Fun Hyracotherium Facts For Kidsbea

Arpitha Rajendra
Oct 20, 2022 By Arpitha Rajendra
Originally Published on Sep 30, 2021
Edited by Katherine Cook
Read more fun Hyracotherium facts here.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.0 Min

The Hyracotherium (hyrax-like beast) is an extinct genus of tiny ungulates in the Palaeotheriidae family Perissodactyla order. The fossils of this species were discovered in London Clay Formation.

This dog-sized animal was previously considered the earliest known Equidae member, which changed when Hyracotherium (hyrax-like beast) leporium, the type species, was re-classified within Palaeother group, a primitive family to brontotheres and horses. BMNH M16336, the holotype specimen and the first one to be identified, was recovered from Studd Hill cliffs close to Herne Bay in Kent.

Richard Owen, a 19th-century paleontologist first described this holotype in a paper that was read to the London's Geological Society in 1839. Hyracotherium (hyrax-like beast) leporium is considered to be a paleothere but not a proper horse.

The length of this species was 2.5 ft (78 cm).

The family Palaeotheriidae consists of species that are relatives of equids. There are seven genera within this family.

The species of this family have spread across Asia and Europe in the Eocene period to the Early Oligocene around 55-45 million years ago. The species of the order Perissodactyla are known as Odd-toed ungulate.

If you enjoyed reading these cool Glyptodon facts, then make sure to check out these fun facts about the Caviramus and Brachytrachelopan on Kidadl.

Hyracotherium Interesting Facts

Was the Hyracotherium a dinosaur?

No, the Hyracotherium (Ricahrd Owen, 1841) was not a dinosaur. The Hyracotherium (hyrax-like beast) is currently considered a paleothere mammal.

How do you pronounce 'Hyracotherium'?

The pronunciation of Hyracotherium (Richard Owen, 1841) is 'Hy-rak-o-fee-ree-um'.

What type of prehistoric animal was a Hyracotherium?

The Hyracotherium species was a small basal type of horse and ancestor to a modern horse within the order Perissodactyla (Odd-toed ungulate), class Mammal, and phylum Chordata. The name Hyracotherium was given to this genus because when the first Hyracotherium fossil was recovered, the remains were mistaken as African hyrax due to their small size.

The 19th-century paleontologist, Richard Owen, named the fossil remains by only studying the similarity in teeth as the complete skeletal fossils were still not discovered.

Previously, the extinct genus Eohippus (meaning 'dawn horse') was thought to be a synonym of this extinct animal group.

Also, some research on the fossil remains of the related Eohippus (meaning 'dawn horse') led paleontologists to believe that the Eohippus was similar to this early Hyracotherium horse-like species. This mammal was a browsing herbivore.

Marsh had later described that these horse-like animals were virtually complete during the early period of bone wars. Some paleontologists also suggest that these ancestors of modern horses were a form of rhinos and tapirs.

This group is placed at the start of the evolution of the current form of horses.

In which geological period did the Hyracotherium live?

The Hyracotherium (Owen, 1841), the early ancestor of this horse species, lived in the Eocene period to Early Oligocene around 55-45 million years ago.

When did the Hyracotherium become extinct?

These early North American horse animals became extinct around 45 million years ago.

Where did a Hyracotherium live?

The known range of these animals in the world was across North America and Western Europe. The fossils of the related Eohippus (meaning 'dawn horse') species were discovered in North America. The Hyracotherium evolution was driven by the grasses that spread across this range.

What was a Hyracotherium's habitat?

The range of the Hyracotherium habitat was spread across woodlands in their natural habitats in the world in the Early Eocene.

Who did a Hyracotherium live with?

The social behaviors of this North American specimen are not known. However, as per researchers, this herbivorous animal of the Eocene era possibly lived in groups to protect themselves from predators.

How long did a Hyracotherium live?

The information on the maximum or average lifespan of this browsing herbivorous animal of Eocene is not known.

How did they reproduce?

The reproduction of these modern horses was sexual with direct development after internal fertilization. These mammals of the Eocene period gave birth to live young ones, meaning they were viviparous. The information on the breeding process, incubation, and parental care of these Eocene Hyracotherium (hyrax-like beasts) is limited.

Hyracotherium Fun Facts

What did a Hyracotherium look like?

These North American Hyracotherium (Eohippus) species were odd-toed with hoofed feet and small bodies with long skulls similar to modern horses in some species but in others the face was short. The forelegs were shorter than the hind legs.

The eye sockets were in the middle of their short face. Even though these mammals were considered the ancestor of the horse species, they still had feet with toes rather than horse hooves. On their front feet, there were eight hoofed toes present and six toes in their hind feet.

Each of their toes on all four feet had dog-like pads. There was space between the cheek teeth and front teeth called short diastema.

Hyracotherium teeth were even more complete than the modern species of horses. They had low-crowned cheek teeth and there were 44 of these. There were also slight ridges on the molars similar to one on the horse.

They had large brains compared to the size of their body. It is believed that this brain helped them with better hearing, smell, and sight.

Hyracotherium species fed mostly on leaves than grass, which was proved by their small incisors and low-crowned teeth.
We've been unable to source an image of a Hyracotherium and have used an image of an Eohippus instead. If you are able to provide us with a royalty-free image of a Hyracotherium, we would be happy to credit you. Please contact us at

How many bones did a Hyracotherium have?

The number of bones in the Hyracotherium skeleton is not known. The known fossils are the Hyracotherium skull, teeth, cranium, and almost full-body skeleton.

How did they communicate?

The research on the mode of communication of this species is not available. However, they might have used their sense of hearing, smell, and sight to communicate with each other.

How big was a Hyracotherium?

The average Hyracotherium size was 2.5 ft (78 cm) in length and 1-2 ft (30-60 cm) in height. Stephen Jay Gould stated that the related Eohippus was the size of a small fox-terrier.

How fast could a Hyracotherium move?

The exact speed of these Hyracotherium horses is not known. Since the hind legs are quite long, they might have been fast runners.

How much did a Hyracotherium weigh?

The weight range was around 20 lb (9 kg). The weight of a modern horse is way more than these small prehistoric creatures.

What were the male and female names of the species?

There is no specific name given to either a male or female Hyracotherium (or Eohippus) dinosaur.

What would you call a baby Hyracotherium?

There is no specific name given to baby Hyracotherium (or Eohippus).

What did they eat?

This animal was a herbivore. The diet consisted of soft leaves, plant shoots, nuts, and fruits.

How aggressive were they?

It is not known how aggressive this species was.

Did you know...

Othniel C. Marsh described the skeleton of Eohippus (meaning 'dawn horse') in 1876 naming it Eohippus (meaning 'dawn horse') validus.

Palaeotherium of the same family as Hyracotherium is an extinct group that occupied Earth in the Early-Middle Eocene period. The name Palaeotherium translates to 'old beast.'

Is the Hyracotherium the same species as the modern horse?

Many paleontologists suggest that the species of Hyracotherium and Eohippus were the first in the evolution line of horses. These two species differ in body size and feet as they have normal toes on their feet rather than the hooves of horses.

How many toe bones does a Hyracotherium have?

These species are odd-toed with four toes per front foot and three per hindfoot. Their toe ended hoof. They had 14 toes in total.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly prehistoric animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these Brontotherium facts and Hipparion facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Hyracotherium coloring pages.

Second image by Heinrich Harder 

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Written by Arpitha Rajendra

Bachelor of Engineering specializing in Aeronautical/Aerospace Technology, Master of Business Administration specializing in Management

Arpitha Rajendra picture

Arpitha RajendraBachelor of Engineering specializing in Aeronautical/Aerospace Technology, Master of Business Administration specializing in Management

With a background in Aeronautical Engineering and practical experience in various technical areas, Arpitha is a valuable member of the Kidadl content writing team. She did her Bachelor's degree in Engineering, specializing in Aeronautical Engineering, at Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology in 2020. Arpitha has honed her skills through her work with leading companies in Bangalore, where she contributed to several noteworthy projects, including the development of high-performance aircraft using morphing technology and the analysis of crack propagation using Abaqus XFEM.

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