The famous spotted horses of the Pech-Merle Cave in France (dating back ~25,000 years) resemble the “leopard coat” of today’s horses. When Arne Ludwig of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Germany, and Michael Hofreiter of the University of York, UK, analyzed DNA from 31 prehistoric horses from Siberia, as well as Eastern and Western Europe (about 35,000 to 2,200 years ago), six had a genetic variant – named LP – corresponding to leopard-like spotting in modern horses. Moreover, of 10 Western European horses with lineage estimated at about 14,000 years old, four had the LP variant, suggesting that the paintings represent the animals’ true appearance.
Did you know? The 1,250 documented cave paintings of horses comprise about 30% of all animal illustrations in European Upper Paleolithic cave art.