Study: Most Modern Horses Descendants of Oriental Stallions

The paternal lines of nearly all modern horses trace to stallions brought to Europe from Asia over the last 700 years.
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Study: Most Modern Horses Descendants of Oriental Stallions
Photo: Courtesy University of California Davis
Researchers from Vetmeduni Vienna who have analyzed the Y chromosomes of more than 50 horses representing 21 breeds have found that the paternal lines of nearly all modern horses trace to stallions brought to Europe from Asia over the last 700 years.

The findings, reported in Current Biology on June 29, reveal the overwhelming influence of breeding schemes driven by strong selection on males. With the genetic genealogies in hand, it’s now possible to elucidate the origin and relationship of any stallion line in detail, the researchers say.

“Apart from stallion lines in Northern European breeds, all stallion lines detected in other modern breeds derive from more recently introduced Oriental ancestors,” says Barbara Wallner, DrMedVet, of the Vetmeduni Vienna Institute of Animal Breeding and Genetics, in Austria. “Our data therefore illuminate the enormous impact modern horse breeding strategies—characterized by strong selection of males and the import of Oriental stallions—during the past few hundred years had on Y chromosome diversity.”

Y chromosomes are passed down from fathers to their sons. This inheritance pattern makes the Y chromosome a good place to look for clues about the unique history of males of a species. In the new study, the researchers focused on a portion of the Y chromosome that is passed down from one generation to another faithfully. Any changes to that portion of the Y chromosome are the result of new mutations

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