Zoology – taming of horses – knowledge

Understanding a horse is not always easy, as every rider can confirm. This is especially the case for scientists who not only explore individual animals, but the big picture. So the concrete question: How did our current domestic horses become what they are? There are still significant knowledge gaps in the history of domestication Equus Kaballos.

The only way to move forward here is through an interdisciplinary approach. With this thought, geneticists, evolutionary biologists and archaeologists collaborated and published in the specialized journal prison cell They provide the most comprehensive reconstruction to date of how and where the horse became a domestic animal about 5,500 years ago. The primary message of the 120 authors, led by study leader Ludovic Orlando of the University of Toulouse, seems realistic at first: the history of the domestic horse is thus more complex than previously thought.

Once upon a time, there were two more horse lines – on the Iberian Peninsula and in Siberia

This can be seen, for example, in the newly acquired knowledge that the two lines of horses known today – the domestic horse and the Przewalski’s horse – lived in the company of other horse species until 4000 years ago. According to the authors, there were once two more breeds, one on the Iberian Peninsula and the other in Siberia. Neither of them were direct ancestors of the domestic horse or the Przewalski’s horse, but, in Orlando’s words, “something like Neanderthals for modern humans.” In previous analyses, he and his colleagues had already refuted the well-established view that Przewalski’s horses represented the origin of domestic horses. Instead, Przewalski’s horses with their distinctive fixed race and striped legs were developed from feral domestic horses, similar to the Persians in the United States or “wild horses” in the African Namib.

The researchers inferred the existence of the horse breed, which is now extinct, from analyzes of extensive DNA samples. The genetic material came from 278 horses and mules over a period of more than 40,000 years. These samples of historical and modern genetic material formed the core of the study. The 120 authors wrote that no animal other than humans has undergone such a comprehensive genetic study for various epochs.

But what remains of the DNA remains unrevealed: why did the two lines disappear again? Lead author Antoine Faggs of the University of Toulouse believes that human aggression is the most important cause. Externally, the horses that lived on the Iberian Peninsula or in Siberia looked a little like the animals that today roam through the dressage arena, fly over ditches on the show-jumping track or rush across the finish line at the racetracks. Perhaps the now extinct representatives of horses were strong and clumsy, genetic studies show.

It took some time for elegance and speed to become fashionable in the world of European horses. For nearly three millennia, humans lived with horses by their side before they began to appreciate light-footed horses around the seventh century. The multidisciplinary team of authors hypothesizes that the decisive impetus for this came from the Persians. The group of experts was able to track changes in the animals’ appearance using genetic markers that represent traits such as speed and agility. Accordingly, around the same time with the Islamic expansion in the Mediterranean, Europeans began to breed their horses under aspects that had long been revered in the Sassanid kingdom of the Persians.

The Persians were considered to be the most talented horse breeder of their time, and thus perhaps set an example for other cultures. In order to illustrate the change in the breeding attitude in Europe at that time, one must, for example, imagine a beloved Icelandic pony today alongside a graceful Arabian horse. However, the new ideals of the seventh to ninth centuries were only the starting point for a whole series of important breeding interventions, all of which increased the sporting character of horses. “In the past few hundred years, we have affected the horse genome much more than we have done in the 4,000 years of domestication,” Orlando says.

As recently as last year, the Botai culture in Kazakhstan was considered the cradle of the local horse

However, in future studies, he and his colleagues will focus on these early stages of the human-horse relationship. It is still not clear where horses were first domesticated. According to the head of the study, this event is central to human history and is still poorly understood today. “It’s crazy,” Orlando says.

It seems that the matter has already been settled. Until last year, scientists believed that the first horse whisperers were members of the former Botai culture in the Kazakh steppes. But like many assumptions about turning a horse into a pet, this turned out to be wrong. And the Iberian Peninsula, which until recently was a possible home for the first horse domestication, was also excluded according to the current study. When asked for his advice as to where horses were most likely to be tamed for the first time, first author Fages listed only three regions: today’s Anatolia, and the Pontocaspis region in the Eurasian steppes and the Middle East. Presumably, future studies on this question will show that the horse teaches people patience – and the ability to constantly change perspectives.

Leave a Comment