Extinct Pompeii horse is actually a donkey

Published on November 4th, 2010 | by Admin


At Pompeii, the skeleton of what was thought to be an extinct breed of horse has actually turned out to be a donkey.

Indeed, the identity of the strange breed of ‘horse’ that has been discovered in 2004, at Pompeii, has been cleared out by a Cambridge University researcher, who realized it was actually a donkey.

Back in 2004, when academics unearthed skeletons found at a house in the ancient Roman town that was covered in ashes in 79 AD, they thought it belonged to an extinct breed of horse.

The mistake was made at the DNA analysis, and Susan Gurney – from the University’s Institute of Continuing Education, working with Dr Peter Forster on horse genetics at the University of Cambridge, realized the mistake when she revisited the study.

What happened really was that there seems to have been a mix-up in the lab, which led to horse DNA being combined with donkey DNA, creating an artificial hybrid that actually never existed.

Six years ago, the skeletons of equids having belonged to a rich Roman household in Pompeii were analyzed.

There were found in the stables of a probably wealthy politician, and all five of them were very well preserved by the volcanic ash that covered Pompeii and Herculaneum, when Mount Vesuvius erupted.

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