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The Horse: The Epic History of Our Noble Companion

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  384 ratings  ·  74 reviews
The book horse-lovers have been waiting for

Horses have a story to tell, one of resilience, sociability, and intelligence, and of partnership with human beings. In The Horse, the journalist and equestrienne Wendy Williams brings that story brilliantly to life.

Williams chronicles the 56-million-year journey of horses as she visits with horse experts around the world, reveali
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 27th 2015 by Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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Bora Zivkovic
Dec 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
tl;dr: highly recommended for anyone who has ever seens a horse and liked it!

As both a biologist and a professional equestrian I think I know quite a lot about horses. I have been learning about them from books, scientific articles, from a decade in vet school back in the day, from instructors and trainers and friends, and from horses themselves. Knowing the publisher and editor (COI note: I have published with them in the past), I expected the book to be very good. I did not expect that it woul
Mark Saha
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
One of my favorite Christmas gifts this year …

Those who live and work with horses are justified in believing they know a lot about these animals. They certainly do – at least the ones they work with.

But journalist Wendy Williams, in this affectionate and wonderfully readable little essay, describes her discovery that “ horses are much more complicated than that.” Much of the book explores how the behavior of horses adapts to different environments; e.g., she even challenges the belief that sta
Audacia Ray
I learned a lot from this book, but I wish there was a lot more of narrative of her visiting places with bands of wild horses and describing them. She traveled a lot for the Reseach for the book but it seems like that got glossed over a lot. The book is really heavy on evolution of horses... Ok I am just going to say a dumb thing here: I know evolution took a realllllly long time but I wanted it to take up less time in the book.
Carol Jakubowski Delisi
Nov 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Awesome history of horses and the connection we have with them, written by someone who loves to ask questions and then research the answers. And isn't afraid to say "we don't know" - yet. ...more
Jan 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Although Williams is obviously in love with horses, she doesn't allow this affection to compromise her scholarly approach to surveying the scientific record to see where the horse has come from, and what we know about them currently and where they might be headed in the future. She smartly starts out with her own horse companions and why she found her interactions with them so fascinating. She rightly points that while much money and research time has been devoted to understanding how our other ...more
Jeff Kelleher
Dec 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
When Cortes invaded Mexico in 1519, his conquest was aided by the 16 horses he brought from Spain. The horse was unknown to the native Indians. So horses must have originated in Eurasia, right? Wrong. The first evidence of horses is from 56 million years ago, in what is now Wyoming. They flourished for 40 million years on the North American continent before a single one appeared in Asia or Europe. What happened?

They became extinct in North America about 8,000-11,000 years ago. This coincided wit
Katie Andraski
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Reading The Horse: The Epic History of Our Noble Companion filled me with awe and wonder at the mystery, not only of horses, but also the mystery of our great and grand world. As a very young girl I was aware of the evolutionary story of the horse, but I had no idea the depth of the mystery or how the dynamic forces of evolution worked. This book is a solid introduction that welcomes me into the conversation, even though I have been a skeptic of evolutionary theory.

The Horse opens with a descri
Bonnye Reed
Jun 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: keepers
I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads Giveaway on June 24th, 2015 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Thank you so much for sharing this fine book with me. I look forward to reading it soon!

This is a really good book. The Horse: The Epic History of Our Noble Companion contains loads of information, but none of it 'preached' at you. It presents more like a rambling gossip session. Wendy Williams follows the evolution of the horse, and right along side of that, the evolution of man from the Da
Mama Lee
Jul 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a wonderful narrative natural history of the horse. I learned a ton about the evolution of horses and how their population spread and became isolated at times. I know I added two dig sites to my list of places to visit- Ashfall in Nebraska (which I can't believe is only a state park) and Messel in Germany. The author does a wonderful job of balancing the scientific details with stories and anecdotes that keep the book from getting bogged down. Overall, I'd say a great read for those int ...more
Dec 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ibooks, ebook
Everything you want to know about horses, from the time they appeared 56 million years ago through today. How do they behave? How do they think? Williams is a horse lover so her love for horses comes through the writing. My only complaint: Williams covers so much ground that I'm left wanting to know more about the interaction between humans and horses today. Even with that, this a book that provides a lot of interesting and well researched info about horses. ...more
Kay Van Slyke
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book!! Any one who loves horses should read it. The author has a way with mixing the history of the horse along with some of her own experiences. I was amazed to learn all the various changes that occurred in the environment to create our current day horses. Also of interest was the story behind the "rewilding" of the Takhi horses of Mongolia. A must read for all equine enthusiasts! ...more
Terry Ransom
Nov 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This excellent book by Wendy Williams presents a broad sweep of earth history and science sufficient to kindle a fire of wonder and curiosity. Her style is engaging and fun, while still presenting complex, well-researched information in a way the draws the reader into her discoveries and allows each of us to journey together as old friends. Highly recommended!!!
Andrea Day
Feb 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. Loved the chapter on the rewilding of the Takhi horse--I seriously want to go to Mongolia now. I'm a horse crazy person, and despite having worked with and ridden horses for years, and having read and studied them since I could hold a book--I learned many new things from this book. The info is really well researched, so well written, and super fascinating. Loved it! ...more
Nov 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
What a terrific book! It's the natural history of the horse, from Eohippus, the "dawn horse," up to modern Equus and cousins, told in a warm, loving way. Highly recommended for anyone interested in geology, natural history, and horses! Great photos and graphs. Love it! ...more
Marilyn Smith
Nov 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
We've all read horse books about brilliant horses. Th1s book is a history of the evolution and long, long history of horses; revealing these animals in strikingly different ways than humans have usually portrayed them.
At once informative and incredibly readable - I love it.
Mary Mcqueen
Jan 11, 2016 added it
Shelves: science
I want to wax poetic on this book..the most thorough but readable exploration of the evolution of the horse with examples from paleontology sites and a great discussion of why why why the horse became the horse of today. It's a gem. ...more
An interesting and beautifully written book about horses from the dawn horse to current re-wilding projects. Not terribly scientific, but a nice gift for children or adults who love horses.
Darby Karchut
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the best non-fiction books I've read in ages. ...more
Jan 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
So interesting. Especially if you are interested in paleontology. The story of the evolution of the horse.

Jan 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Short history of horses and people. Personal experiences are vividly portrayed. Some color photos and a few charts.
Abbie Widger
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting
Mar 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
A relative loaned me this book and I'm glad I read it. I thought it was about current wild herds of horses worldwide and what they are like. It is actually about the evolution of the horse over millions and millions of years from the "dawn horse" which we would not recognize as a horse if we were to see it today. It turns out horses are very adaptable as a species even if not as individuals. Horses adapted to changing climates and environments; when they didn't adapt, that particular animal ceas ...more
Mar 11, 2016 rated it liked it
3 stars because of the reference to the saber-toothed deer ;o)
This book was much more "ancient" than I expected -- focusing more on the prehistoric relatives and heritage of the horse and the other early mammals roaming the earth -- which isn't a bad thing (saber-toothed deer!). What bugged me more was the writing itself -- I've read a number of science books, and there's a way to write fact so it reads well without being scripted into narrative. This one felt choppy and sometimes forced; like t
Jun 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
Also asked and received this for Christmas. (Thank you, Craig) (He knows me and horses.) I feel so grown up when I read non-fiction. And in a way I feel even more grown up when I can look down on it and say that it wasn't very good. I have 2 chief complaints. First of all, it was a little "gee whiz" about how magical horses are...which I totally agree with , but thought that had no place in a book like this. And then second, there was a whole section on the importance of the horse's vision as it ...more
Nov 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horses
Although I did not always enjoy the author's way of speaking about things, I was very interested by the perspective of this book. The idea that horses and humans have a common evolutionary history that is a large part of the reason for our bond seems like a commonsense notion that could be taken for granted, but I've never before heard someone make a scientific case for it. This gives me a lot to think about in my interactions with the horse I ride, where I have already been striving to engage i ...more
Jaclyn Day
Apr 09, 2016 rated it liked it
It is indeed an epic history, and Williams shows every bit of it, taking nearly 75% of the book to trace the horse to prehistoric origins. There’s so much evolutionary research in here that you’d be forgiven if you occasionally forget the subject at hand, but eventually we get back to the modern horse, the complicated history between the animal and humans, and the amazing adaptations that allow the species to survive in nearly habitat on earth.
Jun 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-general
I typically am not a huge fan of the travelog / history book. I like history books without the authors personal story. However she did a great job of painting the picture of what the world must have been like during each epoch. I did enjoy the earlier sections of the pre-historic evolution of the horse rather than the later chapters of horse companionship and sociology. I give it 4 stars because of the strength of the first 2/3 of book.
Feb 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: animal-books
I wanted to like this book more than I did. The science of the evolution of horses was extremely interesting, but I think I just got tired of it eventually. I would have liked to know more about the history of horses through different human cultures, since one of the themes of the book is about the close bond between humans and horses. That just never really came about. Still an interesting read.
May 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
I have a renewed respect for horses now. As an equestrian I spent many years riding them, always assuming they weren't that intelligent. Now I know that a) they are very smart in their own way and b) there isn't nearly enough science investigating their minds. ...more
Carol Copeland
Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Book is filled with so much information about every aspect of our beloved horse. If you love horses you will love this book.
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Wendy Williams is a journalist whose work has appeared in The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Christian Science Monitor, among many other publications. She is the author of several books, including Kraken and Cape Wind, and is a lifelong equestrienne. She lives in Mashpee, Massachusetts.

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