Oldest evidence of horse veterinary care discovered in Mongolia

July 02, 2018

A team of scholars, led by William Taylor of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, analyzed horse remains from an ancient Mongolian pastoral culture known as the Deer Stone-Khirigsuur Culture (ca. 1300-700 BC). Deer stones, with their beautiful deer carvings, and their accompanying stone mounds (khirigsuurs) are famous for the impressive horse burials that are found alongside them in the dozens, hundreds, or even thousands. Through careful study of skeletal remains from these burials, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and funded in part by a grant from the National Geographic Society, Taylor and colleagues found that Deer Stone-Khirigsuur people began using veterinary dental procedures to remove baby teeth that would have caused young horses pain or difficulty with feeding - the world's oldest known evidence for veterinary dental care.

Previous research has shown that these early herders were the first in eastern Eurasia to rely heavily on horses as livestock for food products, and may have been among the first to use horses for mounted riding. Drawing on insights from his Mongolian colleagues, Jamsranjav Bayarsaikhan and Tumurbaatar Tuvshinjargal of the National Museum of Mongolia, Taylor argues that the development of horseback riding and a horse-based pastoral economy was a key driver for the invention of equine veterinary care. "We may think of veterinary care as kind of a Western science," he says, "but herders in Mongolia today practice relatively sophisticated procedures using very simple equipment. This results of our study show that a careful understanding of horse anatomy and a tradition of care was first developed, not in the sedentary civilizations of China or the Mediterranean, but centuries earlier, among the nomadic people whose livelihood depended on the well-being of their horses."

Additionally, Taylor and his team discovered that changes in horse dentistry accompanied major developments in horse control technology, including the incorporation of bronze and metal mouthpieces into bridles used for riding. This equipment, which spread into eastern Eurasia during the early first millennium BC, gave riders more nuanced control over horses, and allowed them to be used for new purposes - especially warfare. However, using metal to control horses also introduced new oral problems, including painful interactions with a vestigial tooth that develops in some animals, known as a "wolf tooth." Taylor and his team discovered that, as herders began to use metal bits, they also developed a method for extracting this problematic tooth - similar to the way most veterinary dentists would remove it today.

In doing so, these early riders could control their horses in high-stress situations using a metal bit, without accompanying behavioral or health complications, which may have had major implications for the ancient world. Nicole Boivin, Director of the Department of Archaeology at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, explains, "In many ways, the movements of horses and horse-mounted peoples during the first millennium BCE reshaped the cultural and biological landscapes of Eurasia. Dr. Taylor's study shows that veterinary dentistry - developed by Inner Asian herders - may have been a key factor that helped to stimulate the spread of people, ideas, and organisms between East and West."
-end-


Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History

Related Horses Articles from Brightsurf:

Domestic horses probably did not originate in Anatolia
Domestic horses likely did not originate in Anatolia as previously suspected, according to a new study of ancient horse remains dating as far back as 9000 BCE.

Netflix - a zebra among horses: QUT researcher
Netflix is often criticised as a Hollywood-style entertainment behemoth crushing all competition and diminishing local content, but an Australian-based academic says that's a simplistic view.

Mystery about cause of genetic disease in horses
Warmblood fragile foal syndrome is a severe, usually fatal, genetic disease that manifests itself after birth in affected horses.

New therapy could combat persistent joint infections in horses
A new therapy could combat persistent joint infections in horses, potentially saving them from years of pain.

Small horses got smaller, big tapirs got bigger 47 million years ago
The former coalfield of Geiseltal in Saxony-Anhalt has yielded large numbers of exceptionally preserved fossil animals, giving palaeontologists a unique window into the evolution of mammals 47 million years ago.

How horses can save the permafrost
Permafrost soils in the Arctic are thawing. In Russia, experiments are now being conducted in which herds of horses, bison and reindeer are being used to combat this effect.

Scientists show we don't need horses to treat diphtheria
A project taking the first steps towards ending the use of horses to treat diphtheria has succeeded.

Horses blink less, twitch eyelids more when stressed
A horse will blink less and twitch its eyelids more when it's under mild stress, the research team found -- a new finding that could offer handlers a simple, easy-to-spot sign their animal is becoming agitated.

Reining in the ecological effects of free-roaming horses
Free-roaming horses are an icon of the American West that has often captured the public's imagination.

Free access to research will help save horses and ponies
Laminitis -- a complex, common and often devastating disease -- is the second biggest killer of domestic horses.

Read More: Horses News and Horses Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.