The “kungas”, these animals created by humans before the domestication of horses

The “kungas”, these animals created by humans before the domestication of horses
The “kungas”, these animals created by humans before the domestication of horses

4500 years ago, the Sumerians succeeded in creating a hybrid between a donkey and a wild ass to create a particularly fast horse of war.

A mystery solved by science. At the British Museum, a 4,500-year-old wooden fresco, the Standard of Ur, has for years shown Sumerians, an ancient people of Syria and Iraq, using animals that strongly resemble horses to pull a chariot . Only, at that time, horses had not been domesticated.

This Friday, a study published in Science Advances, and relayed by The Parisian, reveals that these beasts, named “kungas”, were a cross between a domestic donkey and a wild donkey, created by humans.

“The hybrids were bigger and faster than the donkeys, but sterile. To get new ones, you had to regularly capture wild donkeys, which was difficult because they were very fast, faster than horses, and very aggressive, indomitable “, says Thierry Grange, co-author of the study, at Parisian.

“One Kunga was worth six donkeys”

To reach this conclusion, the researchers carried out genome sequencing of skeletons found in northern Syria. In all, around forty of them had been found in the early 2000s, buried in front of war tanks.

According to Eva-Maria Geigl, research director at the CNRS, also interviewed by The Parisian, these hybrid animals were highly sought after, to the point of being expensive. “A kunga was worth six domesticated donkeys. Some were offered at royal weddings,” she says daily. Conclusions drawn from the analysis of cuneiform tablets which served as records of transactions.

Despite everything, the introduction of horses in the region got the better of this very special breed. These being able to reproduce, they had a significant advantage over the kungas.

 
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