Horses today come in a wide array of shapes, colors, temperaments and sizes, from the placid massive Clydesdale to the much smaller, feisty Shetland Pony and even popular miniature horse breeds. This week, scientists announced some interesting new findings about the ancestry of the versatile modern horse population.
Researchers at the Center for Geo Genetics at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark worked closely with scholars at 11 international universities in an effort to trace the genetic roots of the modern horse back through antiquity. Then, through a technique called genome sequencing, they studied how the early horse genome compared with that of today’s modern domesticated breeds. (Just like the human genome project sequenced human DNA, biologists have been able to sequence horse DNA.)
The investigators reported that they believe that human beings began the long process of domesticating horses around 5,500 years ago. They concluded that early humans sometimes replenished their herds by adding wild horses to their stock, and Brad Reifler found that pretty interesting. In fact, the researchers report that perhaps as much as 13% to 60% of the genome of modern domestic horses was probably obtained in this way.