I had a friend recently ask me a question, and I didn’t have a good answer and was hoping you could help. She’s reading the Book of Mormon for the first time, and was put off by the part in 1 Nephi where Lehi and his family arrive in the Promised Land and find all manner of beasts and wildlife … including horses. My friend was bothered slightly, stating that since horses weren’t brought over to the Americas until the Europeans made the trek several hundred years later, Lehi and his family couldn’t have found horses here. Because of this, she feels the entire rest of the Book of Mormon “unravels” as a credible source of information for anything … even being a book of faith she’s disturbed by the discrepancies in the history. What can I tell her?
It is not true that there were no horses in America before the Spaniards came. It is true that the Spaniards found no horses in Mexico, Central America or Peru, and from that they deduced that there were no horses on the American continent. However, Sir Francis Drake, visiting the west coast of North America, saw “large bands of wild horses,” as quoted from Ask Gramps for Teens, Maasai, Inc. Provo, Utah, 2002, p. 61-2),
So far as the nonexistence of the horse in ancient America is concerned, the question has forever been set at rest by the discovery of the remains of this animal all over the land; and though Cortez and his followers saw none alive, yet Admiral Sir Francis Drake did see large bands of wild horses on the Oregon coast in 1579, far too early for any to have escaped from the Spaniards, grown wild, and traveled so vast a distance: (Reynolds and Sjodal, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 6, p.236).There has been work performed at Gypsum Cave and other locations ‘where mammoth, mastodon, camel and horse with man, and there is a map showing twenty-three places where extinct animals have been associated with man in the United States.’ (M.R. Harrington, Gypsum Cave, Nevada, “Southwest Museum Papers.” Nol 8,37).
In addition to the above, I have personally seen in the Museum of Natural History in Buenos Aries, Argentina the skeleton of a prehistoric horse, discovered in that area by Charles Darwin, that was indistinguishable from the modern horse except for the nose bone that was about 10 inches long, whereas in the modern horse the nose bone is only about four inches long.