Historia naturalis bulgarica

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Date published: 9 March 2018

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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Typology of Thracian horses according to osteological analysis of skeletal remains and depictions from the antiquity

Spassov, Nikolai; Iliev, Nikolai; Hristova, Latinka; Ivanov; Vasil

2018 — volume 25 — pp. 15—24 — [PDF]

Abstract: Skeletal remains of about 15 horses from the antique Thracian mounds were compared in terms of habitus and height at the shoulders. Additional data about the habitus of the Thracian horse were received from the analysis of more than 1000 depictions of horseman and horses from the same epoch. The breeds of the Thracian horse from the recent Bulgarian territories during the antiquity (after skeletons from IV—III century B.C.) were mostly semi-thin legged to thin-legged (following the classification of Brauner, 1916). All these horses have similarity with the ancient and recent eastern breeds: relatively small-sized as a whole, frequently with slender legs (after metapodials and especially metatarsals), adapted to fast allures. The height at the shoulder varied significantly — from 125 to 150 cm. According the classification of Vit (1952), the bred horses were usually small- to medium-sized. Based on the osteological material and the studied depictions we could conclude that in general the horses from the Thracian time (including the Roman epoch) were relatively robust, with strong skeletal system and compact, embossed muscles, large head, strong neck and short, upright mane. All of these are primitive features inherited from the wild ancestors. The studied material had similarities with the Arabian horse, but in general it was a little bit more robust and its height at the shoulder was smaller than the recent Arabian horse. The most frequent images of Thracian horses from the antiquity of Bulgaria and the Balkans represent exactly this kind of horse. Such horses would be suitable for hunting, especially in the varied relief, typical for the Bulgarian/Balkan lands. Most of the Thracian horses from the studied age (judging from the sample) probably could not reach the height, the slenderness and the running ability of the recent Arabian horses, which have been selected over a long period of time. At the same time, it is important to note that the elite Thracian horses had attained the parameters of the Arabian horse, especially its height and slenderness.

Keywords: Thracian horses, osteological analysis, horse height