New genetic research suggests that the ancestral home of modern domestic horses was located in Western Eurasia's steppes around 4,200 years ago.
In Russia's modern Russia, the horses are strong and gentle and have been in the forefront of replacing all other breeds in Europe, Asia, and North America in less than 1,000 years.
Horse travel was officially globalized by 1000 BCE. It fundamentally transformed human movement, culture and warfare.
Although the ancient horses that were bred in Russia's lower Volga region weren't the first to be domesticated, there are other examples of horse riding in Central Asia and Iberia. However, the unique genetic profile of these animals seems to have been most beneficial to humans.
Researchers mapped 273 ancient horse genomes to determine the population changes. Each location was possible for horse domestication. They found that modern domestic horses were clustered together in a group that became geographically common in the second millennium BCE.
This cluster was genetically most similar to horses who lived in the Western Eurasian steppes during the third millennium BCE.
These results indicate that the modern domestic horse population was largely replaced by its ancestors as they expanded across Eurasia.
The authors conclude that "the new package of chariotry, improved breeds of horses, and chestnut coloration documented both genetically and linguistically, transformed Eurasian Bronze Age society globally within a few decades after 2000 BCE."
"The adoption of the new institution, whether it was for war, prestige, or both, likely varied between urbanized states in Western Asia and decentralized chiefdoms within Europe." These results open up new research opportunities into the historical development of these different social trajectories.
Two key genes are unique to horses that were bred in this part of Russia, which makes them stand out from other people who lived at that time.
GSDMC1, one gene, is associated with more docile behavior while ZFPM1, the other, is linked with a stronger backbone.
Both the genes and the temperament suggest that horses were bred to ride, with good endurance, weight-bearing ability and calm, trusting temperaments.
These findings add to a growing number of studies that refute the assumption that horseback riding was introduced to Europe around 5000 years ago by nomadic East European herders.
The authors of the new study claim that globalization of horse riding occurred at least a thousand year later. Horses from the Western Eurasian steppes were spread into Anatolia and the lower Danubes, Bohemia and Central Asia, and then to Western Europe, Mongolia and Western Europe.
Genetics indicate that domesticated horses replaced all other local populations between 1500 and 1000 BCE. The perfect horse was the one that humans had created.
The authors explain that this process involved horseback riding and spoke-wheeled Chariots were later technological innovations. They emerged around 2000 to 1800 BCE within the Trans-Ural Sintashta Culture.
"The increased aridity, competition for critical grazing lands, and intensifying territoriality, hierarchy, may have led to the creation of weaponry, warriors, and fortified settlements that are associated with this culture.
In other words: Climate change might have driven horse breeders in Western Eurasia, with their horses, to move outwards into Central Asia.
Their conquests in Asia over the next few centuries could have helped spread their horse breed.
It is possible that the spread of horses into Europe was not as planned. The authors believe that horses were not brought into Europe by war. Instead, specialized horse trainers, chariot builders, and other skilled individuals spread their knowledge, which would have been better than what was available locally.
The authors conclude that "horses with lower back pathologies, enhanced docility, and a high-value commodity would have helped Bronze Age elite long distance trade demands. This would have led to rapid diaspora."
Human society will never be the same.
Nature published the study.