The equids represented in cave art and current horses: a proposal to determine morphological differences and similarities


en Anthropozoologica 54 (1) - Pages 1-12

Published on 18 January 2019

The horse is one of the species most represented in cave art during the Paleolithic in the southwest of Europe. These representations show an equine with phenotypical characteristics close to two present-day species which are considered as ancient horses: tarpans (Equus ferus caballus Linnaeus, 1758) and Pzrewalski (Equus caballus przewalskii Poliakov, 1881) horses. There are no paleontological evidence at sites dating from the Upper Paleolithic in this area of the last species, and furthermore various authors compare these representations with Pzrewalski horses. The comparative anatomical analysis of these representations is difficult due to the variety of styles and the different sizes of the figures. In this case, we carry out a study of the body proportions on six variables measured in 42 pictures of horses represented in 15 caves (eleven from Spain and four from France) from different cultures and styles. These measurements have been compared with data obtained from pictures of present-day horses: 22 pictures of hemiones or Asian asses (Equus hemionus Pallas, 1775), 20 tarpans of Konik breed (Equus ferus caballus Linnaeus, 1758) and 25 Pzrewalski’s horses. The results of these analyses were three different equations to distinguish these three current equine species and their relationship with cave art. The equids represented in the caves studied show similar body proportions to Konik horses and similar lengths of mane, tail and ears to present-day Pzrewalski’s horses. The results of this analysis significantly discriminate the three current equine species, which shows that the method is reliable and that the equids represented in the caves studied have body proportions similar to Konik horses and similar lengths of mane, tail and ears to the Pzrewalski horses.


Cave art, horse, Pzrewalski’s horse, hemione, horse shape.

Download full article in PDF format Order a reprint