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Researchers break down the origins of horse domestication

Researchers break down the origins of horse domestication

Racehorses in Inner Mongolia (China): Today’s domestic horses likely originated about 4,200 years ago on the steppes of western Eurasia, a new study suggests. (nature bulletin)


An international team with the participation of Geneva identified the homeland of the modern domestic horse: it is likely that this is in the Pontic steppes of the North Caucasus. From there domesticated horses spread throughout Europe and Asia.

This refutes the fact that horseback riding is linked to the massive spread of the nomadic Yamnaja culture to Europe about 5,000 years ago and that it encouraged the spread of Indo-European languages. That’s what 162 researchers from around the world presented to paleontologist Ludovic Orlando of the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris in the journal Nature.

When humans began to tame and use wild horses, this has not yet been fully elucidated. That is why the international research team has now collected the remains of 273 horses, including those from Iberia, Anatolia, the steppes of West Asia and Central Asia.

With the help of genetic analyzes of these legacies, which are between 2,000 and 50,000 years old, researchers have determined the center of horse domestication. This is thus in the Lower Volga-Don region of the North Caucasus, which is part of today’s Russia.

Spread 4200 years ago

About 4,200 years ago, according to researchers, a single genetic profile, which was initially limited to the Pontic steppes of the North Caucasus, began to displace all groups of wild horses from the Atlantic Ocean to Mongolia within a few centuries.

Therefore, this victory march is linked to two dominant genes. Therefore, genes named GSDMC and ZFPM1 are associated with more resilient, stress-resistant behavior and stronger backbones. These features ensured the success of the equestrian culture, which fundamentally changed mobility and warfare.

The study was co-authored by the University of Geneva, the Museum of Natural History in Geneva, and the Museum of Natural History in the City of Geneva, among others.

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