Origins of Domestic Horse Discovered Through Genetic Sequencing

The Przewalski's horse nearly went extinct, but in an effort to save the species it was introduced into the area around Chernobyl in 1998 and to other reserves worldwide. Without humans living in the area, the horse population has been increasing. National Geographic

Genetic Sequencing Pinpoints the Origins of the Domestic Horse

by Rasha Aridi/

People have relied on the modern horse to plow fields, charge into battle and traverse long distances for millennia. Horses have transformed human societies with every stride. But scientists have struggled to answer the seemingly simple question of when and where these animals were domesticated.

It took an international team of more than 160 scientists to pinpoint the origins of the modern horse’s domestication: between 4,200 and 4,700 years ago near the Volga and Don Rivers in southwestern Russia. The team reported their findings this week in the journal Nature.

The researchers collected samples from 273 ancient horses that once lived across Europe and Asia between 50,000 and 200 B.C.E. Using DNA sequencing, the team created a genetic map that allowed them to trace the horses’ lineages. They found four separate lineages, but the one most closely related to modern horses originated in the Volga-Don region, reports Genelle Weule for ABC in Australia.

Their genetic map also revealed that up until about 2,000 B.C.E., horse populations across Europe and Asia were genetically diverse. But within just a few centuries thereafter, the level of variation plummeted, and all domestic horses could be traced back to the population in the Volga-Don region, reports Jonathan Lambert for Science News.

Read the full article at Smithsonian Magazine


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