Archaeologists thought they'd wrapped up the origin of domesticated horses long ago, when remains of ancient Botai horses from Kazakhstan were found, suggesting a culture of milking and riding. The chain of events seemed clear and obvious, but with many things obviousness is a suggestion of illusion. And so it was, as with many closed cases, new DNA evidence points elsewhere. The evidence no longer adds up, as researchers have shown.
The genomes of 28 modern horses were mapped and compared to that of 18 ancient horse specimens. What has been revealed is that modern horses don't match up to any of the known ancestors. There has been a familial relationship to the Przewalski's horse, which are the last true wild horse around today, however they are not directly related. The team of researchers from the Natural History Museum of Denmark have uncovered more of a mystery than a solution.
All modern domestic horses appear to have formed their own family, which is different to that of ancient horses. It would suggest that the Przewalski's horse is related to the ancient domesticated animals and became wild once more, adopting a feral life. The separate genome between modern horses and ancient domesticated breeds can be seen further than one comparison. When the scientists compared genomes for Botai horses (the first known to be domesticated) to another similar breed called Borly4, they found a relation. Borly4 horses are in turn related to the modern day Prezwalski.
It does appear that horse domestication must have occurred in another part of the world, from which the modern horse genome is based upon. With only an indirect relationship to the last known wild horse, it can be assumed that a different family of horses were cross bred with an ancestor of the Przewalski's horse, giving rise to the traditional domestic breeds of today.
Want to find out more about this study? It's documented in Science Magazine.
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