Male Horses Were Preferred Over Female Ones in the Bronze Age

Researchers think this may be pointing to a "new vision of gender" that prevailed at the time.
Loukia Papadopoulos

We all know that misogyny has existed for a long time and it turns out it extended to opinions about horses, according to Science Magazine. In fact, to this day many equestrians have a preference for “predictable” geldings over “moody” mares.


This kind of myth persists despite no real difference in the horses' behaviors when ridden. A new study is now revealing our biased and faulty views of horses go way back.

Research that looked at ancient DNA from hundreds of horse skeletons from 40,000 B.C.E. to 700 C.E. found at dozens of sites across Eurasia revealed that Bronze Age Eurasians overwhelmingly preferred male horses. But that wasn't always the case.

The researchers, led by Antoine Fages, a paleogenomicist at Paul Sabatier University, found an equal balance of mares and stallions at the oldest sites. This suggests that early Eurasians hunted both sexes equally. 

The change seems to have occurred about 3900 years ago. After that period, researchers found three times more stallions than mares, both buried and thrown out with the trash. Fages believes the abundance of males during that time may be due to a new “vision of gender” in humans.

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Indeed, Bronze Age men are consistently depicted differently from women, evidence that male status was considered superior at that time. During those days, long-distance trading networks and metal production brought on new social hierarchies and new distinctions between men and women.

These new distinctions may have also spurred misleading ideas about horses, considering male horses as stronger than their female counterparts and indicating that misogyny has been around for many decades. However, the experts also speculate that mares may have been saved for breeding making stallions more disposable which would explain why there would be more of them. Fages and his team analyzed DNA from the bones of 268 ancient horses. 

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