“Behold He Is Feeding Thy Horses”

Alan C. Miner

According to Hunter and Ferguson, the claim made by the Book of Mormon that horses were on this continent and used in ancient America for purposes similar to the uses we make of them today finds strong support in the numerous fossil remains of horses that have been obtained from the asphalt deposits of Rancho La Brea in southern California. Of course, it is claimed that those fossil remains pre-date Book of Mormon times. However, there is no logical reason for believing, since horses were here prior to the arrival of the Jaredites and the Nephites, that horses could not have still been in America during the period in which those ancient civilizations flourished. . . . We could do no better at this point in dealing with this subject than to quote from an official publication of the Los Angeles County Museum on the subject of the existence of horses in early times in America:

The presence of herds of horses in the vicinity of the asphalt deposits during the period of accumulation is clearly testified to by the numerous remains of these mammals found at Rancho La Brea. While many individuals are recorded in the collections, all of them belong to a single species, the extinct western horse (Equus occidentalis Leidy). In stage of evolution and in general body structure this type resembles the modern horse, although differing from it in a number of specific details. Standing on the average about 14 1/2 hands (4 feet, 10 inches) at the withers, this animal was of the height of a modern Arab horse. It was, however, of considerably heavier build . . .

Horses were among the more common types of hoofed mammals on the North American continent during Pleistocene time and several distinct species have been described from fossil remains. The abundance and widespread distribution of horses in North America make the apparent disappearance of the group in this region prior to the advent of the white man an added and an unusual feature of their long and eventful career.

[Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and The Book of Mormon, pp. 312-313] See the commentary on Enos 1:21; 3 Nephi 3:22; Ether 9:19]

Alma 18:9 Horses ([Illustration]): Skeleton of Western Horse (Equus occidentalis Leidy) - Los Angeles County Museum collection: Rancho La Brea Pleistocene. Courtesy of Chester Stock] [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and The Book of Mormon, p. 313]

Alma 18:9 Horses (Illustration): A Photograph of Horse Bones in the Maya Room of the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Discovered in the caves of Loltun near the Maya ruins of Uxmal in the Yucatan Peninsula. Found at the same depth as Classic period pottery fragments (A.D. 200 to A.D. 900). [Joseph L. Allen, "Horses" in The Book of Mormon Archaeological Digest, Vol. II, Issue VI, p. 1]


In Alma 18:9, mention is made of "horses." According to Diane Wirth, the extinction of the horse in Mesoamerica before the coming of the Spanish Conquistadors can be likened to the near-extinction of the bison in the early west. An additional example of extinction can be found in the Bible. There are many references to lions in the Bible, yet the last Palestinian lion of record was killed in a hunt around A.D. 1100. Today there are no so-called archaeological remains of lions in the land of Israel. Apparently not a bone has been left. Therefore, a lack of skeletal remains of an animal in a particular area does not necessarily mean that the animal was never there.

Several curious artifacts and bas-reliefs in Mesoamerican art portray four-legged animals. At Chichen Itza, on the Yucatan Peninsula, for example, there is a bas-relief of a bearded man, who stands alongside what appears to be a horse. Although there are those who claim this is a dog, when has anyone seen a Mexican dog almost tall enough to reach a man's shoulder--even a short man? It appears more reasonable that this "dog" is a small breed of horse. Robert Marx claims to have found frescoes of horses at a site near Chichen Itza of "horses grazing, frolicking and running, some mounted with riders." [Diane E. Wirth, A Challenge to the Critics, pp. 53, 56] See the commentary on Enos 1:21; 3 Nephi 3:22; Ether 9:19]

Alma 18:9 Horses ([Illustration]): Horse at Chichen Itza. (Courtesy of Mrs. Milton R. Hunter) [Diane E. Wirth, A Challenge to the Critics, p. 53]

Alma 18:9 Horses (Illustration): Rider on animal with saddle. (After photograph [Ekholm, Plate XXVI Cat. No. 30.0-3274, American Museum of Natural History) [Diane E. Wirth, A Challenge to the Critics, p. 54]

Alma 18:9 Horses ([Illustration]): Evidence of Horses in Ancient America. (1) Eohippus: American 4-toed horse. (2) Mesohippus: American 3-toed horse. (3) American modern horse from La Brea tar pit. (4) Carving of horse from the south wall of the Temple of the Tablets, Chichen Itza, Mexico. (5) Most historians claim that all Indian ponies descended from European horses brought to America by the Spanish--but note the great difference in size as indicated by the level of the rider's feet. Not even evolutionists claim such a great change in a mere 350 years. [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 88]

Alma 18:9 Horses ([Illustration]): Horses are mentioned throughout the Book of Mormon until A.D. 26. Were these horses like this horse in the upper cloud forest of Guatemala? For years archaeologists have doubted that horses existed in Mesoamerica before the time of Columbus, using the mention of them to point to the Book of Mormon's inauthenticity. This view, however, is changing as "actual horse bones have been found in a number of archaeological sites on the Yucatan Peninsula, in one case with artifacts six feet beneath the surface under circumstances that rule out their coming from Spanish horses. (Setting, p. 295) Some feel that the word horse in the Book of Mormon is used to refer to a deer or some other domesticated animal. [Scot and Maurine Proctor, Light from the Dust, p. 114]

“Feeding Thy Horses”

Joy Osborn provides the following interesting quote relative to horses in the Americas:

Fossil remains of true horses, differing but very slightly from the smaller and inferior breeds of those now existing, are found abundantly in deposits of the most recent geological age, in almost every part of America, from Escholz Bay in the north to Patagonia in the south. In that continent however, they became quite extinct, and no horses, either wild or domesticated, existed there at the time of the Spanish conquest, which is the most remarkable as, when introduced from Europe the horses that ran wild proved by their rapid multiplication in the plains of South America and Texas that the climate, food, and other circumstances were highly favorable for their existence. The former great abundance of Equidae in America, their complete extinction, and their perfect acclimatization when reintroduced by man, form curious but as yet unsolved problems in geographical distribution. (New Americanized Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 3197)

[Joy M. Osborn, The Book of Mormon -- The Stick of Joseph, p. 159] [See the commentary on Enos 1:21, 3 Nephi 3:22]

[Alma 18:9] Chariots (Wheels):

According the Diane Wirth, Nephite and Lamanite "chariots" (Alma 18:9) may or may not have had wheels: the argument does not hinge on whether they did or not but rather on whether people of the Book of Mormon knew about--and used--wheels. . . . Mesoamericans most certainly had knowledge of the wheel. In 1973, Stanley Boggs stated that sixty examples of wheeled objects had been found. Many more have been found since the publication appeared.

Dr. Gordon F. Ekholm, of the Department of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, reports:

During the winter of 1942, while I was making some excavations in Panuco and in the vicinity of Tampico, I found a certain number of small discs that I suspected of having been the wheels of rolling toys like those found by Dr. Stirling in Tres Zapotes and by Charnay in Popocatepetl. In the excavations of Panuco I felt most happy when my helper informed me of the finding of a complete toy with wheels just after having left the place myself and only a few meters from my excavation. This finding together with the other known examples, convinced me that the Mexican Indians, before the conquest, had made small vehicles with wheels in the form of animals and therefore had some knowledge of the principle of the wheel.

Scholars have found that five ways to attach wheels were used. This suggests that early Mesoamericans were not novices on the use of the axle. If these small clay figures were modeled after larger, practical vehicles, we may never know exactly how they were used, since in all likelihood, they were made of wood--and wood deteriorates with time. [Diane E. Wirth, A Challenge to the Critics, pp. 59,62]

Alma 18:9 Chariots [Wheels] (Illustration): Spider monkey on wheels, from Veracruz (Housed at the Milwaukee Public Museum). Deer on wheels, from Veracruz, (Housed at the Milwaukee Public Museum.) Small wheeled vehicle, after Desire Charnay, The Ancient Cities of the New World, New York (1887). Fig 6.4. Wheeled animal, Tres Zapotes, Veracruz, Mexico (On display at Museum of Jalapa, Veracruz.) [Diane E. Wirth, A Challenge to the Critics, pp. 60-61]

Alma 18:9 Chariots [Wheels] ([Illustration]): Examples of Wheeled Toys in the Ancient World. (1) from Mesopotamia--2000 BC. (2) From Egypt--AD 200. (3) From Tepe Tawra, Iraq--3000 BC. (4) From Mount Popocatepetl, Mexico. (5) From Tres Zapotes, Mexico. (5) From Oaxaca, Mexico. (6) From Tres Zapotes, Mexico. (7) From Teotihuacan, Mexico. [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 149]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary