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May 8, 2012

Ukraine and Kazakhstan – Home to Horse Domestication

Kyiv, May 8, 2012. An international team of scientists concluded that, most likely, horse domestication originated in the western part of the Eurasian steppe, more precisely – the steppes of modern-day Ukraine and part of Kazakhstan. The results of the research were recently published by the scientific journal PNAS that focuses on the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

“The domestication of wild horses had a profound effect on human history – offering nutrition, transportation and a leg up in warfare, among other advantages. But there are still many unanswered questions about when and where our species began its long love affair with horses,” this is how a Discovery Channel starts its latest story on horse domestication (published on January 30, 2012). Citing various research works, the author argues that “horses may have been domesticated independently in at least 18 different places”.

The work titled Reconstructing the Origin and Spread of Horse Domestication in the Eurasian Steppe dispels this popular belief with most recent data. A team of zoologists, archaeologists, historians, and breeding experts from the UK, the USA, China, Georgia, Russia, and Kazakhstan gathered evidence from archaeology, mitochondrial DNA, and Y-chromosomal DNA to define the best-fitting scenario for wild horse domestication.

The researchers came up with 12 possible scenarios and investigated the likelihood of each. They concluded that domesticated horses most likely originate from Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

“Some of the earliest archaeological evidence for managed horse populations has been found [in the steppes of Ukraine and northwest Kazakhstan],” says the publication in PNAS. The scientists were able to discover additional evidence to support this theory.

Interestingly, the researchers learned that tamed animals were continuously spread out of the area of domestication and restocked with local wild horses by the peoples inhabiting the territory. The scientists suggest that integration from the wild was mainly female mediated. A start date for horse domestication is possibly 6,000 years ago.

The researchers argue that ancient people captured wild female horses and this way restocked their herds. The authors state that, typically, domestication involves already tamed females being impregnated by wild males.

Full text of the research can be found here.