Population Genetic Analysis of the Estonian Native Horse Suggests Diverse and Distinct Genetics, Ancient Origin and Contribution from Unique Patrilines. Academic Article uri icon


  • The Estonian Native Horse (ENH) is a medium-size pony found mainly in the western islands of Estonia and is well-adapted to the harsh northern climate and poor pastures. The ancestry of the ENH is debated, including alleged claims about direct descendance from the extinct Tarpan. Here we conducted a detailed analysis of the genetic makeup and relationships of the ENH based on the genotypes of 15 autosomal short tandem repeats (STRs), 18 Y chromosomal single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), mitochondrial D-loop sequence and lateral gait allele in DMRT3. The study encompassed 2890 horses of 61 breeds, including 33 ENHs. We show that the expected and observed genetic diversities of the ENH are among the highest within 52 global breeds, and the highest among 8 related Northern European ponies. The genetically closest breeds to the ENH are the Finn Horse, and the geographically more distant primitive Hucul and Konik. ENH matrilines are diverse and relate to draught and Pontic-Caspian breeds. ENH patrilines relate to draught breeds, and to a unique haplogroup not described before. None of the 33 ENHs carried the "gait" mutation, but the mutation was found in 2 Huculs. The study demonstrates that the ENH is a genetically distinct and diverse breed of ancient origin with no notable pressure of selective breeding.

published proceedings

  • Genes (Basel)

altmetric score

  • 4.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Castaneda, C., Juras, R., Khanshour, A., Randlaht, I., Wallner, B., Rigler, D., ... Cothran, E. G.

citation count

  • 10

complete list of authors

  • Castaneda, Caitlin||Juras, Rytis||Khanshour, Anas||Randlaht, Ingrid||Wallner, Barbara||Rigler, Doris||Lindgren, Gabriella||Raudsepp, Terje||Cothran, E Gus

publication date

  • January 2019


published in