Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Study Shows that Leopard-Print Horses Existed
A new DNA analysis prompted by paintings of polka-dotted horses on the walls of a cave in Peche-Merle, France suggests that leopard print horses didn’t exist just in art. A new study by Arne Ludwig of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin observed DNA taken from the remains of 31 horses found in Europe and Siberia showed that prehistoric horses sported spots. Of the 31 horses studied, 18 were bay, seven were black and six carried genetic variants that produced a leopard-spotting pattern. Previous studies had suggested that horses were either bay or black before domestication, and more complex patterns emerged as humans started to impose breeding selection. When looking at paintings of spotted horses in Peche-Merle, France, art historians speculated that spotted horses may have had religious or cultural significance. However, last week’s findings suggest that the cave painters were in fact painting it like it was.