Subject:      Re: precolumbian Amerindian horse?
From: (Yuri Kuchinsky)
Date:         1997/09/20
Message-ID:   <601aqu$2kl$>
Newsgroups:   sci.archaeology,rec.equestrian,sci.misc

Deborah Stevenson ([22] wrote:
: In <5vr8tu$nmh$> [23] (Yuri Kuchinsky) wri

: >I'm quite curious about this "missing rib".
: >In his THE INDIAN AND THE HORSE, Roe quotes from Cunninghame Graham [in
: >Dobie (ed.), MUSTANGS AND COW HORSES, 192-93]:
: >"Most horses, in fact almost all breeds of horses, have six lumbar
: >vertebrae. A most careful observer, the late Edward Losson, a professor in
: >the Agricultural College of Santa Catalina near Buenos Aires, has noted
: >the remarkable fact that the horses of the pampas have only five.
: >Following up his researches, he has found that the only other breed of
: >horses in which a simialr peculiarity is to be found is that of Barbary."
: >(p. 138)
: I would insist on extremely rigorous support for such a claim.  The
: contention that certain breeds of horses (Arabs often have such claims
: made for them) have fewer lumbar vertebrae (caudal vertebrae and ribs are
: also often claimed as breed anomalies as well) is widespread, but
: practical research is 1) rare and 2) usually highly informal.  Plus 3)
: usually suggestive that claims considerably overstate the case.  It looks
: to me like you're examining the possibility of equine existence in the
: New World prior to European importation--if so, I'd look for something
: more reliable than vertebrae legend as a support.

Dear Deborah,

Well, actually, I think you misunderstood. I wasn't really trying to base
any kind of a case on the the vertebrae. I was simply curious about this
because I read about this in Roe. But he is not using this to build any
sort of case.

: >But I think the really big puzzle at this time is about _the kind of
: >horse_ the Indians had, and still have in some cases -- the Indian
: >pony. These questions about how and when this pony came to America
: >seem to be very obscure, and indeed surprisingly so. I have been
: >unable to find much literature about this at all. We know that this
: >pony was very widespread among various tribes, and yet we have no
: >idea about how it derived. The irregular colour of this pony, pinto,
: >was seemingly quite prized by the Indians, and despised by the
: >Spanish, and also I think by the British.

: Don't get too hung up on color either.  It's not particularly sound to
: use it as an indicator of type (have a look at the thread on Pintabians
: for a contemporary equivalent),

Well, this seems like a modern breed based on Arabian horse.

: so if the rarity of the "Indian pony"
: you're discussing

The Indian pony is not really rare. It certainly was not rare in the old
days, as this was the common Indian horse much liked by the Natives. This
was definitely a horse very different from the Spanish Barb. I think
Cayuse pony is one example of this breed.

: is simply the various pinto genes,

No, certainly not. There are many other characteristics making it

: I don't see much
: grounds for that as proof of earlier horses in the Americas.

We don't have the proof as yet, simply a number of problems in need of

: While I'm not enough of a color historian to guarantee you early pintos in
: Britain, for instance, just by looking in the OED I can get you a 17th
: century usage of "piebald" for a British horse.  They don't seem to have
: been necessarily well thought of, but they were in fact known.

I have no doubt that pinto type horses were available in Europe in 17th
century and before. But the question is who brought them to America and
when? And when did which Indian tribes acquire them? These questions don't
have satisfactory answers at this time.

: And while I don't know about the Spanish attitude (and I don't remember
: Bernal Diaz' list well enough to recall the patterns on it),

I think it's vague, but one or two varicoloured horses may have been on
the list.

: it's pretty
: clear that the Spanish-origin breeds, especially in South America, are
: the main source of New World pintos (especially the frame overo
: pattern).

On what basis are you saying this?

: This would seem to be strongly suggestive that the coloring
: came from the Spanish horses.

Can you explain this please?

: Moving on to the genetic approach.  All the pinto genes are dominant,
but : their expression is not always detected.  :  : The sabino pattern is
ancient, appearing in the Arabian breed since the year : dot and before,
but it is one of the more flexible genes, so that it has : different
habits in different breeds and can easily increase in : noticeability
(from merely a funny leg marking on a parent, for instance, : to something
more dramatic) from generation to generation, particularly : when bred to
another sabino.  : : The frame overo pattern (which some hold is
genetically related to the : sabino) seems to have an extremely high
mutation rate.  This means that : it's quite possible for it to suddenly
appear in one generation and quite : plausible that if the overo
individual were a popular stallion that the : pattern would then become
readily established in the next few.  : Crypto-overos do not express the
gene in the more recognizable : patterns but rather have dark legs and
extensive white on the face--this : is fairly obviously, from breeding
history, a minimal expression of the : gene, but it is often mistaken for
solid.  : : Tobianos (the classic spotted horse) are probably the
simplest, but they : too can have a minimal expression (extensive leg
markings and little : facial white) that can be overlooked.

: All this blather is simply to say that I think it perfectly credible that
: American Indians should have popularized and bred for the various pinto
: patterns without having them before the Spanish arrival.

Well, this is the mainstream view. But why so many tribes in so many parts
of the country chose this particular breed? And in any case, we don't even
know that the Spanish brought over ponies.

: The genes have : been around, they also turn up on their own, they also
have a surprising : lurking capability for dominants.  I suspect, in fact,
they're going : through right now what they went through then--a period of
popularity and : increased commonality after a period of scorn and

: I'm not familiar with the other aspects of the argument for the position,
: to make any statements about it generally,

Well, nobody really knows much about this anyway, so your contribution is
very helpful.

: but again, I don't think equine color is going to be much help.

Every little bit counts in the attempts to clarify these issues.

Best regards,


Yuri Kuchinsky in Toronto -=O=- [24]

It is a far, far better thing to have a firm anchor in nonsense than
to put out on the troubled seas of thought -=O=- John K. Galbraith

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