A 2017 video of a horse mourning his deceased owner at a funeral in Brazil reminds us how close the relationship between humanity and our equine friends can be. The animal is seen laying his head on the coffin which contains his former rider and owner, visibly reluctant to leave his companion. Wagner de Lima Figueiredo was killed in a motorcycle accident early in 2017, prompting the reaction from his horse Sereno at his funeral.
Horse mourns at funeral
Scottish author Sir Walter Scott was known to pause on his frequent rides to admire the view from a certain spot; when he died his horse refused to allow the funeral procession to continue until the novelist was allowed to enjoy his favorite view one last time.
If they cannot claim to be man’s best friend then horses must at least be given strong consideration for second place.
Long before humans learned to ride them, horses captivated our ancestors enough to inspire depictions in some of our earliest art. Wild horses feature prominently in the ancient paintings of Chauvet and Lascaux Caves.
The domestication of Equus caballus was a transformative step for humanity. The first to discover the full potential of these animals were the people who lived on the steppes of modern Ukraine and Russia.
The Indo-European peoples who became the progenitors of cultures from Ireland to India used their mastery of horses to spread across Eurasia; the modern world would be unfathomably different the horses these migratory populations used.
In making an appearance at a funeral, Sereno is following in the hoof prints of horses who played central roles in the burial practices of many ancient Indo-European cultures.
Always close to humanity
Early domesticated horses were not strong enough to carry riders themselves and were generally used to pull carts and chariots.
Funeral practices for important individuals often involved the chariot and horses of that person being buried beside them.
Since horses became strong enough to carry riders over distances, their importance to humanity has only continued to grow.
Equestrian cultures across Eurasia constructed entire ways of life around the animals and the transportation and utility they provide to those fortunate enough to have them.
Over the last century horses have lost many of their old functions to machinery, though they have lost none of their immense importance to humans.
The behavior of Sereno at his owner’s funeral shows that horses may sometimes tell us that they feel just as strongly about humans.