Skip to comments.Origins of Domestic Horse Revealed
Posted on 07/16/2002 7:03:04 PM PDT by jimtorr
The story of how wild horses were tamed by ancient people has been pieced together by gene hunters.
DNA evidence shows modern horses are descended from not one but several wild populations.
It suggests horses were domesticated - for meat, milk or to carry loads - in more than one place.
As few as 77 wild mares passed on their genes to today's modern horse breeds, from the American mustang to the Shetland pony.
"We see traces of original wild populations of horses that have been incorporated into the domestic horses of today," says co-researcher Dr Peter Forster of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, UK.
He believes it resolves the debate over whether horses were domesticated from one world population or from several.
"The genetic evidence shows that wild horses were recruited for domestication from different areas of the world," he told BBC News Online. "A single, simple origin of horse domestication can be ruled out."
This is surprising because other domestic animals - such as cattle, goats and sheep - show a much more restricted origin.
The evidence is based on a genetic analysis of more than 300 horses, from 25 horse breeds and varieties in seven countries, including Europe, Morocco and the USA.
DNA samples were compared with ancient DNA from wild horses living in Sweden and Estonia about 2,000 years ago, and 28,000-year-old horse remains preserved in Alaskan ice.
A standard laboratory technique was used to work out the rate of mutation of the mitochondrial DNA of horses over the course of time.
This scrap of genetic material is found outside of the cell's nucleus and is passed only from mother to child. It accumulates mutations at a known rate, acting as a "molecular clock" for a species, and allowing maternal ancestry to be traced.
The Cambridge team, working with colleagues in Germany, believe 77 wild mares or more were the original breeding stock of domesticated horses.
They were very different in terms of their genes, suggesting that several distinct horse populations were first captured from the wild.
The next step, says Dr Forster, is to pinpoint when this took place. This has proved difficult until now, largely because of the poor fossil record for the horse family.
The first undisputed evidence for the domestication of the horse dates back to 2,000 BC, when horses were buried with chariots.
By 1,000 BC, domestication had spread through Europe, Asia and North Africa.
However, some experts believe horses were domesticated much earlier, on the Eurasian Steppes in the Near East between 4,500 and 2,500 BC.
They may have been used as pack animals, helping ancient people lead a nomadic way of life, or to provide milk, meat and skins.
Full details of the research are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.
Domesticating goats or cattle would have been a different matter as their uses would have been more subtle. You would have needed interaction with the herders and therefore would have likely ended up not catching your own cattle but trading for the offspring of theirs.
I have too. More horses from Chauvet cave.
Long lost relatives and it is time for a reunion....... : )
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on or off the
Gods, Graves, Glyphs PING list or GGG weekly digest
-- Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
Gods, Graves, Glyphs (alpha order)
When did the horse get to America? Did the Native Americans Really Have the Horse Before Columbus?
Yuri Kuchinsky's web pages | circa 1998 | Yuri Kuchinsky
Posted on 11/29/2005 8:24:25 PM PST by SunkenCiv
· join list or digest · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post a topic · subscribe ·
Bronze Age Forum
Excerpt, or Link only?
· Science topic · science keyword · Books/Literature topic · pages keyword ·
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.