Science & Equine

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Written by Anouk van Breukelen
Posted in Breeding

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Genomic transformation of horses in the last five millennia

Since the domestication of the horse, horses have served several purposes. For example horses were used in warfare, traveling, agriculture and nowadays for sport. The origin of domestication of the horse remains unknow so far. However, the horse genome is known to have undergone large changes within the last ~2,300 years. 

The results show that during early domestication two, now extinct, horse lineages existed. One at the far west (Iberia) and one at the far east (Siberia) of Eurasia. However, neither contributed significantly to modern horse diversity. The results also show that multiple alleles associated with racing, including the MSTN “speed gene”, only increased in frequency in the last millennium. Overall, the development of modern breeding has impacted genetic diversity more dramatically than breeding in the previous millennia.

Expert opinion by Anouk van Breukelen

These results give an interesting insight into the ancestry of the modern horse. Large gaps remain in the knowledge about the origin of the modern domesticated horse which asks for further research.

> From: Fages et al., Cell (2019) 1-17. All rights reserved to Elsevier Inc.. Click here for the online summary.

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