Rainbows and Unicorns

Is it a horse … or a fashion statement??   

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with The Loh Down on Science.  

Black, white, brown or pinto…our noble steeds proudly sport many different colors. But, their wild ancestors all tended to be some shade of brown! How did the color explosion come about?  

Saskia Wutke of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research and colleagues investigated.

The researchers gathered over two hundred samples of horse bones from different time periods throughout history. They figured out the horse’s hair color by looking at a section of their DNA.   

Horses came in only THREE colors when humans first tamed them during the Stone Age. By the Middle Ages, there were FOURTEEN colors and patterns to choose from!  

The researchers say new colors appeared by mutation. But some colors seemed to go in and out of style! In the Middle Ages, spotted horses became unpopular. That’s around the same time humans were getting spots from the plague! Coincidence? More research is needed!

As for My Little Pony? My favorite is … Rainbow Dash!

Reference: Wutke, S., Benecke, N., Sandoval-Castellanos, E., Döhle, H. J., Friederich, S., Gonzalez, J., Hallsson, J. H., Hofreiter, M., Lõugas, L., Magnell, O., Morales-Muniz, A., Orlando, L., Pálsdóttir, A. H., Reissmann, M., Ruttkay, M., Trinks, A., & Ludwig, A. (2016). Spotted phenotypes in horses lost attractiveness in the Middle Ages. Scientific reports, 6, 38548. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep38548

“Rainbows and Unicorns” by Paula Gardner