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Idaho SuperGraphic

Mysterious bones

It was a beautiful day in 1928 as the sun rose up over the top of the bluff, casting vibrant rays of yellow and orange on Elmer Cook's cattle as they grazed on the arid land 450 feet above the Snake River. Cook was a small-town farmer and cattle rancher in the tiny village of Hagerman, Idaho. On this particular day, as Cook was gathering his cattle, he came across mysterious bones that had, over many years, risen to the surface of the land. Many people in the town of Hagerman knew that bones did exist up on the bluffs, but what they did not know was that the land was on a hill that marked the location of an ancient bog that had vanished long ago. As Cook stood there high up on the bluff looking at the few bones that had surfaced, he knew there was something mysterious about them. Cook decided he was going to share these bones with Dr. H.T. Stearns of the U.S. Geological Survey. Dr. Stearns was amazed at what Cook had found and decided to send a few sample bones to Dr. J.W. Gidley at the Smithsonian Institution. After taking one look at the bones, the Smithsonian Institution gathered together a crew to send out to the bluffs above Hagerman for further investigation. When the Smithsonian crew arrived at the site, they were astonished to see the bones that had surfaced. They knew that if they were to dig down into the land a bit they might come across a treasure trove of ancient bones. The Smithsonian crew immediately knew that the bones were possibly from a horse, zebra or some strange creature in between. But what type of bones were they and why were they there?


Cook stood there examining the surfaced skeletal remains with the rest of the crew from the Smithsonian. They had no idea that they were about to uncover what was soon to be considered one of the largest sites of ancient horse bones in the world. Come along with us as we journey back in time to solve the mysteries of America's first horse... or was it a zebra?

Related images

Photograph of the mysterious skull and the Snake River
The Snake River and mysterious Hagerman Horse skull.
Courtesy of the National Park Service.
The quarry where the bones were found
Mysterious skull found in the quarry.
Courtesy of the Smithsonian.

The graphic The discovery