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Fossil range: Middle Eocene
Fossil specimen
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Subclass: Eutheria
Order: Perissodactyla
Family: Palaeotheriidae
Genus: Propalaeotherium
Gervais, 1849
Species: P. parvulum
Binomial name
Propalaeotherium parvulum
(Laurillard, 1849)

Propalaeotherium was an early genus of perissodactyl ancestral to the horse endemic to Europe and Asia during the Middle Eocene.

Its name means "before Palaeotherium", as it is the ancestor of Palaeotherium, another relative of early horses. Although they were descended from the earliest ancestral horse, Hyracotherium, the Propaleotheres and Paleotheres were not the ancestors of the modern horse; their line died out around 34 million years ago, leaving no descendants.

Propalaeotherium was named by Gervais. It was assigned to Palaeotheriidae by Hooker (1986).[1]



Reconstruction of Propalaeotherium, placed in the Grube Messel, near Darmstadt, Germany
File:Propalaeotherium species.jpg
Propalaeotherium parvulum & P. hassiacum.

Propalaeotheres were small animals, ranging from 30–60 cm at the shoulder weighing just 10 kg (22 lb)[2] They looked rather like very small tapirs. They had no hooves, having instead several small nail-like hooflets. They were herbivorous, and the amazingly well-preserved Messel fossils show that they ate berries, and leaf matter picked up from the forest floor.

In popular culture

Propalaeotherium was featured in Walking With Beasts, where it is shown as a skittish foraging creature.

See also

  • List of mammals
  • Evolution of the Horse
  • List of prehistoric mammals
  • Mammal
  • Mammal classification


  1. J. J. Hooker. 1986. Mammals from the Bartonian (middle/late Eocene) of the Hampshire Basin, southern England. Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) 39(4):191-478
  2. S. Legendre. 1988. Les communautes de mammiferes du Paleogene (Eocene superieur et Oligocene) d'Europe occidentale: structure, milieux et evolution. Ph.D. thesis, Universite des Sciences et Techniques du Languedoc, Montpellier, France. 2 volumes. 1-265.

External links


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