In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Hermione says following:

'You mark my words, she's going to want revenge on Dumbledore for appointing a new teacher without consulting her,' said Hermione, closing the newspaper. 'Especially another part-human. You saw the look on her face when she saw Firenze.'

So Hermione thinks that the Centaurs are "part-human". Still Firenze thinks otherwise:

'Centaurs are not the servants or playthings of humans,' said Firenze quietly.

Or at least it sounds that the Centaurs will be very insulted if they are called "part-human".

So are they really part-human or a separate species?

  • 1
    Literally part-human. As is the British way, the wizards try to ignore the implications. – user40790 Mar 9 '16 at 19:45
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    Does that quote from Firenze REALLY contradict the part-human description, though? – The Giant of Lannister Mar 9 '16 at 22:06

Centaurs are a distinct species from humans, but share some physical attributes.

Most of the information we have on Centaurs can be found in *Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

The most clear example of a distinction between centaurs and humans that I can find is in the following line.

Wizarding authorities in each of the countries where centaurs are found have allocated areas where the centaurs will not be troubled by Muggles; however, centaurs stand in little need of wizard protection, having their own means of hiding from humans.
(Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Centaurs)

Centaurs differ than Humans in many ways:

  • Physically

    The centaur has a human head, torso, and arms joined to a horse’s body which may be any of several colours.
    (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Centaurs)

  • Mentally

    The centaurs’ habits are not humanlike; they live in the wild, refuse clothing, prefer to live apart from wizards and Muggles alike.
    (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Inroduction - What is a Beast?)

  • Legally

    Being intelligent and capable of speech, it should not strictly speaking be termed a beast, but by its own request it has been classified as such by the Ministry of Magic.
    (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Centaurs)

While it is technically possible that they originated from humans way back when, we would have nothing to back it on. The fact that they share a resemblance to humans isn't that unusual, as many magical beasts look part human. (e.g. Merpeople, sphinxes, veela, Dukuwaqa, etc.) What we do know about the origin of Centaurs was that they (most probably) came from Greece.

Centaurs are believed to have originated in Greece, though there are now centaur communities in many parts of Europe.
(Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Centaurs)

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Centaurs such as Bane (who could be categorised as deeply "anti-wizard") certainly seem to instantly dismiss any suggestion that they're related to humans. Whether this is simply an example of their own prejudice is unclear.

‘That’s right!’ said Umbridge, in an even higher voice, ‘so be very careful! By the laws laid down by the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, any attack by half-breeds such as yourselves on a human –’
‘What did you call us?’ shouted a wild-looking black centaur, whom Harry recognised as Bane. There was a great deal of angry muttering and tightening of bowstrings around them.
‘Don’t call them that!’ Hermione said furiously, - HP:OotP


‘We do not help humans!’ snarled the centaur holding Harry, tightening his grip and rearing a little at the same time, so that Harry’s feet left the ground momentarily. ‘We are a race apart and proud to be so. We will not permit you to walk from here, boasting that we did your bidding!’ - HP:OotP

On the flipside, the factbook "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" specifically states that ...

The centaur has a human head, torso, and arms joined to a horse’s body which may be any of several colours.

If we take this at its word (e.g. that the top half is actually human) it's hard to imagine how such a creature could have come about without some kind of magical intervention that involved horses and human.

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  • 7
    The centaurs may find it hard to imagine how a human could come about without some kind of magical intervention that involved centaurs and bonobos. – Moby Disk Mar 9 '16 at 20:44
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    @MobyDisk - It sounds like you're planning a very specific adult slashfic. – Valorum Mar 9 '16 at 20:48

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