which means "dawn horse," is considered
by many to be an ancestor of modern horses. Some
paleontologists, however, believe that this
animal may instead have been a "cousin"
rather than direct ancestor.
size of a small dog, Eohippus was about 2 feet
long, and 12-14 inches high. It had four hoofed
toes on the front feet, 3 hoofed toes on its hind
feet, a short face with eyes in the middle, and a
short space between the front teeth and the cheek
teeth. It lived throughout most of the Northern
Hemisphere (Asia, Europe, and North America).
Like modern horses, Eohippus was probably a
grazing herbivore, feeding primarily on soft
leaves and plant shoots.
Eohippus lived during the early
Eocene Epoch, up to about 50 million years ago.
The first representative
fossils were found in England by paleontologist
Richard Owen in 1841, and it was he who came up
with the scientific name Hyracotherium
leporinum. The first full skeleton was found
in America by Othniel Marsh in 1876, and it was
he who coined the name Eohippus. As more
fossils were found it became apparent that Owen's
specimens and Marsh's specimen were closely
related, and the two species were subsequently
placed into the genus Hyracotherium.
Although Eohippus is still commonly used to refer
to this horse-like animal, that name is now more
properly applied to the species which once roamed
much of North America.
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