Budiansky, a writer at U.S. News and World Report, may not provide
as many "insights into the true nature of the beast" as he hopes,
but he serves up fascinating historical, behavioral, and biological
nuggets about our equine friends. Troubled that our understanding
of Equus caballus is badly flawed, Budiansky (Nature's Keepers,
1995) endeavors to set the record straight, clearing the air of
"what millenniums of tradition, love, and wishful thinking have
sometimes muddled," and telling the horses' story through the
"objective tools of science." He starts at the beginning of
domestication, 6,000 years ago, with the Sredni Stog people. They,
it is surmised, either clambered atop the horse or ate him; their
bones are mixed together at archaeological digs in the Ukraine,
marking the onset of a long, fruitful association. Horses and
humans discovered what they had in common: an intuitive language of
dominance and submission, an adaptation to grasslands, a social
fabric built on subordination to authority and trust. Budiansky's
portrait delves into mitochondrial DNA analysis, the mechanics of
movement and eyesight and vocalization, but he's hesitant to guess
at the ultimate meaning of this data. He is less edifying but far
more entertaining when he occasionally hazards subjective rather
than scientific information, as in his observation of the horse's
ability to interpret subtle social cues shared with humans
(dispelling notions of horses as mind readers) or when he simply
throws out an idea he has concerning their fabled homing instinct.
And he's incisive when describing the curious world of the stud
book and the ambiguous effects of inbreeding. As a science
journalist, Budiansky brings together a wealth of equine research;
as the devoted horseman he is, he knows there is more than the
objective interface, and that magic is a persistent part of the
equation. (Kirkus Reviews)
What does it mean to be a horse? The definitive and bestselling
book explaining the mysteries of the horse using insights of modern
science. What makes a winning racehorse? How intelligent are
horses? What are horses trying to tell us when they stamp their
hooves and snort? Do horses talk to each other? The horse, long
symbol of beauty and athletic prowess, has made and lost fortunes
and transformed human history and culture, and yet has retained
mysteries that baffle even those who work with them every day.
There has recently been an explosion of scientific research on the
horse. In this book Stephen Budiansky brings the insights of modern
science to a wider audience of horse enthusiasts and animal-lovers.
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