Quick-witted, forgiving – and able to sweat

This week’s Economist carries a review of two new publications about the influence of the horse on human history.

The horse was first hunted, and then domesticated, by the Botai people east of the Urals in the Copper Age.

“In horses,” writes the reviewer, “the Botai and succeeding civilisations found the best of partners. Horses are seen to be quick-witted and forgiving. Unusually, unlike almost all mammals other than humans, they sweat to cool themselves, which means they can work harder and run faster, for a long time.” Interesting that human beings, for whom sweating is synonymous with work, should have exploited this biological link at such an early stage in their evolution. The Economist’s reviewer reflects on the irony whereby “humans tamed horses and put them to work until they invented something [i.e. the motor car] that worked at greater speed and lower cost, which replaced them. Could humans one day make themselves obsolescent in the same way?”

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