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The Horse: The Epic History of Our Noble Companion Hardcover – October 27, 2015
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Three mustang stallions at McCulloch Peaks, not far from Cody, Wyoming. (Greg Auger)
Horses can thrive in the wettest of climates, like the hyper-Atlantic coast of Galicia, Spain. (Greg Auger)
Lukas with World Record
Lukas, owned by the Californian Karen Murdock, poses with his Guinness World Records certificate, awarded to him for “the most numbers identified by a horse in one minute.” (Joan Malloch, courtesy of Karen Murdock)
Kris Kokal and his family rehabilitate mustangs at their farm in New Hampshire. Here, Kris and Belle, one of his rescued horses, enjoy a snowfall. (Greg Auger)
A New York Times Bestseller and New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
A Best Book of 2015, The Wall Street Journal
Silver Winner, Nautilus Book Awards (Animals and Nature category)
Long-listed for the 2016 Massachusetts Book Award
Holiday Gifts List, Equus Magazine
Discover magazine's "What to Read in November"
"Love is the driver for Wendy Williams's new book, The Horse . . . [an] affectionate, thoroughgoing, good-hearted book." ―Jaimy Gordon, The New York Times Book Review
"Charming and deeply interesting . . . Ms. Williams does a marvelous job of exploring the nature of horses, from many different perspectives. She is spot-on in her explanations of scientific information, treading that thin line between accessibility and scientific accuracy. I have read many books and articles on horses, but this must surely rank among the very best for a general audience." ―Pat Shipman, The Wall Street Journal
"Whether you believe that you know horses intimately or only admire them from afar, you will find Wendy Williams's fascinating natural history The Horse to be illuminating. Williams is a charming tour guide through the history of the horse-human bond. This book will delight you and deepen your understanding of the ongoing love affair between humans and their equine companions." ―Elizabeth Letts, bestselling author of The Eighty-Dollar Champion
"A remarkable treasure chest of a book. Wendy Williams ropes together history, science, and fascinating personal experiences to give new insights on every page. You'll never look at a horse the same way again." ―Nicholas Evans, bestselling author of The Horse Whisperer
"Lifelong equestrian enthusiast Williams takes on the topic at full gallop, weaving scientific analysis with cultural and historical anecdotes in this lively, fascinating read." ―Discover
"[A] fascinating account of the relationship between humans and horses. Not only will horse lovers find The Horse a great read, but so will those with just a passing interest in these animals." ―Chicago Tribune
"An informative and engaging account of an animal that’s both familiar and mysterious . . . [The Horse] provides an illuminating glimpse at what we know―and what we may someday learn." ―Megan McDonough, The Washington Post
"[E]ngaging, comprehensive . . . Wendy Williams combines a love of horses with a keen interest in natural history . . . an accessible read and a gift for horse lovers." ―Lucy Popescue, The Independent (UK)
"[The Horse] takes us on both an intellectual journey and an equine adventure." ―Fran Jurga, Equus
"A compelling journey into the evolutionary history of the horse we know and love today . . . It’s detailed but clear, and surprisingly fun in places as well." ―The Eloquent Equine
"An ambitious undertaking . . . Reading The Horse will no doubt cause you to look at horses (including your own) in a whole new way." ―EquiSearch
"A magnificent natural history of this magnificent animal. Wendy Williams pursues the wild and ancient creatures who put into relief the very particular horse-human relationship we have today. If you get a thrill when a horse thunders by, you must read this book." ―Alexandra Horowitz, bestselling author of Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know
"For every equestrian, here finally is a book that explains in great detail the long journey that has given us the modern horse in all of its magnificent varieties. Wendy Williams's The Horse is full of love and firsthand experiences that make the book a most pleasurable and informative read." ―Frans de Waal, author of Peacemaking Among Primates and The Age of Empathy
"An enthusiastic history of and appreciation for all things horse . . . Anyone with a love of horses will treasure this book, which provides scholarly yet accessible insight into a beautifully constructed animal that has chosen to domesticate man, just as dogs have." ―Kirkus Reviews
"Williams's book educates, entertains, and enthralls; it's part scientific discovery, part social commentary, and part history lesson, while always focusing on the relationship between horses and humans." ―Publishers Weekly
"Wendy Williams has done her homework. She has roamed our world of horses-past, present, and future-revealing cognitive processes, emotions, and behaviors similar to those of humans. What a gift. Reading The Horse, I felt a kinship with horses and a deep yearning to bond with these marvelous creatures." ―John W. Pilley, emeritus professor of psychology at Wofford College and bestselling author of Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words
"Riveting and moving. A beautiful celebration of the deep evolutionary fellowship between horses and people."―David George Haskell, author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Forest Unseen and professor of biology at the University of the South
"I have never owned horses, but reading Wendy Williams's fine new book made me feel as if I've known them all my life. And that, of course, is her point-to explore not just the history of horses but the human fascination with them. She makes her case in clear, compelling prose, warmed throughout by her obvious fondness for the subject." ―Thor Hanson, author of The Triumph of Seeds and Feathers
"The Horse is a scientific ode to one of the most charismatic mammals on earth-it is an essential book and a loving exploration of our complicated relationship with the charming animal that we've variously hunted, tamed, and venerated. Readers could not ask for a better guide than Wendy Williams as she takes us to the badlands where mustangs still roam, the bones of their ancestors beneath their hooves." ―Brian Switek, author of My Beloved Brontosaurus and Written in Stone
"Williams details her conversations with various experts and her own visits to archaeological digs as she navigates the evolution of the horse, its development in a variety of landscapes, and its general adaptability."―Booklist
About the Author
Wendy Williams is a journalist whose work has appeared in The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Christian Science Monitor, among many other publications. She is the author of several books, including Kraken and Cape Wind, and is a lifelong equestrienne. She lives in Mashpee, Massachusetts.
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Top Customer Reviews
“Horse People”, and likely most “Animal People”, should really enjoy this book. It presents snapshots of the horse's history over the last 56 million years or so, of course, but the really fun part is that Williams shows how modern Science is now proving many of the things that all of us barn flys have long known/believed about our beloved horses (as well as dogs and some other animals). In fact, she shows that humans and horses developed interdependently and that is the main reason why humans and horses are so enthralled with each other even today.
Williams is a surprisingly fine and entertaining writer and has structured this work so the “science” (mainly anthropology, paleontology and ethology) comes in small, very clear doses and always lead the reader into great (and thought-provoking) discussions of horses and the horse-human relationships.
Like most “Animal People” I've read fifty-'leven books about horses but I have to say this is probably the best I've ever seen. If you are a “Horse Person” I promise you will find yourself laughing and saying “I knew it, I knew it !” over and over again.
They became extinct in North America about 8,000-11,000 years ago. This coincided with the advent of humans on the continent. Human slaughter might have contributed to their demise, but there is no certainty and scientists are split on the cause.
This is just one of this book's many absorbing facts about the only other creature, along with dogs, that humans have developed a special--even mystical--bond with. Some other absorbing facts: Horses have survived in cold and heat, altitude and flatland, lush plains and arid deserts, because they have been so remarkably adaptable. The earliest horses were about the size of a modern cat, and had four-toed soft paws, the better to navigate the hot marshy environment. This declined to three, then two, then one hard hoof when speed became their main protection against predators. Unlike other mammals, who eat and store, horses have a "conveyor belt" digestive system that speeds the nutrients through. This is why they eat continually.
They have "emergent teeth", imbedded deep in the jaw, that continue to grow throughout their lives. They not only can, but must, wear these down by grazing, or they will be unable to close their mouths properly.
Horses have about 2/3 the visual acuity of humans--better than most other creatures. But they are almost color-blind, seeing no red and only washed-out blues and greens. This explains why they are sometimes startled by odd shapes that their human rider perceived long before.
The most surprising fact, to me at least, is that horses and humans have a common evolutionary ancestor. The evidence is found in the similarity of our joints and skeletons. Is this the reason for our special communion with them?
Williams surveys the science behind horse cognition. Much is still unknown. Do they really "think"? Not in the deductive way that humans do, but they have have the capacity to learn by watching, and have good memories. They can, for example, figure out how to open a corral gate or turn on a water spigot by watching humans do it.
Are they capable of true emotional bond with humans? Emphatically yes, Williams avers. While scientists are not unanimous, she comes down on the side of those who say that their sociable nature is key to their bond with humans. They don't respond to us just because we give them food and water and apply the stick to undesired behavior. They actually like being with us. I like believing that.
Wendy Williams combines her research and her personal experiences with horses in a very readable style. Frequent reference to the science and to the scientists she interviewed provide support for the views in the book and are excellent leads for your own further study. Much of what is presented is contrary to what has become "conventional wisdom" ... and that's good because too much of today's understanding of horses is grounded in flawed information.
She is able to capture the science in very accessible ways to shed light on how humans came to partner so closely with horses. These insights help to understand why our horses behave the ways they do.
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