display is a reproduction, and there’s no way of knowing which bones were really found and which were added from imagination. He wrote:. G.A. Kerkut, “The Implications of Evolution,” (New York: Pergamon Press, 1960), pp. 141-149.

“At present, however, it is a matter of faith that the textbook pictures are true or even that they are the best representations of the truth that are available to us at the present time. … It makes quite a difference whether a name on a diagram represents a whole skeleton or just a tooth, … “

Kerkut refers to the common practice of ‘reconstructions’ in textbooks and museum displays, where a full image of a presumed ancient creature is based on just a few actual fossil bones.

Ian Taylor sums up his discussion of horse evolution in this way:. Ian T. Taylor, “In The Minds of Men: Darwin and the New World Order,” (Toronto: TFE Publishing, 1987), pp. 152-153.

“When all is said and done, however, a row of look-alike fossils cannot be proof that one species changed into another; we cannot be sure that the little rock badger of long ago changed into Orohippus, since it is just as likely that they have always been separate species, one still living, one extinct. … To put the argument another way, if horses and donkeys were only known by their fossils, they might well be classified as variants within a single species, but the experience of breeders shows that, in fact, they are separate species. Acknowledging all the enormous amount of work that men such as Henry F. Osborn and G.G. Simpson have put into the horse series, the sad fact remains that what has actually been done is to select the fossil data to fit the theory, and this cannot be considered scientific proof.” (emphasis added)

Taylor goes on to quote David Raup, dean of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago; this museum has one of the largest collections of fossils in the world. Raup wrote:

“Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin, and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species, but the situation hasn’t changed much. The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky, and ironically, we have fewer examples of evolutionary transitions than we had in Darwin’s time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of Darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information …” David M. Raup, “Conflicts Between Darwin and Paleontology,” Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, January 1979, pg. 25. ” (Emphasis added)

Paleontologist Niles Eldredge, curator at the American Museum of Natural History and co-author (with Stephen J. Gould) of the Theory of Punctuated Equilibrium, had this reaction when asked about the horse series:. in Harper’s Magazine, February, 1985, page 60.

“There have been an awful lot of stories, some more imaginative than others, about what the nature of that history [of life] really is. The most famous example, still on exhibit downstairs, is the exhibit on horse evolution prepared perhaps fifty years ago. That has been presented as the literal truth in textbook after textbook. Now I think that that is lamentable, particularly when the people who propose those kinds of stories may themselves be aware of the speculative nature of some of that stuff.”(emphasis added)

And Yet – – –

Now, in spite of the above, we agree that there have been changes in horses since ancient times. These are rather like the differences we see today in domestic dogs — they go all the way from the tiny Chihuahuas up to Great Danes and beyond. These have been carefully bred for special characteristics, by breeders who understood the workings of genetics. Breeders used ‘human selection,’ not natural selection. Those various dogs are interfertile, showing that they came from the original created kind. God, the Master Creator, provided an amazing degree of variability in those first ‘dog kinds.’

The same thing is true of horses — we have fossils of several different species of horse. Today we have horses of various sizes — from the mighty Clydesdale down to miniature horses that people bring into their living rooms. Some of them have even had three toes. Some of these ‘odd size’ horses have probably been in existence for many centuries, and are very similar to some of the ‘ancient’ fossil types. Breeders have used intelligent, not natural, selection.

But none of this shows the workings of macro-evolution. In fact, the earliest ‘dawn horse,’ Eohippus, more properly Hyracotherium, was almost certainly not a horse at all. It was an animal resembling the rock badger. And some of these fossils were found in the same strata as some of the others — they were contemporaneous species. They must have developed in the same way as the dogs mentioned above. Speciation is an effect provided for by God, the original Creator — not by naturalistic macro-evolution. And the principle of natural selection is a real effect — Darwin spoke of this, but it’s not a part of evolution.

Despite its many appearances in elementary textbooks, the infamous ‘horse series’ shows the active imagination of paleontologists more clearly than it shows any sort of evolutionary development of the modern horse.


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