Jump to: navigation, search

Hagerman Horse

Hagerman Horse
Fossil range: Middle Pliocene to Late Pleistocene
Mounted skeleton of Hagerman Horse
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Perissodactyla
Family: Equidae
Genus: Equus
Species: E. simplicidens
Binomial name
Equus simplicidens

The Hagerman horse (Equus simplicidens), also called the Hagerman zebra or the American zebra, was a North American species of equid from the Pliocene period and the Pleistocene period. It was one of the oldest horses of the genus Equus. Discovered in 1928 in Hagerman, Idaho, it is believed to have been like the Grevy's zebra of East Africa. It is the state fossil of Idaho.[1]



File:Equus Simplicidens.jpg
Equus simplicidens skull

The Hagerman horse was given the scientific name of Plesippus shoshonensis in 1929 by a Smithsonian paleontologist named James W. Gidley who led the initial excavations at Hagerman that same year. However further study by other paleontologists determined that fossils represented the oldest remains of the genus Equus. It was then given the scientific name of Equus simplicidens.


A cattle rancher named Elmer Cook discovered some fossil bones on this land in Hagerman, Idaho. In 1928, he showed them to Dr. H.T. Stearns of the U.S. Geological Survey who then passed them on to Dr. James W. Gidley at the Smithsonian Institution. Identified as bones belonging to an extinct horse, the area where the fossils were discovered, called the Hagerman Horse Quarry, was excavated and three tons of specimens were sent back to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

Excavation of the fossils continued into the early 1930s. The Hagerman Horse Quarry floor grew to 5,000 square feet (460 m2) with a backwall 45 feet (14 m) high. Ultimately five nearly complete skeletons, more than 100 skulls, and forty-eight lower jaws as well as numerous isolated bones were found. Some paleontologists believed that such a large amount of fossils found in one location was because of the quarry area being a watering hole at one point. The waterhole could have been where the bones of the Hagerman horses accumulated as injured, old, and ill animals, drawn to water, died there. It is now believed by most paleontologists that an entire herd of these animals probably drowned attempting to ford a flooded river and were swept away in the current and ended up buried in the soft sand at the bottom.

Drawing of Hagerman horse (left) with Grevy's zebra (middle) and Domesticated horse (right)


The Hagerman horse first appeared about 3.5 million years ago. It was approximately 110-145 centimeters (43 to 57 inches) tall at the shoulder. It weighed between 110 and 385 kilograms (385 to 847 pounds). An average Hagerman Horse was about the same size as an Arabian horse. It also was relatively stocky with a straight shoulder and thick neck, like a zebra, and a short, narrow, donkey-like skull. It is thought to have had a stiff, upright mane, ropy tail, medium-sized ears, striped legs, and some striping on the back.[citation needed]

The horse probably lived in grasslands and floodplains, which is what Hagerman was like 3 million years ago. The horse went extinct about 10,000 years ago, the same time as many other species of the period.


Further reading

  • Boss, N.H. Explorations for fossil horses in Idaho. Explorations and field work of the Smithsonian Institution in 1931. 1932.
  • Gazin, C.L. A study of the fossil horse remains from the upper Pliocene of Idaho. Proceedings from the United States National Museum 83(2,985): 281-320. 1936.
  • MacFadden, Bruce J. Fossil Horses. Systematics, Paleobiology and Evolution of the Family Equidae. Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992.
  • McDonald, H. Gregory. More than Just Horses, Rocks and Minerals, Sept./Oct. 1993. Vol. 68:322-326.
  • Willoughby, David P. The Empire of Equus. A.S. Barnes and Co. Inc., 1974


Premier Equine Classifieds


Subscribe to our newsletter and keep abreast of the latest news, articles and information delivered directly to your inbox.

Did You Know?

Modern horse breeds developed in response to a need for "form to function", the necessity to develop certain physical characteristics in order to perform a certain type of work... More...

The Gypsy Cob was originally bred to be a wagon horse and pulled wagons or caravans known as Vardos; a type of covered wagon that people lived in... More...

Archaeological evidence indicates that the Arabian horse bloodline dates back 4,500 years. Throughout history, Arabian horses spread around the world by both war and trade.... More...

That the term "Sporthorse" is a term used to describe a type of horse rather than any particular breed... More...