Sunday, December 18, 2011


Spotted horses, cave of Pech-Merle, France.

The panel of painted horses from the cave of Pech-Merle in France has caused considerable speculation as to its accuracy and intention. The approximately 25,000-year-old painting of The Dappled Horses of Pech-Merle depicts spotted horses on the walls of a cave in France remarkably similar to a pattern of overall spot markings known as "leopard" in modern horses such as Appaloosas.

An article in by Charles Choi, and dated Tuesday, 8 November 2011, reported the discovery of genetic evidence that the Paleolithic horses of Europe had the potentiality of overall “leopard” spotting indeed. “Scientists investigated the differences in genes for coat color of 31 ancient horse fossils from Siberia, Eastern and Western Europe and the Iberian Peninsula.” To study the genetics of equine coat color, the international research team analyzed DNA from fossilized bones and teeth from 31 prehistoric horses representing over a dozen different archaeological sites.

Genetic analysis indicated that eighteen of the horses had been brown and seven were black. In six of the horses researchers found the LP genetic variant that corresponds to leopard like spotting in the coats of modern horses. Additionally, among ten 14,000 year old Western European horses, four had the LP genetic marker. These results suggest that at the time of the creation of the ancient cave paintings spotted horses could well have been observed in nature and copied in the cave paintings.

Contemporary spotted horses - Appaloosas.

In the past some researchers have found the spotting of the Pech-Merle horses to be perhaps unrealistic and have suggested that these horses represented fantastic imagined horses or spiritual creatures rather than realistic animals. This genetic study proves that the beautiful spotted horses of Pech-Merle could indeed have been painted from life.


Charles Choi,  Tue, Nov 8, 2011.

1 comment:

  1. I love this cave and have been blessed to visit it twice. It has everything - "frozen" footprints, hand prints, and very best of all the spectacular spotted horse made more impressive as it was painted to fit a natural formation with the horse head and neck shape. I am not surprised to learn that this was a painting done from memory of what they knew..why that would be a surprise, is well, surprising. Still, good to read your blog about it. Thanks!