This paper examines the concept of animals as social actors in the ancient Near East through a case study of human–equid relations. In particular, examples where equids may be seen as expressing resistance, as depicted in the iconography of the third and second millennia bc, are analysed. The first part of the paper discusses how animals have been perceived in scholarly debates in philosophy, archaeology and human–animal studies. It is argued that an acknowledgement of animals as social actors can improve our understanding of the human past, and the relation of humans to their broader environment. The second part of the paper presents three examples from the ancient Near East where equids may be interpreted as pushing back or resisting the boundaries placed by humans, resulting in a renegotiation of the relationship.