Horses and chariots—and the associated technology and expertise—derived from the steppe contributed to the success of the Zhou conquest of the Shang in c. 1045 BC and remained important throughout Zhou rule in ancient China. On the basis of material cultural patterns, including the style and material used in bridle cheek-pieces found in tombs of the late second and early first millennium BC, this paper points to a northern origin for Zhou horses. Important intermediaries, providing these horses, were the clans whose cemeteries have been identified on the northern edges of the Central Plains. The necessity for repeated exchanges bringing south horses from the north was a consequence of key environmental differences between the steppe and the Central Plains, including climate, geomorphology, essential soil nutrients, and land use. These created significant difficulties in sustainably breeding and pasturing horses of quality. As a result, the people of the Central Plains were bound, over millennia, to seek horses from the northwest, along a cultural corridor that also moved northern materials and technologies, such as gold-, iron- and some bronze-working, into the Central Plains from the steppes.