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".
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.
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