Major climatic changes occurred during the Miocene. The world became a cooler, drier place. As a result, forests shrunk and grasslands spread.
The animals of the Miocene adapted to this changing world. This epoch is characterized by a major “modernization” of many animals–they began to resemble the animals of the present. Some horses acquired the high-crowned teeth needed to consume abrasive grasses.
The Miocene was the heyday or “hayday” of horses. The peak diversity of horses occurred about 10 million years ago, with over a dozen genera known from around the world.
Many herbivores developed longer, faster limbs for travel in the open habitats. Likewise, the carnivores became faster!
Horses that lived during the Miocene:
Banner illustration by Bob Beach. This is a detail from a painting displayed in the Hall of Florida Fossils at the Florida Museum of Natural History.