Was the "Celtic pony" a Caspian - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 15 Old 06-29-2013, 11:10 AM Thread Starter
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Was the "Celtic pony" a Caspian

I have often wondered if the "Celtic pony" was in fact a Caspian ?

Victorian archaeologists in Britain often compared the small Bronze Age / Iron Age pony to the Exmoor pony, this theory seemed to have persisted right up to modern time. But this comparison can only be made to the height only. Back in the old days they looked around for a breed that was about the same size that was believed to be an ancient type. But now modern science has proved that the Exmoor pony is not an ancient breed at all. The Caspian was only rediscovered about 48 years ago. The modern osteo archaeologists describe the Bronze Age Celtic pony as follows "rather small and slender" "shoulder heights of 111 cm and 120 cm" The only horse type that fits that size and build is a Caspian. What do you think ?

Irish Eddie
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post #2 of 15 Old 06-29-2013, 12:31 PM
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Modern DNA-testing of the most ancient UK horse fossils suggests that these animals were not closely related to any horse breed known today, including the Caspian.

However, by the end of the Iron Age, ponies similar to the Exmoor were most certainly on the scene. They may have resembled the Tarpan, with whom they share a genetic history. Evidence suggests that the Exmoor as we recognise it descended directly from these animals.

Heck, even Dartmoors like my boy were recorded by the Saxons - he sure fits the bill!

Milo..jpg

Do you have any information to back up your theory?
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post #3 of 15 Old 06-29-2013, 02:31 PM Thread Starter
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The DNA of Bronze Age / Iron Age horse don't match modern horse in Ireland, Britain or Europe. The Exmoor pony like the Dartmoor are very Dwarf looking in their appearance. The Bronze Age / Iron Age horse was small slender but they did not have Dwarf features like the Exmoor and Dartmoor.

Some modern research "Exmoor fanciers claim the breed is directly descended from an isolated population of wild ancestors which have bred pure since the Ice Age, and thus is more than 10,000 years old. However, modern DNA research to date has not supported the traditionally-held view of the origin of the Exmoor pony, as existing studies indicate they share their maternally-inherited mitochondrial DNA with various other horse breeds from across the world, and their paternally-inherited Y-chromosome is identical to that of most other domesticated horses."

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post #4 of 15 Old 06-29-2013, 04:09 PM
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I'm confused. Which period in history are you talking about, Ice Age or Iron Age? Horses of a Tarpan type were in the UK during the latter, according to DNA findings. Not identical DNA to more recent ancient European horses, but enough markers to show a connection. Then came evolution.

Are you suggesting Caspians migrated to (or originated from) the UK and then died out before the Tarpans arrived? Is there evidence elsewhere in Europe to prove a migratory route?
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post #5 of 15 Old 06-29-2013, 05:05 PM Thread Starter
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Good questions and I am talking about from the Bronze Age this is why Ireland was so important, the wild horse went extinct in Ireland during the Ice Age, but this was not the case in Britain or in mainland Europe where the wild horse continued to survive. The horse returned to Ireland as a domestic during the Bronze Age so there was no problems in trying to distinguish between the domestic and wild horse in Ireland as there is elsewhere in Europe.

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Are you suggesting Caspians migrated to (or originated from) the UK and then died out before the Tarpans arrived?
No, but from the Mediterranean in the South and South West all the way to Ireland in the far West of Europe the domestic horse from the Bronze age was a very small light boned horse just like the Caspian in both size and breed type. When some of our Celts traveled from the Mediterranean to Ireland back in the Bronze Age they might have brought these very small light boned horses with them ?
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post #6 of 15 Old 06-29-2013, 05:07 PM
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If you google the world you can vividly see the continental shelf of each country bprdering an ocean. In many cases it was above water at one time until the ice age melt began, then the levels gradually rose. I was of the belief that the Caspian was the forerunner of the Arabian and a few others.
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post #7 of 15 Old 06-29-2013, 06:07 PM Thread Starter
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I was of the belief that the Caspian was the forerunner of the Arabian and a few others.
Correct.

The Caspian was rediscovered in the Alborz Mountains on the shores of the Caspian sea and that is where it got it's name. But this horse was widespread at one time.
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post #8 of 15 Old 06-30-2013, 04:36 AM
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I see where you're coming from now, Eddie. I was taking the word "Celtic" in your thread title in the literal sense. The timeline for UK Celtic history commences 500-400 BC, the ancestors to our Exmoor and Dartmoor ponies were certainly on the scene by then. However, I believe you are talking about the period in time prior to this - an early "Bronze Age horse" rather than a "Celtic pony"?

Whilst to the best of our current knowledge all horses descended from one common ancestor, there were several branches of horse that evolved from this point, eg the Mongolian horse was developing at the same time period in history as the Caspian. Since archaeological examination of the most ancient remains of UK horses cannot reliably link it to any modern day breed, one could theorise that this was one of the "branches" that didn't make the grade and died out?

However, I wouldn't discount your theory either. Unfortunately, the evidence to support or disprove it has been lost or is yet to be discovered (perhaps in one of your Irish peat bogs?). It is a fascinating subject.

PS. Merlin is still smarting from you describing his features as "dwarf like". In his head he is all of 16hh - he's only 2, got some growing to do . . .
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post #9 of 15 Old 06-30-2013, 10:31 PM Thread Starter
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Yea but Celtic culture was in mainland Europe in the Bronze Age. Those very small horses are found in the lands of the Celt.

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However, I wouldn't discount your theory either. Unfortunately, the evidence to support or disprove it has been lost or is yet to be discovered (perhaps in one of your Irish peat bogs?). It is a fascinating subject.
But we have "small and slender" horses from the Bronze Age with "shoulder heights of 111 cm and 120 cm" that is from about 10.3 hands to about 11.3 hands that is about the average size range of a Caspian and the same type of build too.

Quote:
the ancestors to our Exmoor and Dartmoor ponies were certainly on the scene by then.
"modern DNA research to date has not supported the traditionally-held view of the origin of the Exmoor pony, as existing studies indicate they share their maternally-inherited mitochondrial DNA with various other horse breeds from across the world, and their paternally-inherited Y-chromosome is identical to that of most other domesticated horses."

Regarding the Dartmoor pony .... "The Dartmoor Pony was used in medieval times for carrying heavy loads of tin from the mines across the moor. It suffered greatly from the infusion of Shetland blood in the years between 1789 and 1832" "The Dartmoor received Arab blood from the stallion Dwarka, foaled in 1922, as well as Dwarka’s son, The Leat. Welsh pony breeding was introduced from the stallion Dinarth Spark, and infusions of Fell Pony blood was also added."

Not Iron Age but New Age.

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post #10 of 15 Old 07-01-2013, 02:37 AM
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I did say "ancestors to" the Exmoor and Dartmoor. Both these breeds have reached near extinction several times and received infusions from elsewhere to keep them alive. I'm not disputing the theory that the Caspian horse is likely to be the purest ancient breed we have. Nor am I raining on your original idea - I think I'll leave it there.
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