Biodiv Sci ›› 2020, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (6): 734-748.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2020005

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The origins and genetic characteristics of domestic horses

Togtokh Mongke,Haige Han,Ruoyang Zhao,Tugeqin Bao,Manglai Dugarjaviin(),Dongyi Bai()   

  1. Inner Mongolia Key Laboratory of Equus Genetics, Breeding and Reproduction, College of Animal Science, Inner Mongolia Agricultural University, Hohhot 010018
  • Received:2020-01-06 Accepted:2020-03-23 Online:2020-06-20 Published:2020-05-15
  • Contact: Manglai Dugarjaviin,Dongyi Bai


Throughout human history, the horse (Equus ferus caballus) was often involved in cultural exchanges and the development of various human societies. Human activities has directly and indirectly impacted the evolution of domestic horses, especially since the industrial revolution. There has been extensive research into when horses were originally domesticated and how humans impacted horse’s genetic evolution during domestication. Recent developments in genomic technology has advanced our understand of horse genetic evolution. This review summarizes the results of the last 20 years of research on the domestication origins and genetic evolution of domestic horses, as well what is currently known about domestication centers and evolution characteristics of domestication. We also suggest avenues for future research directions and genetic conservation strategies. Molecular markers from genetic and archaeological research suggest that domestic horses may have originated from multiple populations. However, ancient DNA studies indicate a more complicated genetic history than previously thought, as the believed Botai ancestor to all domesticated horses has been disproven as the direct ancestor of modern domestic horses. To address these types of complex scenarios may need a multi-disciplinary framework to understanding the horse domestication. Human activities have shaped the evolution of modern domestic, driving both demographic collapse and low genetic diversity, especially, since the industrial revolution. A number of indigenous horse breeds are gradually declining and are becoming extinct. Therefore, in order to ensure that agricultural safety, we suggest strengthening the researches on the relationship between protection of equine genetic resources, animal genetics and cultural geography.

Key words: domestic horses, domestic origins, genetic evolution, artificial selection, genetic resources conservation