When you imagine a wild horse, you can picture it galloping through open plains in packs and looking generally badass. But unfortunately, an extraordinary study of the DNA of ancient breeds has revealed that there are technically no more wild horses left on our planet.
A joint taskforce consisting of academics from the University of Exeter, the French national research agency CNRS and the University of Copenhagen looked at Przewalski's horses, which was previously thought to be the world's last 'wild' species.
Through their research, published in Science, they found that that those horses were probably descendants of a breed that was once domesticated.
Credit: PATRICK PLEUL/dpa
Modern horses were thought to have originated with a race of people called Botai, who used to live in current-day Kazakhstan 5,500 years ago. The research team looked at the DNA sequences of 20 Botai horses and compared them with other breeds found between then and now, revealing some starling similarities with Przewalski's horses.
University of Kansas archaeologist Sandra Olsen, who led some excavations said in a statement: "I was confident soon after we started excavating Botai sites in 1993 that we had found the earliest domesticated horss.
"We went about trying to prove it, but based on DNA results, Botai horses didn't give rise to today's modern domesticated horses-they gave rise to the Przewalski horses."
If you want to split hairs, yes, there are horses around the world that are running wildly, but this study has found there is technically no specific breed that hasn't been domesticated.
University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine veterinarian and equine geneticist Molly McCue tells Sky: "This paper radically changes our thinking about the origin of modern horses. It's an exciting and surprising finding."
They join the American mustang and the Australian brumby, which were previously thought to be wild animals, but after some inspection, were descendants of domesticated species which escaped captivity and adapted to the wild.
Credit: Patrick Pleul/dpa
Przewalski's horses have been an endangered species for quite some time now, with National Geographic reporting they were declared extinct in the wild in 1969, with only 2,000 thought to be alive around the world.
Following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, several dozen Przewalski's horses were released into the area. That sounds like a bit of a dick move to chuck endangered animals into a place with horrendous amounts of radiation, but they actually flourished.
Their population in that specific area got up to 200 until poachers descended and brought that number down to around 60.
Featured Image Credit: PA