Ancient Horse

illustraton of an ancient horse
Equus scotti is an extinct species of horse found in the Pleistocene fossil record of North America

NPS illustration by Benji Paysnoe.

Scientific Name

Equus scotti


A medium sized horse that was over 7 feet long and about 4.5 feet tall at the shoulder.

The first fossils of this horse were named by American paleontologist James W. Gidley in 1900.


Equus scotti had a close relationship to modern zebras. Horses first evolved in North America during the Eocene epoch and adapted to the changing climate over tens of millions of years. Although some older fossil horses had three or more toes, Equus scotti had one toe, or hoof, like modern horses. Extinct North American horses, including Equus scotti, are not closely related to wild Mustangs.

Distribution and Habitat

Equus scotti was one of the last of the native North American horses and had a wide distribution over the continent. It probably preferred grasslands, open wetlands, and open woodlands. Fossils of this horse first appeared approximately 2 million years ago and went extinct by 10,000 years ago.


Like most horses, Equus scotti was a grazing herbivore, feeding primarily on grasses.


Equus scotti lived in small herds, like modern wild horses and zebras.

Tule Springs Horses

The fossils of horses make up about 18% of the large mammal assemblage at Tule Springs Fossil Beds, though most are fragmentary. Commonly identifiable fossils of horses at Tule Springs Fossil Beds include molar teeth, skull and lower leg bones. Equus scotti was identified from Tule Springs based on a partial cranium, mandible, and a metapodial.

A second, smaller horse is known from Tule Springs Fossil Beds. These smaller horse fossils suggest it was a long-legged form, perhaps closely related to wild asses.

Part of a series of articles titled Prehistoric Life of Tule Springs.

Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument

Last updated: October 12, 2021