‘Truly amazing’ scientific discovery on adaptation of Yakutian horses to cold
The resilient Yakutian horses are one of the great native sights of the Sakha Republic – or Yakutia. In their way as much a part of the classic Siberian scenery as permafrost, extinct woolly mammoths, diamonds and Laika dogs in this kingdom of cold. Except that these horses are not really native.
Fascinating new scientific research has found that their seemingly built-in protection against extreme Arctic conditions is a recent phenomenon, at least by the normal tortoise-paced standards of evolution.
Researchers say these horses, which seem so well attuned to the harsh cold with thick, dense winter coats, their armour against temperatures of minus 70C (minus 94F), are incomers that only arrived in these parts within the last 800 years. Yet during that time, the requirement to survive has seen a quick-fire – almost overnight in relative terms – evolution by this species of horse.
Moreover, there was indeed a breed of horses native to this vast area of Russia, in which lie the coldest permanently inhabited communities on the planet. But these true native horses became extinct, at roughly the same time as the woolly mammoth and rhinoceros also died out, finally disappearing around 5,000 years ago.