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Encyclopedia > Domestication of the horse

There are a number of theories regarding the domestication of the horse. Although horses began appearing in cave art as early as 30,000 BC, these were truly wild horses and were probably hunted for meat; how and when they became domesticated is less clear. The most common date of domestication and use as a means of transport is c. 2000 BC, although there is some evidence horses might have been domesticated earlier. Domesticated animals, plants, and other organisms are those whose collective behavior, life cycle, or physiology has been altered as a result of their breeding and living conditions being under human control for multiple generations. ... Binomial name Equus caballus Linnaeus, 1758 The Horse (Equus caballus) is a sizeable ungulate mammal, one of the seven modern species of the genus Equus. ... Cave, or rock, paintings are paintings painted on cave or rock walls and ceilings, usually dating to pre_historic times. ... The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic (Greek παλαιός paleos=old and λίθος lithos=stone or the Old Stone Age) was the first period in the development of human technology of the Stone Age. ... (Redirected from 2000 BC) (21st century BC - 20th century BC - 19th century BC - other centuries) (3rd millennium BC - 2nd millennium BC - 1st millennium BC) Events 2064 - 1986 BC -- Twin Dynasty wars in Egypt 2000 BC -- Farmers and herders travel south from Ethiopia and settle in Kenya. ...

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Older theories (pre-1999)

Before the common use of DNA in such research, anthropologists and evolutionary biologists had to content themselves with studying features of existing animals and comparing them to preserved specimens from the past—frozen remains, other preserved remains, and fossils. For horses, the data led to the hypothesis that horses were domesticated in one small area, perhaps around 4600 BC on the grassland steppes of Eurasia. Space-filling model of a section of DNA molecule Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions specifying the biological development of all cellular forms of life (and many viruses). ... See Anthropology. ... Evolutionary biology is a subfield of biology concerned with the origin and descent of species, as well as their change over time, i. ... A fossil Ammonite Fossils are the mineralized remains of animals or plants or other traces such as footprints. ... (6th millennium BC – 5th millennium BC – 4th millennium BC – other millennia) Events 4713 BC – The epoch (origin) of the Julian Period described by Joseph Justus Scaliger occurred on January 1, the astronomical Julian day number zero. ... A steppe in Western Kazakhstan in early spring In physical geography, a steppe (from Russian step) is a plain without trees (apart from those near rivers and lakes); it is similar to a prairie, although a prairie is generally reckoned as being dominated by tall grasses, while short grasses are... African-Eurasian aspect of Earth Eurasia is the landmass composed of the continents of Europe and Asia. ...


Theories from DNA evidence

More recently, a comparative study of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from living and fossil horses suggests that horses were domesticated in many places, at many times. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA, or less popularly, mDNA) is DNA which is not located in the nucleus of the cell but in the mitochondria. ...


Evolutionary biologists at Uppsala University in Sweden studied mtDNA from 191 pedigree horses (Vilà et al., 2001), including primitive English and Swedish animals and one breed derived from animals imported to Iceland by the Vikings. They also obtained DNA samples from a Przewalski's horse, a small Mongolian equine thought by some to be a sister species to the original wild horses. They compared these samples with fossil DNA from leg bones of horses that have been preserved in the Alaskan permafrost for more than 12,000 years and with other samples from 1000- to 2000-year-old archaeological sites in southern Sweden and Estonia. Uppsala University (Swedish Uppsala universitet) is a public university in Uppsala, Sweden. ... Royal motto (French): Dieu et mon droit (Translated: God and my right) Englands location within the UK Official language English de facto Capital London de facto Largest city London Area - Total Ranked 1st UK 130,395 km² Population - Total (mid-2004) - Density Ranked 1st UK 50. ... The name Viking is a borrowed word from the native Scandinavian term for the Norse warriors who raided the coasts of Scandinavia, the British Isles, and other parts of Europe from the late 8th century to the 11th century. ... Binomial name Equus przewalskii Poliakov, 1881 Przewalskis Horse (Equus przewalskii or ), pronounced (p)she-VAHL-skeez horse, also known as the Mongolian Wild Horse, or Takhi, is the closest living relative of the Domestic Horse and may in fact be the same species. ... State nickname: The Last Frontier, The Land of the Midnight Sun Other U.S. States Capital Juneau Largest city Anchorage Governor Frank Murkowski (R) Senators Ted Stevens (R) Lisa Murkowski (R) Official languages English Area 1,067,653 mi² / 1,717,854 km² (1st)  - Land 1,481,347 km²  - Water... This article is about frozen ground. ...


The mtDNA analysis showed that the modern horses had almost as much genetic variation as samples of fossil horses. By contrast, similar mtDNA analyses had shown that modern individuals from cattle, sheep, water buffalo, and pig breeds are much less genetically diverse than their ancient forbears. This would suggest that horses, unlike the other domestic animals studied, had ancestors in many places, implying that domestication occurred in many areas. Binomial name Bos taurus Linnaeus, 1758 Cattle (called simply cows in vernacular usage) are domesticated ungulates, a member of the subfamily Bovinae of the family Bovidae. ... Binomial name Ovis aries Linnaeus, 1758 A sheep is any of several woolly ruminant quadrupeds, but most commonly the Domestic Sheep (Ovis aries), which probably descends from the wild moufflon of south-central and south-west Asia. ... Binomial name Bubalus arnee (Kerr, 1792) The Water Buffalo is a very large ungulate. ... Species Sus barbatus Sus bucculentus Sus cebifrons Sus celebensis Sus domesticus Sus heureni Sus philippensis Sus salvanius Sus scrofa Sus timoriensis Sus verrucosus Pigs are ungulates native to Eurasia collectively grouped under the genus Sus within the Suidae family. ...


Investigations by professor Hans Ellegren, et al., Sweden, published in Nature Genetics 2004 has revealed that all horses, big and small, probably descend from one single stallion. These investigations were performed on chromosome Y. On the other hand, similar investigations showed that there are at least a hundred different maternal ancestors. 2004(MMIV) is a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... A stallion is an ungelded male horse after reaching the age of sexual maturity, usually between two and three years of age. ...


The Equivocal evidence: When and Where domestication occurred

The when is also difficult to establish, and here again there seem to be several camps. One claim is that evidence at several sites shows equine tooth wear that only could appear from the friction of a bit against the molars. Sites include Dereivka, a Ukrainian settlement site (circa 45003500 BC), and the Botai culture, dated 35003000 BC in the northern steppes of Kazakhstan, east of the Ishim river. One idea is that the horses with bit wear were part of the religion and were kept as objects of veneration; this is clearly the beginning of domestication. Another idea is that there would be a large population of equines in the area; some would be domesticated and others would be still-wild. The domesticated individuals would be used to hunt the wild individuals; only the domesticated individuals would show bit wear. Dereivka is a site associated with the Sredny Stog culture dating ca. ... (6th millennium BC – 5th millennium BC – 4th millennium BC – other millennia) Events 4713 BC – The epoch (origin) of the Julian Period described by Joseph Justus Scaliger occurred on January 1, the astronomical Julian day number zero. ... (36th century BC - 35th century BC - 34th century BC - other centuries) (5th millennium BC - 4th millennium BC - 3rd millennium BC) Events 3450 (?) - Stage IId of the Naqada culture in Egypt Significant persons Inventions, discoveries, introductions ? - Irrigation in Ancient Egypt ? - First cities in Egypt ? - First use of Cuneiform (script) Categories: Centuries... (36th century BC - 35th century BC - 34th century BC - other centuries) (5th millennium BC - 4th millennium BC - 3rd millennium BC) Events 3450 (?) - Stage IId of the Naqada culture in Egypt Significant persons Inventions, discoveries, introductions ? - Irrigation in Ancient Egypt ? - First cities in Egypt ? - First use of Cuneiform (script) Categories: Centuries... (31st century BC - 30th century BC - 29th century BC - other centuries) (4th millennium BC - 3rd millennium BC - 2nd millennium BC) Events 3000 BC - Djer, second pharaoh of Egypt, started to reign. ... The Ishim River (Иши́м, another name is Esil River) is a river running through Kazakhstan and Russia. ...


Another camp resists this evidence because there's no proof that the horses were actually domesticated, as opposed to merely tamed. Marsha A. Levine, one of the foremost researchers in this field, points out that traditional peoples (aboriginal hunter-gatherers and horticulturists) world-wide tame individuals from wild species, typically by hand-rearing infants whose parents have been killed. A species cannot be said to be truly domesticated until it will reliably breed in captivity.


Levine's model of horse domestication starts with individual near-infant horses (foals) being kept as pets while the adult horses were slaughtered for meat. Foals are relatively small and easy to handle. Horses, being herd animals, need companionship to thrive, and the modern data show that foals can and will bond to other domestic animals to meet their intimacy needs. Levine envisions horses being made into pets happening repeatedly over time, until the great discovery that these pets could be put to work.


The horse may have been domesticated in one isolated locale in 4500 BC, but this scenario is not without some serious anthropological puzzles. For instance, how could the Ukraine's indigenous nomadic hunter-gatherers proceed to the sophistication of proto-Tocharian disk-wheeled ox-drawn wagons in such a short time span (ref. Shippensburg University; read 5000 bc. to 4000 bc., [1])? Use of the wheel in this fashion commonly appears much later in the historical record (see Wheel), and wagon construction techniques require advances utterly beyond reach of peoples seemingly still living in the Stone Age (see History of Ukraine). Also questioned is why these advanced peoples suddenly appear and then disappear from the local archaeological record. External influences are suggested but unknown; others may suggest transported evidence. (6th millennium BC – 5th millennium BC – 4th millennium BC – other millennia) Events 4713 BC – The epoch (origin) of the Julian Period described by Joseph Justus Scaliger occurred on January 1, the astronomical Julian day number zero. ... Anthropology (from the Greek word άνθρωπος, human) consists of the study of humankind (see genus Homo). ... The Tocharians were the easternmost members of the Indo-European people, inhabiting the Tarim basin in what is now Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, northwestern Peoples Republic of China. ... A driving wheel on a steam locomotive. ... A driving wheel on a steam locomotive. ... A wagon (in old British English waggon) is a wheeled vehicle, ordinarily with four wheels, usually pulled by an animal such as a horse, mule or ox, which was used for transport of heavy goods in the past. ... Cranes are essential in large construction projects, such as this skyscraper Construction on the North Bytown Bridge in Ottawa, Canada. ... Stone Age fishing hook. ... After the Union of Lublin in 1569 and the formation of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth the gentry of Ukraine voted for membership in the Polish part of the Commonwealth. ...


As Levine points out, the unequivocal date of domestication and use as a means of transport is circa 2000 BC, the Sintashta chariot burials. However, shortly thereafter the expansion of the domestic horse throughout Europe was little short of explosive. In the space of possibly 500 years, there is evidence of horse-pulled chariots in Greece, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. By another 500 years, the horse-pulled chariot had spread to China. The Sintashta fortified settlement in the southern Urals is dated to ca. ... Chariot burials are tombs in which the deceased was buried together with his chariot, usually including his horses and other possessions. ... Chariot was the name of a WW2 naval weapon, the British manned torpedo. ...


What came first, riding or driving?

The real question for a given time and locale is: which came first, domestication of the horse or the invention of the wheel? A driving wheel on a steam locomotive. ...


David W. Anthony, one of the co-founders of the Institute for Ancient Equestrian Studies, wrote (Anthony, 1998):

"The Dereivka stallion exhibits bit wear made by a hard bit - perhaps bone. The amount of wear would have required at least 300 hours of riding with a hard bit, according to our experiments. If the deposit containing the stallion skull and mandible dates to about 4000 BC, as Brown, Telegin and I would argue, it pre-dates the invention of the wheel. If the bit wear at Dereivka precedes the introduction of wheeled vehicles, it probably resulted from riding. The bit wear at Dereivka is the earliest evidence for the use of horses as transport animals anywhere in the world. "

However, there is dissent in regard to this answer, as a bit could be used to lead a horse, being seen as far less stressful than leading it by binding its neck. A horse could easily have been lead by fastening a bit between its teeth that was connected to a leash, and conveying it to pull a primitive plow. Since oxen were usually relegated to this duty in Mesopotamia, two-thousand years before the generalised date of horse use in more northern climes, it could be guessed that elsewhere early plows might have been attempted with the horse, and a bit may indeed have been signifigant as part of agarian development rather than equestrian technology. Analysis on equine remains should also focus on shoulder and spine stress, to determine if heavy pressure such as a plow can be discerned. (5th millennium BC – 4th millennium BC – 3rd millennium BC - other millennia) // Events City of Ur in Mesopotamia (40th century BC). ... For the constellation known as The Plough see Ursa Major. ... For the constellation known as The Plough see Ursa Major. ...


Ancient or early-domesticated horses were relatively small by modern standards, perhaps 12.2 to 14.2 hands high (see horse for explanation of hands) or 1.27 to 1.47 meters, measured at the shoulder. The small stature of these horses, compared to modern riding horses of 15.2 to 17.2 hh (1.6 to 1.8 meters), led theorists to believe the ancient horses were too small to be ridden and so must have been driven. Binomial name Equus caballus Linnaeus, 1758 The Horse (Equus caballus) is a sizeable ungulate mammal, one of the seven modern species of the genus Equus. ...


However, this does not necessarily tarry with the strength of equivalent modern breeds; for example Fell ponies, believed to be descended from Roman cavalry horses, are comfortably able to carry fully grown adults (although with rather limited ground clearance) at an average height of 13.2 hands (1.37 m).


Undoubtedly, our understanding of early horse domestication will continue to evolve and continue to be hotly debated.


See also

Binomial name Equus caballus Linnaeus, 1758 The Horse (Equus caballus) is a sizeable ungulate mammal, one of the seven modern species of the genus Equus. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Eurasian nomads. ... Evolution of horse showing reconstruction of the fossil species obtained from successive rock strata. ... This page is a list of horse and pony breeds. ... Horse breaking (or horse starting) refers to the process used by humans to get horses to let themselves be ridden or harnessed. ... Horse breeding is the process of using selective breeding to produce additional individuals of a given phenotype, that is, continuing a breed. ... Tack is any of the various accessories worn by horses in the course of their use as domesticated animals. ... Horses teeth are often used to estimate the animals age, hence the saying Dont look a gift horse in the mouth. At five years of age a horse has forty teeth: twenty-four molars or jaw teeth twelve incisors or front teeth four tusks or canine teeth between... 19th century etching of the Trojan Horse The Trojan Horse is part of the myth of the Trojan War, as told in the Latin epic poem The Aeneid of Virgil. ...

References

  • Anthony, David W. (1998). The opening of the Eurasian steppe at 2000 BC. In The Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Peoples of Eastern Central Asia, ed. Victor H. Mair, vol. 1. (Journal of Indo-European Studies Monograph 26). Washington, D.C.: The Institute for the Study of Man.
  • Vilà, C, Leonard, JA, Götherström, A, Marklund, S, Sandberg, K, Lidén, K, Wayne, RK, and Ellegren, H. (2001). Widespread origins of domestic horse lineages. Science 291: 474-477.

(21st century BC - 20th century BC - 19th century BC - other centuries) (3rd millennium BC - 2nd millennium BC - 1st millennium BC) Events 2071 BC - Magh Ithe, first recorded battle in Ireland myths. ...

External links


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