‘Leopard-spotted’ horses depicted in prehistoric cave art were real

The cave paintings, which showed ‘leopard-spotted’ horses, were a true depiction of what the prehistoric cave artists actually saw, a new study has revealed.

Many have considered since long that the famous paleolithic horse paintings found in caves such as Lascaux and Chauvet in France, were abstract or symbolic expressions as opposed to representations of real animals.

But the recent DNA analysis has revealed that the prehistoric humans actually painted what they saw in their natural environment.

To reach this conclusion, scientists genotyped and analyzed nine coat-colour types in 31 pre-domestic (wild) horses dating as far back as 35,000 years ago from bone specimens in 15 different locations spread across an area that included Siberia, Eastern and Western Europe, and the Iberian Peninsula, the Popular Archaeology reported.

The analysis revealed that all the colour schemes for horses seen in Paleolithic cave paintings, including the distinctive ‘leopard’ spotting found in the cave painting, was actually a reality.

The study also found that ‘The Dappled Horses of Pech-Merle’ dating back more than 25,000 years in France, actually existed in ancient pre-domestic horse populations.

“Our results suggest that, at least for wild horses, Paleolithic cave paintings, including the remarkable depictions of spotted horses, were closely rooted in the real-life appearance of animals,” said team researcher Professor Michi Hofreiter of the Department of Biology at the University of York.

“While previous DNA studies have produced evidence for bay and black horses, our study has demonstrated that the leopard complex spotting phenotype was also already present in ancient horses and was accurately depicted by their human contemporaries nearly 25,000 years ago,” the researcher added.

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