The origins and spread of domestic horses from the Western Eurasian steppes

Pablo Librado, Naveed Khan, Antoine Fages, Mariya A. Kusliy, Tomasz Suchan, Laure Tonasso-Calvière, Stéphanie Schiavinato, Duha Alioglu, Aurore Fromentier, Aude Perdereau, Jean-Marc Aury, Charleen Gaunitz, Lorelei Chauvey, Andaine Seguin-Orlando, Clio Der Sarkissian, John Southon, Beth Shapiro, Alexey A. Tishkin, Alexey A. Kovalev, Saleh AlquraishiAhmed H. Alfarhan, Khaled A. S. Al-Rasheid, Timo Seregély, Lutz Klassen, Rune Iversen, Olivier Bignon-Lau, Pierre Bodu, Monique Olive, Jean-Christophe Castel, Myriam Boudadi-Maligne, Nadir Alvarez, Mietje Germonpré, Magdalena Moskal-del Hoyo, Jarosław Wilczyński, Sylwia Pospuła, Anna Lasota-Kuś, Krzysztof Tunia, Marek Nowak, Eve Rannamäe, Urmas Saarma, Gennady Boeskorov, Lembi Lōugas, René Kyselý, Lubomír Peške, Adrian Bălășescu, Valentin Dumitrașcu, Roxana Dobrescu, Daniel Gerber, Viktória Kiss, Anna Szécsényi-Nagy, Balázs G. Mende, Zsolt Gallina, Krisztina Somogyi, Gabriella Kulcsár, Erika Gál, Robin Bendrey, Morten E. Allentoft, Ghenadie Sirbu, Valentin Dergachev, Henry Shephard, Noémie Tomadini, Sandrine Grouard, Aleksei Kasparov, Alexander E. Basilyan, Mikhail A. Anisimov, Pavel A. Nikolskiy, Elena Y. Pavlova, Vladimir Pitulko, Gottfried Brem, Barbara Wallner, Christoph Schwall, Marcel Keller, Keiko Kitagawa, Alexander N. Bessudnov, Alexander Bessudnov, William Taylor, Jérome Magail, Jamiyan-Ombo Gantulga, Jamsranjav Bayarsaikhan, Diimaajav Erdenebaatar, Kubatbeek Tabaldiev, Enkhbayar Mijiddorj, Bazartseren Boldgiv, Turbat Tsagaan, Mélanie Pruvost, Sandra Olsen, Cheryl A. Makarewicz, Silvia Valenzuela Lamas, Silvia Albizuri Canadell, Ariadna Nieto Espinet, Ma Pilar Iborra, Jaime Lira Garrido, Esther Rodríguez González, Sebastián Celestino, Carmen Olària, Juan Luis Arsuaga, Nadiia Kotova, Alexander Pryor, Pam Crabtree, Rinat Zhumatayev, Abdesh Toleubaev, Nina L. Morgunova, Tatiana Kuznetsova, David Lordkipanize, Matilde Marzullo, Ornella Prato, Giovanna Bagnasco Gianni, Umberto Tecchiati, Benoit Clavel, Sébastien Lepetz, Hossein Davoudi, Marjan Mashkour, Natalia Ya. Berezina, Philipp W. Stockhammer, Johannes Krause, Wolfgang Haak, Arturo Morales-Muñiz, Norbert Benecke, Michael Hofreiter, Arne Ludwig, Alexander S. Graphodatsky, Joris Peters, Kirill Yu. Kiryushin, Tumur-Ochir Iderkhangai, Nikolay A. Bokovenko, Sergey K. Vasiliev, Nikolai N. Seregin, Konstantin V. Chugunov, Natalya A. Plasteeva, Gennady F. Baryshnikov, Ekaterina Petrova, Mikhail Sablin, Elina Ananyevskaya, Andrey Logvin, Irina Shevnina, Victor Logvin, Saule Kalieva, Valeriy Loman, Igor Kukushkin, Ilya Merz, Victor Merz, Sergazy Sakenov, Victor Varfolomeyev, Emma Usmanova, Viktor Zaibert, Benjamin Arbuckle, Andrey B. Belinskiy, Alexej Kalmykov, Sabine Reinhold, Svend Hansen, Aleksandr I. Yudin, Alekandr A. Vybornov, Andrey Epimakhov, Natalia S. Berezina, Natalia Roslyakova, Pavel A. Kosintsev, Pavel F. Kuznetsov, David Anthony, Guus J. Kroonen, Kristian Kristiansen, Patrick Wincker, Alan Outram, Ludovic Orlando

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Domestication of horses fundamentally transformed long-range mobility and warfare1. However, modern domesticated breeds do not descend from the earliest domestic horse lineage associated with archaeological evidence of bridling, milking and corralling2–4 at Botai, Central Asia around 3500 bc3. Other longstanding candidate regions for horse domestication, such as Iberia5 and Anatolia6, have also recently been challenged. Thus, the genetic, geographic and temporal origins of modern domestic horses have remained unknown. Here we pinpoint the Western Eurasian steppes, especially the lower Volga-Don region, as the homeland of modern domestic horses. Furthermore, we map the population changes accompanying domestication from 273 ancient horse genomes. This reveals that modern domestic horses ultimately replaced almost all other local populations as they expanded rapidly across Eurasia from about 2000 bc, synchronously with equestrian material culture, including Sintashta spoke-wheeled chariots. We find that equestrianism involved strong selection for critical locomotor and behavioural adaptations at the GSDMC and ZFPM1 genes. Our results reject the commonly held association7 between horseback riding and the massive expansion of Yamnaya steppe pastoralists into Europe around 3000 bc8,9 driving the spread of Indo-European languages10. This contrasts with the scenario in Asia where Indo-Iranian languages, chariots and horses spread together, following the early second millennium bc Sintashta culture11,12.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2021

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