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Temporal range: Pliocene-Holocene (Montehermosan-Boreal)
~5.332–0.008 Ma
brown skeleton of a quadruped
H. principale skeleton
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Perissodactyla
Family: Equidae
Subfamily: Equinae
Tribe: Equini
Genus: Hippidion
Owen, 1869
  • H. principale (Lund, 1846) (type)
  • H. saldiasi Roth, 1899
  • H. devillei (Gervais, 1855)
  • Hipphaplous Ameghino 1882
  • Hipphaplus Ameghino 1882
  • Onohippidion Filhol 1888
  • Onohippidium Moreno 1891
  • Parahipparion Ameghino 1904

Hippidion (meaning little horse) is an extinct genus of horse that lived in South America from the Pliocene to the mid-Holocene, between two million and 8,000 years ago.


Life restoration of H. principale from 1913
Skeleton in Natural History Museum, London
Restoration of Pleistocene South America

Hippidion has been considered a descendant of pliohippines,[1] horses that migrated into the South American continent around 2.5 million years ago.[1][2] However, recent analysis of the DNA of Hippidion and other New World Pleistocene horses supports the novel hypothesis that Hippidion is actually a member of the living genus Equus, with a particularly close relationship to the wild horse, Equus ferus.[1][2]

Hippidion and other South American horses became extinct approximately 8,000 years ago.[3] Specific archaeological recovery at the Cueva del Milodon site in Patagonian Chile demonstrates that Hippidion saldiasi existed in that vicinity in the era of 10,000 to 12,000 years before present.[4] Horses did not reappear in South America until the 16th century, as a result of introduction by humans.


It stood approximately 1.4 metres (4.6 ft) (also 13.2 hh) high at the shoulders and resembled a donkey. Evidence from the delicate structure of the nasal bones in the animal suggests that Hippidion evolved in isolation from the other horse species of North America.


Remains of Hippidion saldiasi have been recovered in locations such as the Piedra Museo site, Santa Cruz, Argentina[5] and Cueva del Milodon, Chile.[6] The significance of such archaeological recovery is amplified by the association with hunting of these animals by prehistoric man at possible Pre-Clovis horizons.


Fossils of Hippidion have been found in:[7][8]



  1. ^ a b c Weinstock, J.; et al. (2005). "Evolution, systematics, and phylogeography of Pleistocene horses in the New World: a molecular perspective". PLoS Biology. 3 (8): e241. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0030241. PMC 1159165. PMID 15974804.
  2. ^ a b Orlando, L.; et al. (2008). "Ancient DNA Clarifies the Evolutionary History of American Late Pleistocene Equids". Journal of Molecular Evolution. 66 (5): 533–538. doi:10.1007/s00239-008-9100-x. PMID 18398561.
  3. ^ Ransom, Jason I.; Kaczensky, Petra (2016-05-15). Wild Equids: Ecology, Management, and Conservation. JHU Press. ISBN 9781421419107.
  4. ^ C. Michael Hogan, Cueva del Milodon, Megalithic Portal, 13 April 2008 [1]
  5. ^ Alberdia, María T.; Miottib, Laura; Pradoc, José L. (2001). "Hippidion saldiasi Roth, 1899 (Equidae, Perissodactyla), at the Piedra Museo Site (Santa Cruz, Argentina): Its Implication for the Regional Economy and Environmental Reconstruction". Journal of Archaeological Science. 28 (4): 411–419. doi:10.1006/jasc.2000.0647.
  6. ^ "The Megalithic Portal and Megalith Map: Cueva del Milodon Cave or Rock Shelter". Retrieved 2008-12-08.
  7. ^ Hippidion at Fossilworks.org
  8. ^ Prado, José Luis; Alberdi, María Teresa (2017-04-25). Fossil Horses of South America: Phylogeny, Systemics and Ecology. Springer. ISBN 9783319558776.