The subject for the day is the domestication of the horse--where and when and how and why, as recounted by David W. Anthony in his fascinating and absorbing new book, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language (2008)--and also a salute to the luckiest horse in the Fifth Millennium BCE. Per Anthony, the date is about 4800 BCE; the place is in what he chooses to call ‘the Pontic-Caspian steppes,’ just above the Caspian Sea. The ‘why’ is interesting: apparently not for riding, but for food—horses were big and meaty and could live over the winter in cold climates (riding came later).
As to ‘how,’ the flip answer is ‘it wasn’t easy,’ which is not surprising when you stop to think of it: horses—or, more precisely, stallions—are a notoriously tricky lot and they wouldn’t take kindly to being stabled or hobbled or slapped into harness. But as to precisely how, the DNA evidence provides a remarkable clue. Per Anthony: