The informal word “horse” is used in both a narrow sense (sensu stricto) and in a broad sense (sensu lato).
Some people use “horse” in a narrow sense to indicate some (but not all) members of the modern domestic horse species Equus caballus (ek’-kwis ca-bal-lus). For example, some may correct others for referring to a “pony” (e.g. Shetland pony) as a “horse,” though both belong to the same species.
Others, such as us, use the word broadly to speak colloquially of any member of the horse family (Equidae). Our use of the term includes zebras, asses, and even the cat-sized, four-fingered “eohippus” that would have looked nothing like our modern domestic horses.
Because “common names” lack precision, biologists have formalized the process of naming animals. Scientific names are in Latin or Latinized versions of other languages, often Greek.
Scientific names can be intimidating at first. However, they also can be enjoyable to learn and understand.
In the past, Greek and Latin were considered fundamental to a good education. These ancient languages remain the basis of scientific terminology. In modern times, a good education requires more highly specialized study, so not everybody learns Greek and Latin. Consequently, many begin their scientific studies intimidated by the new vocabulary they must master.
We think knowing what the names mean will help you to remember them as well as the special characteristics of the animal. We’ll help by providing translations.You’ll see how wonderfully descriptive they are of the animal you are learning about.