John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
Despite going further south into Oregon the temperature has not increased. At the campsite everyone was wearing full winter gear and faces looked pinched. A few short walks, a museum visit, and views of the painted rocks made a pleasurable day’s stop. Caroline finally has some answers on the history of horses. There were small non-grass eating horses, 3-toed, 1-toes and 4-toed horses. Based on fossil records the genus equus originated in North America about 4 million years ago and spread to Eurasia by crossing the Bering land bridge 2-3 million years ago. The last pre-historic North American horses died out 13,000 and 11,000 years ago. The domesticated horse was bred from several wild varieties by Eurasion herders (Mongolians) and introduced into North America by the Spanish. To the Ranger who said “horses have been here for 400 years, how much more American can you get?” it is like saying pug dogs could be used to replace locally extinct wild dogs in Africa. Genetically the American wild horse just does not exist, which is why ‘reintroduction’ of pretend wild horses is so controversial. The technically feral ‘wild’ horses in Teddy Roosevelt NP were a joy to watch, but in the Navajo National Monument they were very aggressive, polluting the water supply and damaging the land. Topics like this and global warming are now openly discussed by some Americans; an awareness we had not seen before.
The beautiful painted hills of John Day Fossil Beds
The John Day Clarno unit where a lot of the fossils were dug from
The fossils were removed to the John Day Sheep unit