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Horses and the Indo-Europeans
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Horses and the Indo-Europeans

The horse has often been associated with Indo-Europeans and their expansion through Eurasia. Yet, the use of Equus Caballus, the modern horse may have begun, first as food and then draught animals. Finally, they were ridden by the various Indo-European tribes as they pillaged and plundered their way across Eurasia.

The ancestor of the horse, Equus ferus, was widespread; however, by 7600BC the species was extinct in North America and occurred mostly in Eurasia. Modern horses are descended from a subspecies of horse that survived in Eurasia through the Ice Ages. The origin of the modern European horse, Equus ferus Caballus, was in the Caspian area, and to a limited extent in the Iberian Peninsula.

Horses were first domesticated in Kazakhstan and the Ukraine. Studies indicate modern horses can be genetically linked to 77 ancestral mothers, probably because of the constant restocking of herds as the Indo-Europeans fanned out in the all directions from Eurasian steppes, their heartland. The study also points to just one ancestral father.

The earliest possible sign of horse domestication is the Samara culture on the middle Volga, in the fifth millennium BC, although the evidence is controversial. Another area where domestication of the horse could have taken place is in Sredny Stog culture, which is along the banks of the river Dnieper the site is dated to 4500—3500 BC.

At Krasnyi Yar, in northern Kazakhstan, researchers have found evidence of horse domestication. It is the copper age site of the Botai culture and is dated to about 3500 BC.  The remains of horses have been unearthed, numbering 300,000 bones. The people of Botai also had mares for milking because pottery with traces of mare’s milk was found. Corrals had a concentration of phosphorus in a circular pattern showing the Botai corralled their horses.

Botai horses may have also been ridden. The researchers found evidence of bit wearing. The inhabitants also used horse dung to enrich the soil. The shin bones of these horses were thinner and more gracile, compared to their wild counterparts, suggesting horses were being bred by the Botai culture.

The horse would drive the next wave of Indo-European expansion by way of the chariot, heralding a new chapter in human history.

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  1. Chestnut Mare
    Chestnut Mare
    Vote no 2. Great blog Vin, fascinating! I am not surprised that horses first began to be domesticated in Kazakhstan - that is the land of the Cossacks, who have always been very famous horsemen! This is Maggie, btw (I have different user-names for different sites!) I have another blog for Ofhorse! coming soon, look out for that :-)
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    1. Vin Chauhun
      Thanks Chestnut Mare, It does seem like Siberia is were horse domestication first happened, but I wouldn't be surprised if it swings back to the Ukraine. i will be doing a follow up article, i should have it posted here in about to days.
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