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Sep 25, 2015 12:55 PM EDT

Przewalski's Horses' Genomes Sequenced for Study Examining the Last Wild Horses


The horse is one of the most commonly domesticated animals on Earth, and is so much so that the truly wild ones are starkly different.

According to Discovery News, a new genetic study sought to examine wild horses with a wild ancestry. Published in the journal Current Biology, the research found differences in metabolism, reproduction, number of chromosomes, and more.

"The novelty of our approach is to have not only surveyed the present-day genomic diversity of Przewalski's horses, but also to monitor their past genomic diversity, leveraging on museum specimens," study co-author Ludovic Orlando, of the University of Copenhagen's Natural History Museum of Denmark, said in a press release. "That way we could assess the genetic impact of more than 100 years of captivity in what used to be a critically endangered animal."

Przewalski's horses are known to be the "last truly wild horses" and they date back to the 1870s in Mongolia and China. About 2,000 of the horses are still alive today and the researchers sequenced the genome of 11 for their study.

"The debate comes from the fact that first, Przewalski's horses do not look like domestic horses," Ludovic told Discovery News. "They have a dun coat color (no fancy colors, for instance), they are quite stockily built, their face looks more robust, and they are rather aggressive. They have never been successfully domesticated, perhaps in relation with their strong temper."

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