Postgraduate Module Descriptor

ANTM110: The Horse-Human Dyad

This module descriptor refers to the 2018/9 academic year.


NQF Level7
Credits15 ECTS Value7.5
Term(s) and duration

This module ran during term 3 (7 weeks)

Academic staff

Dr Steve North (Convenor)





Available via distance learning



It will be offered either in term 2 for 10 weeks (with 10 x 1 hour podcast lectures) or in term 3 for 7 weeks (with 7 x 80 minutes podcast lectures).

In this module you will study horse-interaction from a wide range of perspectives, including: cultural, societal, practical and ethical. The domesticated horse (Equus caballus) - as distinct from smaller companion species, such as the cat and the dog - is a large prey animal that customarily does not live inside our homes. Despite this, the horse has played a major role in the development of human civilisation. It is generally agreed that between 4000 and 3000 BCE humans transitioned from using horses only as a source of food to appreciating their renewable ‘secondary’ products, such as traction and transport (both ridden and carrying packs). Early humans literally ‘harnessed’ the advantages of the horse’s greater physical strength and speed. This changeover is sometimes described as the Secondary Product Revolution (SPR). Through human exploitation of the horse, arguably small tribes became empires. Domestication of the horse (and the combining of its abilities with our own hard technologies, such as: bits, bridles, saddles, sleds and the wheel) enabled humans to travel great distances, trade, carry cargo and share both languages and culture. Beyond the purely practical, horses have found their way into our beliefs, mythology, rituals, fiction, imagination and hearts. Symbolically, horses may offer to ‘free’ us from the restrictions of the purely physical, opening up unlimited possibilities and speculative, shared futures. This module will ask you to explore and critically evaluate multiple perspectives on horse-human interaction. We will consider aspects such as: (i) the traces of the dyad which may be revealed by archaeological, historical and anthropological records, (ii) how (and why) we do things ‘with’ and ‘to’ horses and (iii) the quantitative, qualitative and descriptive methodologies that we may use to study horses. The academic content will be constantly reviewed through an ethical lens, reminding us to consider: has our use of horses, become abuse, misuse and exploitation? This module will prepare you to better understand the significance of a life lived alongside one particular species – the horse. However it will also provide you with the transferable skills necessary to unpick other interspecies relationships and to consider what these may say about the human-animal.

 There are no pre-requisites for this module.

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