Facts about Hyracotherium, an extinct prehistoric animal

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Dinosaur Jungle   >   Other Prehistoric Animals   >   Hyracotherium



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Scientific Classification
  Kingdom Animalia
  Phylum Chordata
  Class Mammalia
  Order Perissodactyla
  Family Palaeotheriidae
  Genus Hyracotherium
Hyracotherium (also sometimes known as "Eohippus") was a genus of mammalian herbivore that lived in Asia, Europe, and North America during the Eocene between about 60 and 45 million years ago. It was once thought to be ancestral to horses, but today some scientists believe that it may also be ancestral to rhinoceroses and tapirs.

Hyracotherium was about the size of a dog, around 9 inches (20 centimeters) tall at the shoulder, and about 2 feet (60 centimeters) in length. It had four toes on each of its front feet, and 3 toes on each hind foot.

Hyracotherium was named by Sir Richard Owen in 1841 - its name means "Hyrax-like beast". The alternate name, "Eohippus" was chosen by Othniel C. Marsh in 1876, and means "dawn horse". Marsh did not realize that the animal that he had named, was the same as Hyracotherium, hence the different name - however, now that we know that they are the same animal, Hyracotherium takes priority, as it was the first name used.

One curious piece of trivia about Hyracotherium is that many books describe the animal as being about the size of a fox terrier. Stephen Jay Gould once wrote an essay researching this curiously repeated description, and concluded that it had first appeared in the writings of Henry Fairfield Osborn, and that many subsequent authors have simply repeated the description.

Hyracotherium Timeline:

Hyracotherium were herbivorous (plant-eating) mammals that lived between 60 and 45 million years ago

Hyracotherium were herbivorous (plant-eating) mammals that lived between 60 and 45 million years ago

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