The skeletal remains of a “wild” female horse found buried in a big ancient lake in Utah and thought to date back 16,000 years to the last ice age are actually no older than 340 years old, a new study finds.
The bones, unearthed by landscapers in a Lehi, Utah backyard in 2018, were initially dated to a period that ended roughly 11,700 years ago. But after analyzing the horse’s remains, scientists realized that the hoofed beast was actually a domestic horse that lived much more recently.
The initial age of the horse remains suggested this mare was wild; such horses lived in North America from about 50 million to 10,000 years ago, disappearing around the same time that other large animals, including mammoths, short-faced bears, dire wolves and giant sloths went extinct at the end of the last ice age. (It’s likely that a combination of climate change and human interaction led to their demise, research shows.) However, the new findings suggest this horse — which died when it was about 12 years old — was domestic, dating to post-Columbian times, after the Spanish introduced the domestic horse (Equus caballus) to the Americas starting in the 16th century.
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