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Saturday, 28 December 2013

The Sorraia - is it a wild/ancient horse?


The Sorraia is one of those horse breeds of which some of its advocates claim it is a remnant of a special wild horse population. According to them, the Sorraia descends from supposedly wild horses spotted in the 1920s in a rural region in Portugal, is phenotypically identical with a local wild horse type and genetically similar to the Polish Konik and the Przewalski, endorsing its status as a wild horse. With this post I try to give an overview over which arguments supporting a special status for the Sorraia among other Iberian horse breeds are verifiable, and what seems to be a colourful or wishful interpretation based on my research for this post.
I want to note that all this is my personal interpretation of data that was available for me, if anyone has additional material or disagrees with my reasoning for good reasons, I would like to read about it.

Breed history

First of all, the Sorraia does not descend from any members of that one free-ranging horse herd spotted by Ruy d’Andrade as he was unable to find them again. The Sorraia actually descends from farm horses he thought to resemble those horses which he collected for a breeding program in 1937. All Sorraia descend from four stallions and seven mares of local farm horses, to which a Criollo stallion was added later on.
There are no reports of a feral horse population resembling those spotted by d’Andrade, not even in C. H. Smith’s extremely comprehensive work The Natural History of Horses with Memoir of Gesner. D’Andrade is the only person who saw them, and he saw them only once. I think it is much more likely that he saw just a herd of escaped local farm horses, rather than a population of free-ranging horses that remained undetected for decades or centuries, were spotted by one man and disappeared into the void again. The only references claiming there was an existence of these free-roaming horses prior to d’Andrade’s encounter that I know of is either d’Andrade himself or Hardy Oelke (who is one of the main contemporary Sorraia advocates), so I don’t know of a neutral reference. Sorraia fanciers also claim that the so-called “zebro” (“encebro” in Spain) was a wild Sorraia-type horse that disappeared in historic times. The Zebro was in fact more likely an Iberian wild ass, a late-surviving strain of E. hydruntinus [1] or maybe a population of feral donkeys (their wild nature is no argument against that, as feral animals do in fact re-develop such wild traits). The European wild ass survived the longest on the Iberian Peninsular, the last of these Zebros survived into the 16th century in a game reserve in Murcia [1].
As you see, the modern Sorraia is not older than 80 years, and neither does descend from a wild or feral horse population but from local farm horses (just like the Konik, by the way). Nevertheless, there is still the possibility that these farm horses may have been genetically influenced by surrounding wild horses, so let’s have a look at what genetic studies say about this horse breed so far.

Genetics

There is some debate on whether the Sorraia is the ancestor of other, similar Iberian-based horse breeds like the Lusitano or various Mustang lineages. This is in fact not really relevant for the question stated in the headline of this post; domestic breeds do give rise to other breeds, that does not place them closer to their wild type. But since the population that is called Sorraia originated when d’Andrade started his breeding programme in 1937, it is chronologically not possible that the modern Sorraia gave rise to similar Mustangs and the Lusitano, though I think its possible that they derive from a common stock, as genetic similarities between the Sorraia and the Lusitano[2,3,4] and phenotypic match with some Mustangs (f.e. Kiger) suggest. It is not relevant for the wild horse debate anyway.
If the Sorraia is a true wild horse, or at least strongly wild horse-influenced as advocates claim, there should be a clear genetic indication for it. A connection with the Konik, Mongolian and Przewalski horse was suggested in Jansen et al. 2002, but later studies found the Sorraia to be more or less closely related to other Iberian horses [3,4,5,6].  Luis et al. 2007 write: “Because of its low variability, the Sorraia usually separated from the other [Iberian] breeds when only one type of marker was used, seen also in […]. However, when we used all three types of markers the Sorraia clustered with the other Iberian and Iberian influenced-breeds […] However, new results from mtDNA analysis revealed a lost haplotype in the Sorraia breed, which is included in the mtDNA haplogroup recognized for heaving high frequency in Iberian horses, and the result obtained here indicate closeness of the Sorraia with the other Iberian breeds, which fits historical documentation.”[3] Lira et al. 2009 [5] compared mitochondrial haplotypes of Iberian horses with those of ancient domestic and wild horses from the Neolithic to the Bronze age and Middle age. They find no relationship between the Sorraia and the ancient samples and conclude: “Lastly, our data do not support the Sorraia horses as a primitive predomestic lineage, in contrast to a previous claim (d’Andrade 1945).” The only similarity of the Sorraia with an ancient sample is with one that is from the middle ages, what does not implicate the Sorraia is an ancient, isolated breed. They consider the introgression of local wild mares for all Iberian horses is possible, without giving the Sorraia a special status.
Sorraia advocates argue that the wild horse samples are too small and the genetic diversity in Sorraia too limited to give an accurate clue about its relation to predomestic horses. However, if the Sorraia is truly a remnant of the wildtype of Equus ferus ferus, then it there should be at least some genetic markers totally unique to the Sorraia – unless domestic introgression and genetic bottlenecks purged them out (if that’s the case, it is the question if it still can be considered a representative of the wildtype then). Advocates of the breed argue that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and that is true. But it is no good basis for assuming presence either.

Phenotype

Pleistocene horses portrayed in southern European cave paintings are used as a comparison for the Sorraia, and the fact that these painted horses show leg and shoulder stripes is used as an argument to support the primitive nature of the Sorraia. But first of all, keep in mind that the end of the glacial brought a dramatic shift in the range of the Eurasian mammal fauna and terrestrial biomes, and the Pleistocene horse types probably represented a type different from that inhabiting Holocene Iberia. In my personal opinion, it is likely that some of these paintings might represent members of the przewalskii subspecies with standing manes rather than ferus with falling manes. But if we are willing to use these paintings as a reference, what do they tell us? That wild horses had striped legs and shoulders to a certain degree, what is typical of many dun horses and therefore no argument in favour of any breed.
The Sorraia is considered a primitive horse particularly because of its coat colour. It is predominantly grulla-coloured, and grulla is often considered the standard colour of western wild horses (although genetic data suggests that a large portion was coloured bay/bay dun [8,9] and grulla is only one of the colours mentioned for historic wild horses). Black dun has many different shadings, varying from light grayish, dark gray to yellowish to almost optically brown. Some Sorraia apparently also show a bay dun colour (see below). Bay dun and black dun are wildtype colours, and any domestic mutations present in the breed could be explained by domestic influence if we assume the Sorraia is a wild or ancient horse, so the coat colour does not contract this hypothesis. I have to note two things though: 1. the striping of the Sorraia isn’t as exceptional as often stated, stripes are part of wildtype colour + dun expressions and shown by other grulla horses, like the Konik or Hucule (considering that the stripes were regarded as a trademark of the breed right from the beginning, it is also possible that the breeders selected for prominent striping). The there are no photos supporting the claim that the stripes in Sorraia were more prominent in the past. 2. prominent stripes are not the unmistakeable indication of European wild horses as one might think because of the seductively strong striping of the African ass and, obviously, zebras. In fact, historic references for wild or free-ranging horses don’t mention them that often, while the dorsal stripe is nearly always remarked. Also in the Przewalski’s horse the stripes are not that prominent (anymore?).

Striped black dun Hucul, there are even more strongly striped Hucul
This Sorraia seems to be bay dun ©Lynne Gerard

The optic similarity with the Konik, a primitive horse breed from eastern Europe and thus far removed from the Sorraia, provokes the assumption that their phenotypic traits are inherited from a common ancestor since genetic exchange seems very unlikely. But in fact this similarity is grounded almost exclusively on the coat colour features (as primitive Koniks are smaller and more sturdy in build), which are regulated by only two loci (Agouti and Dun) since both breeds are non-sorrel horses. Bicoloured manes and tails, dorsal and leg stripes are part of the expression of black dun (=grulla). Black dun colours are not rare in rural horses and ponies, and it is one of the wildtype colours of Equus ferus; thus its presence in two compared horse breeds is not a surprise and also no indication of a common, predomestic ancestry.
While the coat colour is no argument against a status of the Sorraia as an ancient horse, their body conformation seems problematic. The Sorraia is a quite large (140-150 cm), lightly built horse with a proportionally small and slender head. Historic references for central and eastern European, Russian and even western European wild horses describe a horse type with a body conformation that is quite the opposite – small, stocky, with strong legs and a proportionally large and robust head. However, Sorraia fanciers argue that the Sorraia is a remnant of a specialized Iberian subtype of the wild horse, and there are no historic references describing wild horses from the western Iberian peninsular as far as I know, so that this is not necessarily contradicted. Genetic data suggests that the extinct wild horse population was separated into two main populations: one huge, panmictic population eastern to the Pyrenees inhabiting the Eurasian steppe, and one smaller population western to the Pyrenees inhabiting the Iberian peninsular [10]. So the hypothesis there was an Iberian wild horse that slenderer and taller than other members of Equus ferus seems at least possible. But is there evidence for it? This is hard to tell because it is difficult to tell wild horses apart from domestic horses in the subfossil record of the late Holocene without genetic testing. I know that d’Andrade did measurements with skeletal elements of the Sorraia and supposed wild horses, and I do not dispute his professional competence, but I am not sure if it was possible to safely distinguish between domestic and wild horses back this time (except for some unambiguous cranial features, such as enlarged eyes and a reduced brain case). Furthermore, the Sorraia remains he worked with were prior to the bottleneck event, so modern Sorraia might display different features due to genetic drift. I know of Ebhardt’s division of 4 predomestic subtypes of Equus ferus that includes one type resembling the Sorraia, but it seems that there is low scientific support for it in modern scientific literature (although it is popular among hippologists). I haven’t seen any recent studies using or referring to it. Of course it is likely that different environments had a different impact on wild Equus ferus over its large geographic range, but the proposal of regionally differentiated body conformations should be grounded on a osteologic basis or on reports of people having seen these animals in flesh. Of course it is possible that the western wild horse was regionally differentiated, but other large herbivores with a large geographic range such as Red deer or moose don’t display any radical differences in body conformation when comparing their various subspecies (island dwarfism in case of Red deer on Sicily is another story), so it does not imply it.
Sorraia.org claims that the Danish wild horse skeleton from 11.100 years BP is identical in proportions and skull shape to Sorraias. I do not really see that, it would be more conclusive for me if it would be a member of the przewalskii clade and its head is clearly more robust (sorraia.org provides a superimposition with a Sorraia skull photo from d’Andrades work, but this historic skull hardly fits modern Sorraia’s heads because the lower jaw is more robust; perhaps an effect of the genetic bottleneck?). I will do a life reconstruction of that skeleton soon to get a better idea of what it might have looked like in life. Nevertheless, not all Sorraia have a gracile head. Looking at this dental, claimed by sorraia.org to be an example of a gracile-jawed wild horse remain, and comparing it with an Exmoor pony skull from Sue Baker’s book, it appears to me that this wild horse had a skull only insignificantly longer (=more gracile) than the Exmoor. To affirm the question if there are definite wild horse remains that endorse the hypothesis that there were predomestic horses that had a body conformation similar to the Sorraia, a new osteometric study comparing a representative sample of confirmed wild horse and Sorraia skeletons would be needed. Sorraia advocates sometimes also refer to Equus stenonis, but this is a huge and most likely incorrect stretch, as E. stenonis was only distantly related to E. ferus and disappeared in the late Pliocene. Furthermore, their hypergracile skulls have a concave profile, the opposite of what we see in the Sorraia.

Skull of a Sorraia Mustang mare ©Lynne Gerard
Skull of a Sorraia Mustang stallion ©Lynne Gerard
While looking for good Sorraia skull photos to compare them with wild horse skulls, I stumbled across something interesting. Lynne Gerard published photos of skulls of two of her Sorraia Mustang individuals, a stallion and a mare, on her blog. While neither of the photos shows a lower jaw in a useful lateral perspective, we are able to see that the size of the orbital openings is well larger than in wild horse skulls (I am using the Danish specimen, and in the lack of other useful European species, also American wild horses as a reference, which where probably conspecific). The increase of the eye size, as well as a reduction of brain size, is a typical artefact of domestication, visible in virtually any domesticated larger mammal, and shared by other domestic horses – even primitive ones like the Exmoor pony.

Conclusion

I want to make clear that I am not biased against the Sorraia. The idea that Iberia had a unique subtype of the European wild horse differing in having a taller, much slenderer body than other wild horses is exciting, but I think the evidence for that is rather thin. And if there was, I do not think the Sorraia would be a predomestic remnant population of this type, but more likely a domestic breed with introgression of these horses. Nevertheless, I think that the western Iberian wild horse was not drastically different from the wild horses formerly inhabiting the Pyrenees and Northern Spain as described by C. H. Smith, unless there is there is evidence for the contrary – I think this is the most parsimonious and most likely assumption.  An osteometric evaluation of confirmed wild horse remains from various places of Europe would be very helpful to gain information about the appearance of Holocene wild horses and regional diversification.
The hypothesis that the Zebro was a Sorraia-type horse rather than a wild for feral ass seems far-fetched as well. If this was not the case, then I assume that there was no feral population with a long history in the area d’Andrade spotted those nebulous horse herd, as there are no other references to it. Most likely he saw an abandoned farm horse herd. The Sorraia itself is not older than 80 years, since it was created in the year 1937 by collecting local farm horses resembling those spotted by d’Andrade. Genetically, there is no solid evidence for the Sorraia having a special status on the domestic equine tree. Absence of evidence is no evidence of absence, but proposals like the Sorraia being a predomestic horse should have a more solid basis than this.
It seems that the Sorraia breed is “just” a domestic horse breed, albeit a hardy and robust landrace. In my personal opinion, the Sorraia and Lustano as much as similar mustangs like Kiger, Sulphur and Pryor might all derive from a historic domestic breed/type of horses with an appearance very similar to their modern counterparts, what is inferred by their very similar phenotype and also genetic similarities. 


Literature

[1] Bunzel-Drüke, Finck, Kämmer, Luick, Reisinger, Riecken, Riedl, Scharf & Zimball: Wilde Weiden: Praxisleitfaden für Ganzjahresbeweidung in Naturschutz und Landschaftsentwicklung. Arbeitsgemeinschaft Biologischer Umweltschutz
[2] Jansen et al.: Mitochondrial DNA and the origins of the domestic horse. 2002
[3] Luis et al.: Genetic diversity and relationships of Portuguese and other horse breeds based on protein and microsatellite loci variation. 2007
[4] Luis et al.: A lost Sorraia maternal lineage found in the Lusitano horse breed. 2006
[5] Lira et al.: Ancient DNA reveals traces of Iberian Neolithic and Bronze Age lineages in modern Iberian horses. 2009
[6] Royo et al.: The origins of Iberian horses assessed via mitochondrial DNA. 2005
[7] Cieslak et al.: Origin and History of Mitochondrial DNA lineages in Domestic horses. 2010
[8] Ludwig et al.: Coat colour variation at the beginning of horse domestication. 2009
[9] Pruvost et al.: Genotypes of predomstic horses match phenotypes painted in paleolithic works of cave art. 2011
[10]Cieslak et al.: Coat colours and mitochondrial lineages of ancient horses to document domestication. 2011

10 comments:

  1. Hello there, interesting once again thanks for it. I am curious about what you know regarding another Iberian horse breed the Retuertas horse supposedly also very primitive.
    Best regards

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    1. I haven't concerned me with the Retuerta that much, but what I know is that they are genetically isolated from their surrounding equine neighbors (Camargue), and has some haplotype unique among Iberian horses; but that alone does not make them primitive IMO, and their phenotype is all but not derived (if we assume the Iberian wild horses had a similar body conformation as other wild horses).

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  2. It is nice that you give the Sorraia a review. It can only help if more people look deeply into the available resources available (of which there are more than you have shown as sources for your conclusions) relating to these types of horses.

    Regarding the genetic tests comparing the Sorraia to fossil horses, caution ought to be used when forming conclusions as the osteological remains used to compare with genetic material - make sure they hail from southwest Iberia. The last I checked, if memory serves me well, the fossils used in the studies you’ve mentioned come from the north and may more readily represent the ancestors of the Garrano and Asturcon.

    I am sure you will find the reading of Heptner, et al. “Mammals of the Soviet Union” very helpful in gaining a better insight of the colours and characteristics of the various tarpan type horses that roamed such a vast region in times past that included the Iberian Peninsula. You can find this book in various forms for free on the internet. They even cover the Aurochs! It may be rather simplistic to assume Ruy d’Andrade created a breed - when there were so many horses figured to have derived from ‘wild stock’ that retained tarpanic characteristics, not just in Portugal.

    Its worth also reading what St. Isidore of Seville had to say regarding the regional wild horses which he rather despised.

    If the Sorraia (and other horses with similar tarpanic traits inside and outside of Iberia and Eurasia) have not retained their morphometric characteristics due to a genetic component which survived from their wild ancestors how else are we to account for them?

    You are mistaken regarding the photos of the skulls you have used taken from my Journal of Ravenseyrie blog - they represent just one horse, a female Sorraia Mustang of the Kiger strain. I do not have skeletal remains of a mustang stallion. Those particular photos of our mare were not distinctly used to compare with extant wild horses, though I have since done fairly comprehensive measurements and compared them with those of Exmoors, Przewalski’s horse, Tarpans, Koniks and others that are documented on Vera Eisenmann’s website. I have not published this comparative study (and detailed photos I took of dentition) on my blog yet, but I can tell you that this mare has more “robust” measures than the Exmoors and the Tarpans and falls more in line with the sizes listed for Przewalski’s horse. I would expect that our Sorraia stallion (d’Andrade lineage, not mustang) has nearly identical measures, but I do not think he would presently take kindly to me sticking a measuring calliper in his mouth, so we cannot say for sure!

    My two articles in the Journal of Ravenseyrie, Pleistocene Horses, The Zebro, The Tarpan and the Sorraia / A Shared Ancestry? and The Sorraia's Prehistoric Relatives / Countering a Historian's Critique have many sources you may also find helpful if you wish to pursue your understanding of the Sorraia and horses like it further.

    All the best in your endeavours!



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    1. Hello, thank you very much for your comment! Also thanks for the direction to Heptner, I am very keen on first-hand sources on historic wild horses.
      I have some comments/questions to your arguments though:

      "Regarding the genetic tests comparing the Sorraia to fossil horses, caution ought to be used when forming conclusions as the osteological remains used to compare with genetic material - make sure they hail from southwest Iberia. The last I checked, if memory serves me well, the fossils used in the studies you’ve mentioned come from the north and may more readily represent the ancestors of the Garrano and Asturcon."

      I don't think a local domestication event for Iberian celtic ponies is likely, though they may have been locally influenced by wild horses; however, one must keep in mind that the primitive appearance of some of those celtic ponies also might be the result of intermixing with Exmoors from UK, which is historically documented.

      By saying d'Andrade created the modern Sorraia breed I didn't want to infer that its phenotype didn't exist before, I just meant that he composed the modern gene pool and therefore the modern Sorraia by choosing founding individuals of the modern Sorraia population.

      "Its worth also reading what St. Isidore of Seville had to say regarding the regional wild horses which he rather despised."

      Where can I find his texts on wild horses, are they available in the web?

      "If the Sorraia (and other horses with similar tarpanic traits inside and outside of Iberia and Eurasia) have not retained their morphometric characteristics due to a genetic component which survived from their wild ancestors how else are we to account for them?"

      The question is which characters are primitive and which are not; if there was no lightly-built, comparably large wild horse on Iberia but a rather stocky pony-like one like in the rest of Europe, then the only phenotypically primitive character of the Sorraia would be its grulla coat.
      The most important question really is to find out what the Iberian wild horse did really look like IMO. If it turns out that the body conformation indeed is very similar to that of the Sorraia, I guess that the Sorraia (or actually their common ancestors with the similar mustang strains) has acquired its supposed primitive features by repeated introgression of neighboring wild horses, like it probably was the case with (other) primitive landraces.

      Its ecologic capacities do not necessarily indicate a primitive nature, even phenotypically very derived landraces have developed robust hardiness and ability to live on poor forage. See the Galloway, which is phenotypically far removed from the aurochs and likely no result of any local domestication, but yet it is as robust and hardy as its ancestor.

      Regarding the behaviour there seems to be a significant difference between wild and domestic horses in the level of aggression. Przewalski horses are, although tamable to a certain extent, known to be way more aggressive even than domestic primitive horses living under natural conditions (Konik, Exmoor f.e.) and apparently the same was the case with Tarpans. While semi-feral or feral horses can be tamed and accustomed to being used just like any domestic horse, I doubt the same would work with the Przewalski or the Tarpan. With the Sorraia it apparently does, therefore my question is, how is the level of aggression and un-tamability in the Sorraia?

      I had read your two articles on your blog already and found them very interesting and informative. I will have a look at the sources to gather more information for myself; also thanks for correcting me regarding the skull photos, I'll correct that in the post.

      I have one question regarding the Sorraia Mustangs; are they similar mustangs that are bred for a Sorraia phenotype, or similar mustangs that are crossed with Sorraia to achieve more similarity? Is it the long-term goal to merge both populations together to create one genetically diverse gene pool?

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  3. Re: St. Isidore quotes about wild horses

    “Where can I find his texts on wild horses, are they available in the web?”

    By now you maybe have gone back to the sources listed in the two articles I wrote and have found your answer, yes?

    Re: Lighter-built prehistoric wild horses in Iberia

    “The question is which characters are primitive and which are not; if there was no lightly-build, comparably large wild horse on Iberia but a rather stocky pony-like one in the rest of Europe, then the only phenotypically primitive character of the Sorraia would be its grulla coat.”

    Are you convinced there existed only “rather stocky pony-like” prehistoric horses in Iberia?

    The fossil remains for a more gracile prehistoric horse are documented. Look on the web for Equus caballus torralbae and Equus caballus Antunesi (Cardoso & Eisenmann). These remains do not correspond with the Sorraia, rather they bring to mind a horse more like the Caspian.

    Remember, there are renderings in prehistoric art in the Iberian Peninsula (and elsewhere) that provide a conformational equivalent to the morphological shape of the Sorraia - not all the parietal images are of stocky-pony type horses.

    Re: Aggression as indicator of primitive/wild genetics

    I’ve been forming an article on this for my Journal of Ravenseyrie. Give me a week or two and then please look there for my commentary on aggressive behaviour.

    Re: Sorraia Mustangs

    “…are they similar mustangs that are bred for Sorraia phenotype, or similar mustangs that are crossed with Sorraia to achieve more similarity?”

    One could say some people are breeding for Sorraia phenotype, but in reality the Sorraia phenotype already existed in some North American Mustangs depending on regions where they were roaming. Rather than “breeding for” Sorraia characteristics, those of us interested in conservation of these horses are “consolidating” what already exists/persists. Crossing with the Sorraia is not to make the mustangs more Sorraia-like (since they already share phenotype and genotype), rather it is to create a viable outsource that aims to alleviate the genetic bottleneck among the Sorraias in Portugal and Germany. So far only one breeder in Europe is making use of this recombination process, and just us here in Canada.

    Cheers!

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    1. Hi,

      regarding light-built wild horses:

      I googled both subspecies, what I could find was a cranium of antunesi; unfortunately Eisenmann's paper is written in portuguese. The skull is rather longish and gracile, but as you say, not reminiscent of the Sorraia; do you know if the postcranial skeleton is light-built as well? Are there some photos or drawings of skeletons of these two subspecies that are available in the web?

      I think that prehistoric art can provide a clue but I do not consider it hard evidence; to me, only osteological evidence provides certainty. Historic descriptions could be helpful as well.

      Aggression:
      Ok, I stay tuned!

      Sorraia Mustangs:
      I see; but is the Sorraia phenotype stable in these mustangs, or does the phenotype have to be stabilized by selecting out deviant forms? If I understand it correctly, the long-term goal is a genetically diverse gene pool created by mixing Sorraia mustangs and Sorraia?

      BTW, I think increasing the number of bay dun individuals in the population wouldn't be bad, genetic evidence shows that this was a common colour in all wild horse populations.

      Cheers!

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  4. Sorry for such a delay in responding...too much else in "real life" needing my attention it seems!

    You will love looking at skull samples here:


    http://www.vera-eisenmann.com/-01a-cranes-et-mandibules-skulls-and-mandibles-photos-

    She may not have everything you are looking for, but between her photos and measurement charts, you will have a better idea of the variability even between the same types/breeds and why it becomes so silly to draw sweeping conclusions based on just one or two samples of usually incomplete skeletons.

    "I see; but is the Sorraia phenotype stable in these mustangs, or does the phenotype have to be stabilized by selecting out deviant forms?"

    It seems stable in our group, there has been no need to refine selections. From the very first our pairings produced exactly as expected within the range of colours (hues of black dun) and sizes.

    "If I understand it correctly, the long-term goal is a genetically diverse gene pool created by mixing Sorraia mustangs and Sorraia? "

    This is the goal for some, but not all of those interested in preservation of the Sorraia.

    I do hope to pull together an article on the aggression factor, but for now must continue to keep you waiting.

    Thank you again for your consideration of the Sorraia horses!

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    1. Hi,

      yes, I had a look at this skull sample and it is awesome! The variability within the wild species is indeed considerable.

      On your blog I found this interesting Iberian horse skull: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Ktie_Aacak4/URQOk8HtgcI/AAAAAAAAJLM/lcBUK4dz4gk/s400/Hardy+with+Iberian+skull.jpg Looks quite like a Sorraia! Do you know if it is a confirmed wild horse and how old it is?

      I intend to by "Wildpferde damals und heute" by Hardy Oelke; it seems to be very comprehensive and with useful photographs. I hope to see more wild horse bone material there.

      Ok, I am very looking forward regarding the article on the aggression of the Sorraia!

      I have one further question though: On your blog, I there are some photos of horses with domestic colours like Sorrel among the wild type-coloured Sorraia mustang. I hope they do not intermix? Especially Sorrel, which is recessive, can be a problem for the colour integrity of the breed.

      Thank you for providing me all this information and for opening my mind regarding the Sorraia!

      Best regards

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  5. very interesting book Daniel, you should read it !
    If I may answer for Lynne on the sorrel horses of ravenseyrie, i believe one is a thoroughbred gelding (castrated stallion), a former "pure domestic" riding horse, the other is a mule, a hybrid between horse and jack (donkey) and infertile.
    So you don't have to be afraid for intermingling with the sorraia.
    I must say, in following the blog for a couple of years, all the offspring is very similar in type and color, all of them being grulla and I believe 2 black foals, but sporting a darker backline under certain lightconditions, which makes me believe there are different types of black in animals. Melanism is one of the fastest occuring colorshifts in different species. I think you can have a black horse that is a melanistic bay or sootybay (leaving some red shining through, on the same parts as in a sealbrown-pangarebay), or a horse that is lacking the production of pheomelanin leaving only the black eumelanin, or probably a melanism on grulla. Again, more DNA research is needed.....

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  6. The mtDNA patterns found in Sorraias can also be found in some other horse breeds. This is only natural, as our domestic horse breeds are usually a mix of populations, types, and breeds, a mixture of genotypes is therefore usually found in horse breeds, and the genotype of the Sorraia, or Tarpan, in horse breeds is thus easily explained.
    The mtDNA results are consistent with the presumed role of the Sorraia as one of the ancestors of those breeds. All 18 Sorraias sampled for this study had one of two mtDNA patterns (A1 and JSO41), both on the same branch in the phylogenetic network, and closely related to one of the two major mtDNA types found in Lusitanos and Andalusians (A3). The genotype found in Sorraias is completely unrelated to the other genotype found in Iberian horses (D1). This is remarkable regarding the status of the Sorraia.

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