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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Horse (;;; , and in many other places;; , etc.). It appears to be substantiated that the horse was derived from High Asia, and was not indigenous in Arabia, Syria, or Egypt. They are not mentioned among the presents which Pharaoh bestowed upon Abraham, and occur in Scripture for the first time when the patriarch Joseph receives them from the Egyptians in exchange for bread (), evidently as valuable animals, disposed of singly, and not in droves or flocks, like cattle and asses. They were still sufficiently important to be expressly mentioned in the funeral procession which accompanied the body of Jacob to his sepulcher in Canaan (); and for centuries after it does not appear that, under the domestic management of the Egyptians, unless the murrain had greatly reduced them, horses had multiplied as they would have done in a land more congenial to their habits, since only six hundred chariots appear to have pursued Israel (); even admitting that there were other chariots and horsemen not included in that number. In the sculptured battle-scenes, which are believed to represent victories of Sesostris, or of Thothmes II and III, over nations of Central Asia, it is evident that the enemy's armies, as well as the foreign allies of Egypt, are abundantly supplied with horses, both for chariots and for riders; and in triumphal processions they are shown as presents or tribute, proving that they were portions of the national wealth of conquered states sufficiently valuable to be prized in Egypt. At a later period the books of Deuteronomy (, for the future kings of Israel are forbidden to possess many) and Joshua () furnish similar evidence of abundance of horses in the plains of Syria; and in Job occurs a description of a perfect war-horse couched in the bold figurative language of inspiration, such as remains unequalled by any other poet, ancient or modern. Though the Israelites had chariots and horsemen opposed to them in the plain country from their first entrance into the land of promise—as in , where we find Sisera with his chariots of war defeated at the foot of Mount Tabor—yet not being intended to make military conquests beyond the mountain basin and the adjacent territory assigned them, they long remained without cavalry or chariots themselves (; ): they obeyed the divine injunction to abstain from possessing horses, and, to the time of David, hamstrung such as they captured from their enemies. It appears, however, that a small cavalry force was raised by him; and as in all the military operations of Western Asia, there was a tendency to increase the mounted force and neglect the infantry, on the full establishment of royalty, when the Hebrew government acquired a more political structure, the reign of Solomon displayed a military system which embraced a regular body of horse and of chariots, evidently become the more necessary, since the limits of his sway were extended to the shores of the Arabian Gulf, and far into the Syrian desert (). Solomon likewise acted with commercial views in the monopolizing spirit which Eastern sovereigns have been prone to exercise in all ages. He bought chariots and teams of horses in Egypt, and probably in Armenia, 'in all lands,' and had them brought into his dominions in strings, in the same manner as horses are still conducted to and from fairs: for this interpretation, as offered by Mr. Charles Taylor, appears to convey the natural and true meaning of the text, and not 'strings of linen yarn,' which here seem to be out of place (;; ).

The Tyrians purchased these objects from Solomon; but in the time of Ezekiel they imported horses themselves from Togarmah or Armenia. On returning from the Babylonish captivity, the common possession of horses in Palestine was no longer opposed; for Nehemiah numbers seven hundred and thirty six belonging to the liberated Hebrews ().

All the great original varieties or races of horses were then known in Western Asia, and the Hebrew prophets themselves have not infrequented distinguished the nations they had in view, by means of the predominant colors of their horses, and that more correctly than commentators have surmised. Taking Bochart's application of the Hebrew names, the bay race emphatically belonged to Egypt and Arabia Felix; the white to the regions above the Euxine Sea, Asia Minor, and northern High Asia; the dun, or cream-colored, to the Medes; the spotted piebald, or skewbald, to the Macedonians, the Parthians, and later Tahtars; and the black to the Romans; but the chesnuts do not belong to any known historical race (; ).

Bay or red horses occur most frequently on Egyptian painted monuments, this being the primitive color of the Arabian stock; but white horses are also common, and in a few instances black, the last probably only to relieve the paler color of the one beside it in the picture. There is also, we understand, an instance of a spotted pair, tending to show that the valley of the Nile was originally supplied with horses from foreign sources and distinct regions, as indeed the tribute pictures further attest. The spotted, if not real, but painted horses, indicate the antiquity of a practice still in vogue; for staining the hair of riding animals with spots of various colors, and dyeing their limbs and tails crimson, is a practice of common occurrence in the East [ASS].

On the natural history of the horse there is no occasion to enter in this place; but it may be proper to notice that the riding bridle was long a mere slip-knot, passed round the under jaw into the mouth, thus furnishing only one rein; and that a rod was commonly added to guide the animal with more facility. The bridle, however, and the reins of chariot-horses were, at a very early age, exceedingly perfect; as the monuments of Egypt, Etruria, and Greece, amply prove. Saddles were not used, the rider sitting on the bare back, or using a cloth or mat girded on the animal. The Romans, no doubt copying the Persian Cataphractæ, first used pad-saddles, and from the northern nations adopted stimuli or spurs. Stirrups were unknown. Avicenna first mentions the rikiab, or Arabian stirrup, perhaps the most ancient; although in the tumuli of Central Asia, Tahtar horse skeletons, bridles, and stirrup-saddles, have been found along with idols; which proves the tombs to be more ancient than the introduction of Islam. With regard to horseshoeing, Bishop Lowth and Bracy Clark were mistaken in believing that the Roman horse or mule shoe was fastened on without nails driven through the horny part of the hoof, as at present. A contrary conclusion may be inferred from several passages in the poets: and the figure of a horse in the Pompeii battle mosaic, shod in the same manner as is now the practice, leaves little doubt on the question.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Horse'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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