Horse Racing

Kunga, the prized ancient hybrid Squid

Thousands of years ago when thoroughbred horse racing and polo was known as “the sport of kings,” and the stages in Wellington, Florida were full of equestrian elites, there was an equestrian sport as prized as such. any modern sport horse. Known in archaeological and historical circles as the “kunga”, it was an animal that emerged when urban civilizations, kingdoms, and writing appeared in Syria and Mesopotamia in the 5th millennium. three BC. But what exactly kunga is was not known with any degree of certainty until now.

Published online in Science magazine, researchers sequenced DNA and genomes from an Early Bronze Age burial site at Umm el-Marra, Syria, and the results were remarkable.

Dr. Glenn M. Schwartz, professor of archeology at Johns Hopkins University, and director of excavations at the site where the tombs were found. “It was a unique find in that the tombs were made specifically for animals… Since we knew of the mysterious kunga equivalent of ancient texts, we suspected that this was a kunga. And since the bones of these animals resemble both a donkey and a wild donkey, but not quite like either, we also suspect that they are hybrids.”

One of the excavations at the site found equal graves. (Photo: Dr. Glenn M. Schwartz)

The researchers excavated equal burial sites and studied animal bones, submitted for DNA analysis, proving and confirming that the kunga was a cross between a female donkey and a Syrian wild donkey. Dr Schwartz said: “In ancient records, the kunga is described as a special, very expensive item, reserved for kings and members of the upper class and used for display. display and war. “But it is impossible to be certain from the text exactly what this animal is. Results from Umm el-Marra, with its distinct burials, suggest that the kunga is a hybrid, the first of its kind. “

According to the article, kungas were bred for use in diplomacy, ritual, and warfare. The researchers claim that texts from this era mention the price of such an animal “six times the price of a donkey” as well as expressing modern-day concerns about the cost of food breed. One of these ancient texts mentions large male kungas used to pull the vehicles of the “nobility and the gods”, predating the chariots we are familiar with in history books and in movies. as Ben Hur.

The study also found that kungas appeared to have been bred in distinct breeding centers outside urban areas, like modern breeders, before the desire for these animals dwindled and eventually ended after domestic horses entered the area about 500 years later, around 4,000 BC.

“The implication of this discovery is that we learn how members of the emerging upper class differentiate themselves through their animal companions, and that they have advanced to a new level. innovation in modifying the natural world by creating a hybrid animal,” Dr. Schwartz adds.

It’s a horse mystery solved; Now if these scientists can discover why my horse squeals every time the jump standards move to another part of the arena, we’re done.

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