Origins of Equine Dentistry

Archaeological research shows that Mongolians conducted dental procedures on their horses.
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Mongolian horses

The investigators identified two different dental procedures on ancient Mongolian horses that might well have coincided with increased use of horses for transportation as well as for meat and milk.

Examination of ancient horse teeth by archaeologist William Taylor at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History found evidence of equine dentistry that dates back 3,200 years [Taylor, W.T.T.; Bayarsaikhan, J.; et al. Origins of Equine Dentistry. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) July 2018].

The skulls came from horse remains in 29 sites throughout Mongolia. Entombed equine heads were excavated beside Mongolian stone monuments—it is thought that the humans consumed the rest of the horse.

The investigators identified two different dental procedures that might well have coincided with increased use of horses for transportation as well as for meat and milk:

  • Sawing down or attempted removal of mal-erupted, central deciduous incisors (milk teeth), probably with a stone tool – dating back to 1150 BCE.
  • Removal of the first premolars (wolf teeth) of the upper jaw – dating back to 750 BCE.

Wolf tooth removal procedures seem to have paralleled the archaeological appearance of metal bits to replace leather control measures in the late second or early first millennium BCE. The nomadic life of the Mongolians depends on their horses, so it is not surprising that they developed a keen interest in equine health and improved control under saddle. These findings corroborate the infancy of equine dentistry in millennia a thousand years before Christ.

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