Publications

Spotted phenotypes in horses lost attractiveness in the Middle Ages

Wutke, S., Benecke, N., Sandoval-Castellanos, E. et al.

Horses have been valued for their diversity of coat colour since prehistoric times; this is especially the case since their domestication in the Caspian steppe in ~3,500 BC. Although we can assume that human preferences were not constant, we have only anecdotal information about how domestic horses were influenced by humans. Our results from genotype analyses show a significant increase in spotted coats in early domestic horses (Copper Age to Iron Age). In contrast, medieval horses carried significantly fewer alleles for these phenotypes, whereas solid phenotypes (i.e., chestnut) became dominant. This shift may have been supported because of (i) pleiotropic disadvantages, (ii) a reduced need to separate domestic horses from their wild counterparts, (iii) a lower religious prestige, or (iv) novel developments in weaponry. These scenarios may have acted alone or in combination. However, the dominance of chestnut is a remarkable feature of the medieval horse population.

Citation

Wutke, S., Benecke, N., Sandoval-Castellanos, E. et al. "Spotted phenotypes in horses lost attractiveness in the Middle Ages" Scientific Reports (2016): 38,548