The Vikings are known for many dubious deeds, but probably we have them to thank for modern horses’ most comfortable gaits such as tölt and pass.
The Nordic Vikings may have had delicate butts. In any case, they are responsible for the spread of a type of horse gait, which made a ride to the neighboring village much more comfortable for the rear.
The Vikings were targeted horse breeders with a focus on the horses’ gaits, and their favorite has probably been the Icelandic horse with the now famous gait – tölt.
This is one of the conclusions of a new, international DNA study.
The result surprises several researchers as it breaks with previous perceptions of human intervention in animal development.
“Until now, it has been widely accepted that targeted breeding of livestock is something that has emerged within the last few centuries. The study here is a clear proof that they already in the Viking Age selected special characteristics, according to which they actively bred the horses, “says Ph.D. Ernest Bailey from the University of Kentucky, who researches horses but did not participate in the study.
The study examined DNA samples from 90 horse skeletons dated from around the year 6000 BC and up to the year 1100.
In a horse from between the years 850 and 900 found in England, researchers have found a single mutation in the horse’s DNA, which over time would spread a large part of all the world’s horses and forever renew the riding experience of Vikings, knights and modern horse lovers.
The mutation led to a change in the part of the DNA that is responsible for controlling the horse’s legs in the desired order as it moves. More specifically, a gene called DMRT3, which the English researchers call ‘the gait keeper’ after the English word for gait – ‘gait’.
The DNA mutation thus added alternative gaits such as tölt to the horses’ repertoire. When horses tölt, the legs go like drumsticks, but the rider mysteriously sits almost still on the horse’s back.