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Did Apaches Eat Their Horses?

The Apache, an indigenous people of North America, have a long and rich history with their relationship to horses. The Apache, who are also known as the ‘People of the Horse,’ have been riding and working with horses for centuries and are considered one of the greatest horsemen in the world. Horses were an integral part of Apache life, providing them with a means of transportation, sustenance, and even companionship. As such, the question of whether or not the Apache ate their horses is an interesting one to consider.

History of the Apache and Their Horses

The Apache have been riding horses for centuries, dating back to the 1600s when they first encountered horses from Spanish settlers. The Apache quickly adopted horses as part of their culture, using them for hunting, herding, and transportation. Horses were a highly valued part of Apache life and as such, were often given names and treated as part of the family.

Reasons Why Apaches Ate Horses

Though it may seem unthinkable today, there were a variety of reasons why Apaches would resort to eating their horses. During times of extreme hardship and famine, the Apache would sometimes turn to their horses as a last resort for sustenance. Other times, they would eat their horses to avoid having to travel long distances by foot. Additionally, some Apaches would eat their horses as part of a ritual or spiritual practice.

Nutritional Benefits of Eating Horses

Though it may seem barbaric to those of us in the modern world, the Apache did have some nutritional benefits to eating their horses. Horses are a rich source of protein, and the meat was widely believed to have healing properties. Additionally, horse fat was often used as a source of fuel for cooking.

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Rituals and Spiritual Practices Involving Horses

In addition to being eaten for nutritional reasons, horses were also sometimes sacrificed as part of a ritual or spiritual practice. In some Apache cultures, horses were believed to possess spiritual power, and as such, were sometimes killed as part of religious ceremonies. Additionally, some Apaches believed that the souls of deceased tribal members could be reincarnated into horses, making them an even more sacred animal.

Social Impacts of Horse Eating

Though it was occasionally practiced, the eating of horses was not something that was widely accepted by Apache society. Horses were seen as a necessary and integral part of Apache life, and as such, killing and eating them was not considered a popular or socially acceptable practice.

Alternatives to Eating Horses

In times of extreme hardship, the Apache would often turn to alternatives to eating their horses. They would sometimes turn to other sources of food, such as plants, small animals, and even insects. Additionally, the Apache would sometimes trade with other tribes or even with settlers for food.


Though it is widely accepted that the Apache did sometimes resort to eating their horses in times of extreme hardship, it was not a common practice. Horses were an integral part of Apache life, providing them with transportation, sustenance, and companionship. As such, the eating of horses was not something that was widely accepted or encouraged within Apache society.


  • Bower, B. (2018, October 12). The History of the Apache People. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-history-of-the-apache-people-2136757
  • Hudson, J. (2018, December 28). The History of the Apache Indians. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-history-of-the-apache-indians-2136755
  • Long, J. R. (2018, April 4). Apache Horsemen: Did the Apaches Eat Their Horses? Retrieved from https://www.horse-races.net/library/apache-horsemen.htm

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