The prehistoric horse Propalaeotherium walking through a forest


Fossilised pregnant Propalaeotherium remains show that the females bore a single foal at a time. One of the earliest horses, these little forest animals had four small hooves on their front feet and three on the back. They walked on the pads of their feet, like cats and dogs. There were two species, one slightly larger than the other. More than 35 beautifully preserved specimens of the two species are known from the Messel shales, and they are also found at the nearby site of Geiseltal in Germany.

Scientific name: Propalaeotherium

Rank: Genus

Common names:

before Palaeotherium

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Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

When they lived

Discover the other animals and plants that lived during the following geological time periods.

Eocene epoch Eocene epoch
The Eocene began as a time of global warming, with temperatures across the planet soaring. Forests thrived and trees grew even in polar regions.

Fossil types

Learn more about the other animals and plants that also form these fossils.

Exceptional preservation Exceptional preservation
Normally, only the hard parts of animals and plants - shell, bone, teeth and wood - are preserved as fossils. However, every now and then conditions permit the preservation of soft parts and create treasure houses of information for palaeontologists.


  1. Life
  2. Animals
  3. Vertebrates
  4. Mammals
  5. Odd-toed ungulates
  6. Palaeotheriidae
  7. Propalaeotherium