ORI­GIN OF AM­BLING HORSES TRACED

DNA anal­y­sis sug­gests that gaited horses were brought from the Bri­tish Isles to the North At­lantic is­land by the Norse peo­ple.

EQUUS - - Eq Medicalfro­nt -

y s who set­tled in what is now Ice­land in the 9th cen­tury may have had a pen­chant for gaited horses.

To track the spread of the ge­netic mu­ta­tion that en­ables horses to am­ble, tolt or per­form other “easy” gaits, re­searchers at the Leib­niz In­sti­tute for Zoo and Wildlife Re­search in Ber­lin re­cently worked with sci­en­tists across Europe to an­a­lyze DNA from historic horse re­mains. Specif­i­cally, they looked for a mu­ta­tion of DMRT3, a gene be­lieved to be re­spon­si­ble for gait­ed­ness be­cause it helps govern the co­or­di­na­tion of limb move­ment.

Pre­vi­ous DNA anal­y­sis of more than 4,000 con­tem­po­rary horses of 141 breeds showed that DMRT3 mu­ta­tion is found among equine pop­u­la­tions around the world, par­tic­u­larly in horses used for har­ness rac­ing.

In the new study, re­searchers found the DMRT3 mu­ta­tion in horses that had lived on the Bri­tish Isles be­tween 850 and 900 AD, as well as among those liv­ing in Ice­land be­tween the 9th and 11th cen­turies. This

sug­gests, they say, that gaited horses were brought from the Bri­tish Isles to the North At­lantic is­land by the Norse peo­ple. In ad­di­tion, the high fre­quency of DMRT3 mu­ta­tion in the Ice­landic re­mains sug­gests that Norse set­tlers pre­ferred horses that am­bled and sought to per­pet­u­ate the trait through selec­tive breed­ing.

The re­searchers note that DNA sam­ples from horses in Asia and con­ti­nen­tal Europe in­clud­ing Scan­di­navia liv­ing in the same era do not show the DMRT3 mu­ta­tion, mean­ing gaited horses did not show up there

un­til later.

Ref­er­ence: “The ori­gin of am­bling horses,” Cur­rent Bi­ol­ogy, Au­gust 2016

ICE­LANDIC HORSES

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