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The ancient horse jaw


Near the end of last year I went on a walk up to The Pheasant Woods which are on the other side of the river to the village. The Pheasant Woods are a collection of six or seven small woods and four lakes which used to be part of a big country estate. The country house was knocked down years ago but the ice houses and some other buildings are still there. It's a great place to find bones and watch roe deer and buzzards but I've explored it so much I don't often go there any more.

This time I went up in the afternoon and I was walking around and then I found this on the ground. It was very well camouflaged that I thought it was a big bit of tree bark. When I picked it up I realised it was a big jaw and I thought it was off a cow. I spent about two hours searching for the rest of the skull and skeleton but never found them.

It took a long time to clean it up. I soaked it in water for ages, but it was so cold the enzymes in the biological powder weren't working. In the end I had to put it in warm water and scrub it with a nylon pan scourer. This is what it looked like when it was cleaned up:

When you find a new bone you think about what animals might have lived there. That was why I though it was a cow because there is farmland around there. But when I put it next to other jaws I had it was much bigger and a different shape, even though it was broken in a few places.

There were six cheek teeth with three premolars (the ones nearest the mouth) and three molars (at the back) the same as in cows, deer and sheep. The teeth were loose enough to be pulled out which you can't always do.

It looked like this bone had been in the ground for ages and the bone was all decayed.

Here are the molars (left to right M3, M2, and M1). The roots are massive and the outer enamel of the tooth has worn off.

The teeth had worn down to be almost completely flat. That means this horse was very old. When the teeth get this flat it becomes hard for the animal to chew all the nutrients out of the grass. With deer, they can die of starvation because the teeth can wear down to the gumline.

The teeth looked all white, and there were no dentine rings (dark rings) like you get in deer:

At the edge of the jaw you can see a broken or worn away part and you can see the honeycomb of the inside of the bone, showing it's not just solid:

This horse must have died a long time ago. It must have been part of the estate, maybe kept in the stables, and when it died the bones either lay there or it was buried. It would be amazing to find the rest of the skull, but even just this jaw was an amazing find.

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Jack N said...

Ancient, you say? Ooooh! How do you do it, finding all these awesome bones?

Psydrache said...

Yes, that was one old horse. And a huge one! Too bad you didn't found the skull as well.

Jack N said...

Jake,guess what just happened!I checked on the snake today and it has rotted down to a skeleton!The ribs are so thin, the spine is a bit like a chain and the skull is amazing but in pieces as it was young.However,it is sitting in a load of brown muddy goo and stinks, should I wait till the goo decomposes or pull them out now?

Jake said...

@Jack: I would take them out now and put in a bucket of warm water and biological washing powder. The spine might start to fall apart though.
@Psydrache: I know ! I want to go back and look for it.

Jack N said...

Thanks for the advice, Jake.I just did it 5 mins ago,it didn't smell that bad!It turns out that the goo was the skin.I can't wait for it to clean up;the skull looks awesome!

Kat said...

I went to this abandoned farm about 10 yrs ago and I walked in the barn and found a complete horse skeleton in a stall! I was shocked! It was one of the coolest finds ever!

Jake said...

Hi Kat,

That would be an AMAZING find ! Did you take all the bones ?

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