- The Indians of the Southwest were the first to obtain the
When he first saw the horse the Indian
was frightened. He thought the horse and its rider were one animal.
Some considered it sacred. When the Hope first saw this animal they
spread scarfs on the ground for it to walk on. The Dakota termed
the horse the "mystery dog."
After the Indian had overcome his superstition
and fear, he captured and stole horses or traded them, and then he felt
himself as powerful as the Spaniard.
Previously the Indian had only the dog
as a transport animal. His life and habits quickly changed with the
acquisition of the horse. he could travel greater distances, take
more baggage, hunt buffalo more efficiently, and put his unmounted enemy
at a disadvantage in war.
There had been horses in America thousands
of years ago. Fossil bones show them to have been very small.
it is believed the early Indians considered the horse only as a food animal,
and that these horses were killed off, finally becoming extinct.
The horses brought to America by the Spaniards
increased rapidly. After a time they roamed the territory from the
Rio Grande to what is now the Canadian border.
The Ute, Apache, Comanche, Kiowa, and Caddo
were among the first to acquire horses. Comancheros, unscrupulous
half-breed traders, bartered horse with the Plains Indians and then carried
them to far off tribes. By the middle of the eighteenth century no
band of buffalo hunting Indians was unmounted.
While many students of the "horse culture"
of the Indians believe that the horse
which stocked the Plains had been left behind by Coronado, others contend
that all his "five hundred and fifty-eight horses, two of them mares,"
were accounted for in his muster roll. These latter authorities believe
that horses came from stock raising settlements in the Southwest, particularly
those in the neighborhood of Santa Fè, New Mexico. many of
them spread northward through the normal channels of trade, although Indians
acquired many by raids on ranches and settlements.
The English first brought horse into Virginia
in 1620. The Spanish introduced them into the Southeast, where in
1650 they had seventy-nine missions, eight large towns, and two royal ranches.
Attacks by the English and Indians scattered these horse and they increased
and multiplied in the wild state.
The French brought the first horses into
Canada in 1635. Indians marveled at these animals and called them
the "moose of France." In 1735 the Iroquois were raining these French
Indians at first rode bareback or with
only a pad saddle of skin. Their bridles were thongs looped around
the horses' lower jaws. An Indian would keep a long neck rope dragging
so that if he were unseated he could grab the rope and stop his horse.
The Indian broke his horse by a system
all his own. Sometimes it was by what cowboys termed "injun gentling."
where he spent days becoming on friendly terms with his horse. Other
times he employed the "Indian blanket act," where by the use of a blanket
he was enabled to "hypnotize" his horse. "Injun gentled" horses were
prized by cowboys. They were tough and easily managed.
The Indian mounted his horse from the right
side, instead of the left as did the cowboy. Horseman today mount
from the left side because in the old days cavalrymen and others who carried
swords on the left side were forced to do so. The custom was carried
down through the ages - but the Indian was not bound by such a custom and
mounted in the way that seemed natural to him.
The Indian's horsemanship was excellent.
He could slip to the side of a speeding horse and shoot from beneath the
animal's neck. He guided by pressure of his legs. He tethered
his horse on the prairie by using a bone at the end of his tie rope and
burying it in the ground, or he would hitch the rope to a tuft of grass.
The pinto pony and the gray horse were
favored by most Indians. These
blended better with the landscape and also took war paint better than other
horses. Indians had different ways of painting their ponies.
The Blackfoot favored red paint. If a horseman ran over an enemy
in battle, he could paint a hand on both shoulders of his pony. War
ponies were decorated not only with paint, but with cloth streamers tied
to their manes and tails, and human scalps to their bridles.
The war pony and the buffalo pony were
considered the most valuable. Horses were used in barter and trade
and a suitor might pay twenty horses for a bride. A medicine man
might charge five horses as a fee for expelling some disease. Among
the Sioux and Cheyenne a good horse was worth the plumage of two eagles.
Some Indians ate horse, drank the melted
fat, and rubbed the blood in their hair, because they believed this would
give them the strength of the horse. They used the hair of the mane
and tail to braid ropes and for decoration. A dead warrior's horse
often was killed at the burial place, so the brave's spirit would be properly
mounted in the hereafter.
within this Site
][ Comanche ][ Comanchero
][ Coronado ]
[ Costume ][
][ Dog ][ Hairwork ][
Horse Indians ]
[ Mystery Dog
][ Paint ][ Quirt ][
][ Scalping ][ Shoshoni
][ Travois ]