It’s hard to imagine Native American tribes from United History existing without using horses. At least, that has been how their culture has been depicted – in movies, books, and art. We are accustomed to seeing portraits of famous Indian chiefs sitting proudly atop their favorite horse.
This raises some interesting questions as to how the relationship between equines and American Indians actually began. Surprisingly, horses came into their lives later than you might expect.
Indian tribes that were located in plains were believed to be the first who acquired horses, and that was in the early 18th century. Needless to say, the addition of horses completed transformed the lives of those tribes the lived in the region between the Mississippi River and the Rockies.
Because of horses, they immediately discovered a more productive means of hunting buffalo, which was their primary source of food in this massive region. From that point forward, Native Americans embraced the sport of horseback riding.
They believe that hunters could move faster than buffalo whenever they had a good horse underneath them. This was indeed a fact, and it gave them a tremendous advantage.
As Indian tribes extensively relied on buffalo herds for survival, these herds moved great distances based on seasons forced tribes to move along with them. Horses allowed this transition to be made much quicker and far easier.
It would be challenging to find other historical situations where such an enhancement dramatically and quickly transformed society and culture.
Many historians have viewed this transformation as being analogous to a technological revolution of sorts. Indian horse riders propelled tribal society and customs for more than a century. To put that in perspective, this period of equine dominance among American Indian tribes lasted about as long as the motor vehicles have so far in America.
It was very ironic how equine usage originated in North America yet almost became extinct there. And yet, they thrived on the Asian continent after traveling across the Bering Straits.
One can only imagine how things may have turned out differently if the horse population had remained robust in North America. Think about the massive advantage North American civilizations had because they established a horse culture before anyone else.
Before the early 1700s, tribes living in the plains relied on dogs or humans to carry goods and supplies as they followed the buffalo herds. Even though they relied on the herds for survival, the fact is that the buffalo were tough to hunt because they were so much faster than any man.
Furthermore, the vast open plains offered virtually no cover for hunters to hide or stalk them. Many methods were attempted, like hunters disguising themselves to infiltrate herds or running the herds over a precipice, but these methods rarely worked.
Some viewed the Native Americans using horses as a mixed blessing. This was because horses made it easier for one tribe to raid and kill other tribes. Not only that, horse theft and the accusations of horse theft created an infinite number of animosities among Indians.
Then hunting rights had to be established because all tribes could cover so much ground with horses. And these assigned hunting areas were constantly poached by other tribes.
There’s little doubt that horses perhaps changed the lives of Native Americans more than anything in their long history. And their mere 100 years of using equines is only a tiny fraction of their 10,000-year history.
To begin with, buffalo herds were decimated and almost became extinct. Next came the onslaught from the American military, followed by white settlers. Before long, their once picturesque existence was reduced to a restricted life on a reservation.
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