Chapter 1: Wild Steppe Horse
When the woolly mammoth was grazing in northern Siberia, Alaska and the Yukon, also large herds of wild horses were living there. Beside the steppe-bison, the wild horse (Equus caballus) has been there the most numerous kind of animal. How far north has the wild horse lived on the Mammoth Steppe? - First we would like to find out: How far north has the wild horse lived in recent historical times, before man killed it off there? On what kind of a plant-cover was it living there? What have scientists found out about this?
Late Pleistocene wild horse in Central Europe. From: W. von Koenigswald (1983:204) Fig. 109. It was adapted to zonal steppe and forest-steppe, as now growing in central and southern Siberia. Zonal steppe and forest-steppe are only able to grow in a temperate climate.
Professor V. G. Heptner and co-workers report: "Geographical distribution: Its former area, where it has lived once, reaches across Europe (except its northern part), also across the steppes, partly also the forest-steppe of the European part of the USSR, the forest-steppes, the steppes and half-deserts of Kazakhstan and central Asia, and the lowland areas of central Asia. The area of distribution in the USSR includes the steppe, forest-steppe, and half-desert areas, and is moving in a not very large part also into the forest-zone." (1966:861).
"In the Asian part of the USSR, the area of distribution is harder to follow. Equus przewalskii was doubtlessly found in all the steppes and in a part of the forest-steppe of present Kazakhstan, and in the southern-most part of West Siberia, from the Ural to the Baraba-steppe, and in the steppes, lying in front of the Altai. And it probably went still a little further east. The northern boundary of its area of distribution is here not clear. But it seems to have lain, more or less, at the northern limit of the steppe. It ran close to 55°N, at some places at 54°N, and even at 56°N.
"It was living normally in the South Russian steppes, when nearly no human beings were living there yet, and when a continuous sea of feather-grass and other steppe-grasses was growing there – interspersed with bushes of steppe-shrubs (wild cherry and so on). Scattered throughout the steppe lay small steppe-lakes, with lush thickets of reeds. Many water birds were living on them. And close to these lakes (the ‘pods’), the wild horses were staying. They were grazing, of course, on the steppe. But they were staying at the lakes, since it was absolutely necessary for them to drink. In winter they dug out with their hooves grasses and herbs from beneath the snow (‘winter range’). The large range and the absence of human beings enabled them during hard times (drought, steppe-fire, slippery ice), to wander around very far.
"Very important were also the hard winters. If grasses and herbs had not grown, many of the animals died, when there was much snow and frost, and slippery ice. In the past, when the total size of the population was large, the herds were able to increase again rather quickly. But when the number of the animals had melted down, they were not able anymore to fill up again the losses, and they began to die out faster and faster." – The Dzungarian or Eastern wild horse, the Przewalskii wild horse, E. p. przewalskii has a shoulder height of 120-140 cm. And it weighs 200-300 kg. – Heptner, V. G. et al. (1966:863-870).
Przewalski horse in the Nature Preserve Hustain Nuruu (Mongolia). After: Jasper Nissen, Enzyklopädie der Pferderassen, Europe, Volume 1 (1997)
Northern Range, Climate
In what kind of a climate has the wild steppe-horse lived until quite recently in the northernmost part of its range? To the wild horse this was already marginal habitat. Its normal range is still warmer.
East Europe, Volga River, 53°N: 4°C mean ann. air temp., no permafrost, 2,500° 10°C.ts, 150 days above 10°C, 600 mm P.E., 21°C July temp., 35 kcal/cm² mean ann. net radiation at earth’s surface.
West Siberia, Ob River, 55°N: 2° to 4°C mean ann. air temp., no permafrost, 1600° 10°C.ts, 110 days above 10°C, 600 mm P.E., 18°C July temp., 30 kcal/cm² mean ann. net radiation at earth’s surface.
Wild Horse on Mammoth Steppe
Where has the wild horse Equus caballus lived on the Mammoth Steppe? How far north have they found its remains? And on what kind of a plant-cover has it grazed up there?
Paleontologist R.-D. Kahlke, in Weimar, East Germany, found out: "From northern Siberia on Taimyr Peninsula in the W(est) till Chukotka in the E(ast), a stocky, caballoid horse, E. caballus lenensis RUSANOV, 1968, is known. It is phenotypically similar to the present Yakutian horse. A cadaver find, with about 134-135 cm shoulder height from Selerikan on the upper Indigirka, has an absolute date of around 38,000 a B.P. (Vereshchagin & Lazarev 1977). Between the West Beringian E. caballus lenensis and the small E. lambei HAY, 1917 from the Yukon Territory (east) of Alaska, there could also be closer connections (FORSTÉN 1986). FORSTÉN (1988b, p. 163) views E. lambei as the easternmost representative of the circum-polar group of small caballoid horses. Of these, the Przewalski-horse (E. przewalskii POLJAKOV, 1881) and the tarpan (E. gmelini ANTONIUS, 1912) were the last survivors. ... Even though the upper-Pleistocene or last-glacial range is not clearly known yet, one may state that the fossil Equus prezewalskii has lived mainly in the Asian forest-steppes, steppes, and probably also in the half-deserts." (1994:31, 77).
The leading Czech paleontologist Rudolf Musil says about the wild horse of the late Pleistocene: "Characteristics: a typical steppe species, partly also of the forest-steppe, in isolated cases semi-deserts, plains. Distribution: throughout the Last Glacial very numerous all over the territory investigated." (1985:33).
In northeastern Siberia, the wild horse, during the time of the woolly mammoth, has lived up to Taimyr Peninsula and the New Siberian Islands, up to at least 75°N. In northwestern North America, they have found the wild horse up to the present arctic coast. They have found its remains still further north, on the then exposed continental shelf. The Canadian paleontologist R. C. Harington (1989:97) found the remains of a small wild horse on Herschel Island, northern-most Yukon Territory, near 69°N. It has a radiocarbon-date of 16,200 yrs B.P.
In recent historical times, the wild horse has lived up to about 53-55°N (in West Siberia). During the time of the woolly mammoth, it was found up to at least 75°N (on Taimyr Peninsula). This means: The wild horse has lived then at least 2,100 km further north than now. This wild horse was adapted to the zonal steppe and forest-steppe, not to the boggy arctic tundra. This is also proved by the plant-remains, preserved in the stomach of the late Pleistocene horse. This means also: The climate on Taimyr, at 75°N, had to be then just as warm, and the summer just as long, as it is now in West Siberia’s steppe and forest-steppe, at 55°N:
West Siberia, Ob River, 55°N: 2° to 4°C mean ann. air temp., no permafrost, 1,600° 10°C.ts, 110 days above 10°C, 600 mm P.E., 18°C July temp., 30 kcal/cm² mean ann. net radiation at earth’s surface.
Just like the Horse
Someone may object now and say: The Yakutian domestic horse is living now in the forest-tundra and tundra of northeastern Siberia. If the horse is able to live now on the arctic tundra, the mammoth and rhinoceros would surely also have been able then to live there! – Is that true? Is that reasonable?
The habitat of the Yakutian horse is marginal. The horse is hardly able to survive there, because of the severe climate and the poor food. During critical times in winter, the Yakutian horse needs extra food, especially the foals. It is rather doubtful, whether the domestic horse in Yakutia and Yukon/Alaska would be able to survive there for long, without any human help, except, perhaps, at a few isolated favorable spots. - So we must ask ourselves: Is the elephant and rhinoceros able, to live on the arctic tundra and forest-tundra, just like the Yakutian horse in NE Siberia today? Would the elephant and rhino be able, to graze up there just as fast as the horse? How much must they eat, in order to maintain their body weight?
How much must the horse eat, to maintain its body weight? How much digestible crude protein (DCP), digestible energy (DE), and metabolizable energy (ME) does it need per day for maintenance?
This varies a little. Horses, adapted to a very dry climate, to dry steppe and steppe-desert, are able to live on less protein, than horses, raised in moister regions, like in central Europe. There, they are able to graze for a long time on lush, green meadows.
W. Close and K. H. Menke, Professor for animal nutrition at the University of Hohenheim near Stuttgart (1986) found out: The 150 kg adult horse in a dry, tropical land needs 1.7 g DCP and 110 kcal ME/kg0.75 per day for maintenance.
The report Nutrient Requirements of horses was published in 1980 by the Subcommittee on Horse Nutrition, the Committee on Animal Nutrition, the Board on Agriculture, and the National Research Council, in the USA, referred to here as (NRC 1989). According to this research report, the 200 kg adult horse needs 2.2488 g DCP/kg0.75 day, when digesting 46% of the crude protein (CP), at the normal level of intake. The lowest amount for horse maintenance is 1.843 g DCP/kg0.75 day. Energy for maintenance: 139 kcal DE and 114 kcal ME/kg0.75 day (DE x 0.82 = ME), (NRC 1989).
The German biologists W. Wiesemüller and J. Leibetseder (1993) have found for the adult horse at maintenance the following values: 143.3 kcal DE x 0.82 = 117 kcal ME/kg0.75 day.
The non-lactating Indian elephant cow Jap, studied by Benedict (1936), needed 3.228 g DCP and 144 kcal ME/kg0.75 per day for maintenance.
The adult white rhinoceros needs 2.657 g DCP and 129 kcal ME/kg0.75 per day for maintenance. - Would the mammoth and rhinoceros be able, to live now in the arctic tundra and forest-tundra of NE Siberia, just like the Yakutian domestic horse of today?
How much more would the elephant and rhinoceros then have had to eat, than the horse? In other words: How much digestible crude protein (DCP) and metabolizable energy (ME) would the mammoth, weighing 3,000 kg, 10,000 kg and 20,000 kg, have had to take in then, than the adult Yakutian horse, weighing 250 kg? - And how much more DCP and ME would the woolly rhinoceros, weighing 1,100 kg and 1,500 kg, have had to take in then, than the adult Yakutian horse, weighing 250 kg, to maintain its body weight?
The adult horse, weighing 250 kg, needs 141.4 g DCP and 7419 kcal ME per day, to maintain its body weight.
The 3,000-kg adult elephant needs 1,309 g DCP for maintenance, or as much as 9.2 horses, weighing 250 kg each. – The 3-ton adult elephant needs 58,372 kcal ME per day for maintenance: as much as 7.9 horses, weighing 250 kg each.
The 10,000-kg adult elephant needs 3228 g DCP per day for maintenance: as much as 22.8 horses, weighing 250 kg each. And this 10-ton tusker needs then 144,000 kcal ME per day: as much as 19.4 horses.
The 20,000-kg adult elephant needs 5429 g DCP per day, to maintain its body weight: as much as 38.4 horses, weighing 250 kg each. And this 20-ton giant has to take in then 242,178 kcal ME per day: as much as 32.6 horses.
It is rather doubtful, whether the elephant/mammoth would even be able to graze in the arctic tundra as fast as a single horse, without ruining the sparse and fragile arctic plant-cover for years. Because the elephant cannot graze close to the ground, like the horse. The horse is biting the plants off above the surface of the ground. The elephant is pulling the plants out of the ground with their roots. Even, if the elephant were able to graze like the horse, the elephant would still not be able to live in the arctic tundra: There is too little edible food. Most of the plants up there are poisonous to mammals. Already the woolly mammoth, weighing "only" 3 tons, has to take in each day as much food, as 9 horses, just to maintain its body weight. In an arctic and subarctic climate this is not possible. The 20-ton elephant of the early and middle Pleistocene has to graze as fast as a herd of 38 horses, weighing 250 kg each. In an arctic and subarctic climate this is not possible. There is too little edible food.
Rhinoceros: Grazing like the Horse
The grown woolly rhinoceros had a shoulder height of about 1.60 m, and a body weight of about 1,100 kg, when lean. When fat and built heavier, it weighed up to 1,500 kg. Body-built and nutritional requirements of the woolly rhinoceros and the living white rhinoceros Dicerus simus are very similar. The shape of their mouth shows us, that they were mainly grazers. The adult white rhinoceros needs 141 g DCP and 7419 kcal ME per day, to maintain its body weight. – Would the white rhinoceros and woolly mammoth then be able, to graze in North Siberia’s tundra and forest-tundra just as fast as the horse, weighing 250 kg each?
The 1,100-kg adult white rhinoceros (and woolly rhinoceros) needs 507 g DCP per day, in order to maintain its body weight. That is as much as 3.6 horses do need. And it has to take in then 24,640 kcal ME per day: as much as 3.3 horses.
The 1,500-kg adult white rhinoceros (and woolly rhinoceros) needs 640 g DCP per day for maintenance: as much as 4.5 horses, weighing 250 kg each. And this large grazer has to eat then 31,093 kcal ME per day: as much as 4 horses.
No rhinoceros is able to graze on an arctic plant-cover as fast as 3.6 to 4.5 horses: There is too little fodder. Many of the plants, growing now on the arctic tundra, are poisonous to mammals. And the plant-cover up there is too sparse and too fragile. It contains too little digestible crude protein and metabolizable energy per square meter per year. During the late Pleistocene, no arctic tundra was growing yet in the Far North. There were also plants up there, adapted now to the arctic tundra, which we do call now "tundra plants". That is true. But during the time of the woolly mammoth and the woolly rhinoceros, they were growing in a temperate, zonal steppe and forest-steppe, not in arctic tundra.
In the year 1968, placer gold miners were driving an horizontal shaft into the frozen ground near the upper Indigirka River, in NE Siberia, near 65°N. That is just below the Arctic Circle. There they found the frozen body of a wild horse. In what kind of a geological setting did they find this horse? And what do its stomach contents tell us about the climate, in which it has lived, and about the plant-cover, on which it has grazed?
This map shows, where they have found the remains of the woolly mammoth and its companions. The Selerikan wild horse they have found west of the upper (southern) part of the Indigirka River, on its western side. From: Vereshchagin and Baryshnikov (1982:270) Fig. 1.
The Selerikan horse, near the Upper Indigirka River, Northeast Siberia: geological setting. From: T. V. Yegorova (1977:61). 1. Layer of earth. 2. Clay, mixed with earth. 3. Gravel. 4. Sand and gravel. 5. Angular stones. 6. Roots of trees and other plant remains. 7. Ice lens. – How has this well-preserved wild horse gotten into the frozen ground, 8 meters below the surface?
The Selerikan horse, at the upper Indigirka River, was found in permanently frozen ground, far below the surface.
Valentina V. Ukraintseva (1993) reports: The Selerikan horse was found at the Selerikan gold mine, on the upper Indigirka River, when driving an horizontal shaft, at a depth of 8-9 m from the surface in a bed of loam, with a few pebbles, unrounded material, 2-3 cm in size, and vegetational remains.
The horse was found at a depth of 6.9-8.0 m from the surface, in loam and sandy loam, with inclusions of scattered pebbles and unrounded material, up to 2-3 cm in size, with plant remains. The corpse lay between "peats", on top of the gold-bearing sand and bedrock at 8.9 m below the surface. The bed on top of the gold-bearing sand consists of sandy loam. This sandy loam contains the remains of plants and animals. The miners have found there on the surface of the gold-bearing sand (the old creek-bed) bones, horns, and tusks, the remains of the mammoth, bison, woolly rhinoceros, and of other animals (Ukraintseva, V. V. 1993). – How did this horse get into this frozen ground, 8.9 m below the surface?
Stomach Contents of Selerikan Horse
The Russian botanist Valentina V. Ukraintseva (1993:85, 86) reports about the plant remains, found in the stomach and intestines of the Selerikan horse:
"The majority of fruits, found in food remains of the horse, belong to specimens of the sedge family... Egerova (1977) found 880 fruits of sedges belonging to two genera, namely, Kobresia Wild. and Carex L. and to six species with three species belonging to the genus Carex. Of 880 fruits of sedges, 800 belong to Kobresia capilliformis Ivanova; eleven to Kobresia filifolia (Turcz.); six to K. simpliciuscula (Wahl.) Mack; one fetal sack almost intact is assigned to Carex pediformis C. A. Mey, and one fruit to Carex sp. ... All fruits present in the gastrointestinal tract of the horse are representatives of mountain types of vegetation. The composition of pollen and macroremains in the gastrointestinal tract of the horse points to a leading part of herbs in its forage, dominated by grasses, sedges, Rosaceae, compositae, pink; besides, the horse ate such plants as Allium strictum, A. shoenoprasum, Juncus sp.
"A diversity of ecological groups of plants whose macroremains, fruits and pollen were found in the gastrointestinal tract of the horse suggests that prior to the fatal accident (= when it died), the horse grazed on (i) steppe-like pastures, composed of Helictotrichon krylovii, Kobresia filifolia, Carex pediformis, C. bigelowii ssp. rigidoides, Thalictrum foetidum, Potentilla stepularis, Allium strictum, Selaginella rupestis and others; (ii) mesophytic meadows of forest clearings where Lathyrus pilosus, Festuca sp., Astragalus sp. grew, and (iii) sites, sufficiently moistened, such as moist and swampy meadows on river sides with abundance of Kobresia capilliformis, K. simpliciuscula, Epilobium cf. palustre, Juncus sp., Potentilla multifida and other specimens of forbs whose pollen is scant, and with some amounts of true mosses in the ground layer."
"The horse perished in the period when most species of herbaceous plants were in blossom, probably in late July or early August, as suggested by: (i) pollen of such plants as Lathy ruspilosus, Artimisia vulgaris, Oxytropis sp., Equisetum sp. which are eaten by present Yakut horses in the second half of summer (Andreev, ed., 1974); (ii) the bulk of fruits of Kobresia cf. capilliformis which is in blossom in late May, early June and bear fruit in July-August; (iii) and the lack of caryopses of grasses as they had not ripened by that time.
"Almost all the plants whose pollen, macroremains and fruits were found in the gastrointestinal tract of the horse, grow today in the Indigirka Basin and in other areas of northern Yakutia. Picea obovata, Pinus sylvestris, Betula sp. ex sect. Costatae are exceptions to this rule. Their current ranges are removed from the burial site of the horse by more than 1000 km.
"In this connection, even such low amounts of pollen of tree species (Betula platyphylla, Betula sp. ex sect. Costatae, Picea obovata, Picea cf. ajanensis, Pinus sylvestris, Alnus hirsuta, Larix gmelinii) point to their presence in the vegetational cover of the area and adjacent territories during the horse’s lifetime. Of particular interest is pollen of elm (Ulmus cf. japonica) and pollen of the beaked hazel (Corylus cf. cornuta), a bush species which occurs now in Canada and in the northern portions of the United States.
"Even if pollen of these plants is deliberately regarded as transported to the burial site from more southerly areas, then, taking into account that pollen of larch species is not brought in mass for very long distance, ... it may be assumed that in the past, 40,000 yr B.P., their ranges extended much farther north and northeast than at present." - Ukraintseva, V. V. (1993:86, 87).
"Of herbs such plants as Kobresia cf. capilliformis, Nuphar pumilum, Allium shoenopragum, Stellaria jacutica and some others are vital for reconstruction of the character of vegetation and natural environment. Kobresia cf. capilliformis is a typical plant of highlands of Middle (East) and Central Asia, Mongolia which is rare in the upper part of forest zone. The plant dwells on wet and damp meadows, along rivers and creeks, in cryphytic steppes (= thriving at low temperatures). It grows at such sites, which have a sufficiently thick snow cover. During the horse’s lifetime it may have been abundant in the upper Indigirka River Basin, as suggested by a large amount of its fruits in the food remains." (1993:88).
"Optimal phases in the history of flora and vegetation of the area, fixed by results of paleobotanical analysis of the food remains of the horse, suggest the existence of forest coenoses [areas], composed of spruces (Picea ajanensis, P. obovata), woody birches (Betula platyphylla, Betula sp.) and other tree species, shrubs and low shrubs in the area at the time of its death. The forests were similar in composition to the present middle taiga forests in the basins of Lena and Aldan rivers and on the Stanvoi Highland.
"The ranges of some broad-leaved species, the elm can be cited as an example, advanced much farther to the north, than today. Therefore, their long-distance transported pollen occurred as far as the latitude of the Elga River [where the horse was found] and possibly farther north. Various meadows occupied the river valley, and meadow-steppe communities occurred on southern hillside exposures." - Ukraintseva, V. V. (1993:95).
The Selerikan horse was found in 1968 at the El’gi River, a western tributary of the upper Indigirka River. In what kind of a climate has this horse lived in northeastern Siberia during the time of the woolly mammoth? On what kind of a plant-cover has it grazed there during the late Pleistocene, about 40,000 B.P., according to radiocarbon dating? How would you summarize now your findings about the plant remains?
Valentina V. Ukraintseva: The horse "perished in late July or early August when most herbaceous plants were in bloom in its habitat and adjacent areas; nevertheless, heads of sedges had already ripened, but caryopses of grasses had not ripened yet. Fruits of such families as Polygonaceae, Plantaginacea, Rosaceae may have started ripening only, therefore they were found in food remains of the horse in small amounts. The horse perished suddenly (Tikhomirov and Kultina, 1973; Vereshchagin, 1977); Ukraintseva and Kultina, 1977) and had had no time to completely digest the plants eaten, therefore their remains allowed determination of the composition of plants which grew in the vicinity of horse’s habitat. ...
1. Some species of vegetation, primarily tree species, represented in the paleoflora (Picea ajanensis, P. obovata, Pinus, Betula sp. Ex sect. Costatae), are absent in the recent flora and the nearest limits of their ranges lie at a distance exceeding 1000 km from the area in question.
2. The paleoflora contained aquatic and riverside plants, such as Nuphar pumila and Typha latifolia which are absent in the recent flora.
3. The recent flora contains no genus Kobresia whereas the paleoflora included three species of Kobresia; at present, one of them, Kobresia cf. capilliformis, is a character plant of the upper part of the forest belt of highlands of the Middle East and Central Asia and Mongolia; the other species, K. filifolia is absent in the Indigirka River Basin but present in the Altai, Eastern Siberia, Mongolia, northwestern China and less common in the Asian Arctic, only the third species, K. simplicicuscula, is present in the Indigirka River Basin but absent in the middle Elga River Basin.
4. Most species of shrubs, low shrubs and herbs which today grow in the middle Elga River Basin were present in the flora of the area as early as 38,590±1,120 yr B.P.
5. Some species of the recent steppe communities proper, for instance, Allium strictum, of meadow and less dry steppe varieties (Helictotrychon krylovii, Thalictrium foetidum, Aster alpinus), as well as species entering into the communities of dry meadows and meadow steppes (Sanguisorba officinalis, Polemonium boreale, Kobresia filifolia) had been already present in the composition of paleoflora." - Ukraintseva, V. V. (1993:151, 169).
What have other workers found out about the fossil Selerikan pony? How has it lived? How has it perished?
R. Dale Guthrie
Professor R. Dale Guthrie remarks: "Although virtually unknown to [the mammoth calf] Dima, a mummified Pleistocene pony was discovered in Siberia in 1968 (Skarlato 1977). This mummy, a mature stallion, was carefully studied. ... The Selerikan pony is clearly related to the true caballine horses of Europe and central Asia, known variously as Equus caballus, E. ferus, and E. przewalskii, but all can be considered the same species." (1990:30).
"The gastrointestinal tract was full, indicating the horse had died an almost instantaneous death. ... the position of the carcass suggests that the pony was stuck in some mire. Its hind legs were pointing more or less downward, and its forelegs were more horizontal. ... No fly pupae or cases were found, again showing that the carcass was not exposed for long to summer air. Also, fat surrounding the heart and other viscera suggest it did not die in late summer, early spring, or even early summer.
"Like the Berezovka mammoth, the Selerikan pony has some bones that seem to have been broken after deposition. Its humeri [upper arm bones] are both broken in midshaft. Some of the ribs are also broken, and Vereshchagin (1977) proposes that this occurred by diagnetic processes, probably cryogenic [frost] deformation. To me these data suggest an animal deeply mired and sinking up to its neck. Like Dima, the Selerikan pony carcass lay within organically rich sediments, interlaced with segregation ice, indicating that the sediments were water saturated at the time of freezing. Although the circumstances of its death and subsequent preservation are uncertain, there is sufficient information to reconstruct the time of the year the pony died.
"Pollen from the gastrointestinal tract was studied by N. G. Solonevich, B. A. Tikhomirov, and V. V. Ukraintseva (1977) and identified as mature, suggesting a late summer death. This interpretation was supported by T. V. Yegorova (1977), who identified mature seeds in the gastrointestinal tract. Pelage length is characteristic of a full winter coat. These facts point to late autumn at the time of death." - Guthrie, R. D. (1990:30, 31).
"The pelage of the Selerikan pony was almost identical to that of the extant central Asian wild horse, Przewalski’s horse (Vereshchagin 1977). The tail had long hair to the base, unlike that of asses or hemionids. The undersides of the carcass were yellowish to white in color, and a dark dorsal stripe ran from the base of the tail to the mane. Only a short segment of the mane was present on the shoulder. It was quite black and stood erect.
"Well-preserved stomach contents, included identifiable epidermal fragments, seeds, and pollen, giving us an idea of the horse’s diet (in late autumn) the day it died. Epidermal fragments and pollen both showed a predominance of grasses. N. G. Solonevich and V. V. Vikhireva-Vasil’kova (1977) found more than 90% of herbaceous material, virtually all of which was festucoid grasses, mainly Festuca. ... Seeds found in the gut and identified by V. I. Yegorova (1977), however, were quite different than the stems and leaves. These seeds were mainly of Kobresia and Carex, both sedges. She identified seeds from Kobresia capilliformis, which today does not live in the Arctic but is a characteristic meadow grass of highlands in central Asia and Mongolia.
"Interestingly, John Matthews identified a species of Kobresia seeds in the pelt of the Colorado Creek mammoth, found near McGrath, (West) Alaska. The rather xeric [dry] sedge also grows in Mongolia. The mat of mammoth hairs were loaded with these small black Kobresia seeds, although the stomach contents (epidermal analysis) showed mostly grasses (85%) and a few sedges." - Guthrie, R. D. (1990:32-34).
"The wild horse in Mongolia (Equus przewalskii) is closely related to the domestic horse and interbreeds freely with it. Despite a difference in the chromosome. The habitat of the Mongolian horse was high arid steppes, where it has not been seen for over a decade. Horses closely related to these ranged into the northernmost parts of Siberia and eastern Beringia in the late Pleistocene. Likewise, hemionids (Equus hemionus), adapted to the high dry steppes, from Iran to Mongolia, were also present in northernmost areas of Siberia and eastern Beringia (= Yukon/Alaska). The bones of Equus, both horses and hemionids, are frequent fossils throughout all Beringian habitats where bones are preserved, both uplands and lowlands. This seems to be the case for all times during the radiocarbon range within the Pleistocene. All living members of the genus and their Pleistocene bones are found in the same environments throughout the Holarctic. .
"A Pleistocene horse, found at Selerikan in the Indigirka River basin and dating about 37,000 years before present, had a stomach and intestines containing 90% herbaceous material, of which Festuca grasses predominated, along with the sedge, Kobresia. The latter was identifiable to species. Kobresia capilliformis, by seeds (Ukraintseva 1981). This xeric sedge species, Ukraintseva remarks, is not present in the Indigirka area today, but is a typical plant in the high dry mountains of central Asia, the Middle East, and Mongolia. She concluded that it had been abundant in the area where the horse died
"Pleistocene horses and bison in Beringia did not have larger hooves than their counterparts now living on firm substrates farther south. We know this from well-preserved mummies, as well as from comparisons of distal foot bones. Woolly mammoth feet, for example, were not larger than the feet of living elephants. ... A map of fossil localities of mammals in Alaska and Siberia shows that bones are found everywhere, where conditions are suitable for fossil preservation, from valley bottoms to well above the present tree-line." - Guthrie, R. D. (1990:256, 259, 263).
Plants, where now growing
The remains of plants, recovered from the stomach of the Selerikan horse: Where are they growing now? How far north? And in what kind of a climate?
Kobresia simpliciuscula, a sedge, Hultén 1958 map 213, Meusel, map p. 63. This sedge is growing now in N. England, in Scotland, the Alps, in central Asia, from 49-54°N, in the Altai, Sayan, central Siberia, in Alaska, and N. Canada.
Kobresia filifolia, a sedge. It is growing now in the steppe zone of Transbaikal, SE of Lake Baikal (Walter, H. 1974:219). That is some 2,300 km southwest from the place, where the frozen body of the Selerikan horse was found, and 2,100 km further south in latitude. This sedge is also found in the steppe-zone of Transbaikal, 115-120°E, and 50-52°N. Its climate: 4°C ann. air temperature, no permafrost, 90 days per year above 10°C. 35 kcal/cm² net radiation at earth’s surface. 600 mm P.E., 2000° 10°C.ts., 20°C July temperature.
Kobresia capilliformis, a sedge. It is growing now in the Tienshan, central Asian mountain range, central Asian high plateau, forming meadows (Walter, H. 1974). That is some 4,100 km further southwest from the place, where the Selerikan horse was found, and 2,100 km further south in latitude. In the Tienshan, central Asian mountain range, at wet spots, Kobresia capilliformis is forming meadows near 40°N, 80°E. The climate, wherein it is growing there: 16°C mean ann. air temperature, 60 days per year above 10°C on mountains, and 210 days above 10°C per year in lowland. 50 kcal/cm² net radiation per year at earth’s surface. 1250 mm P.E., 1000° 10°C.ts. on mountains, and 4500° 10°C.ts. in lowland. 8°C July temperature on mountains, 30°C July temperature in lowland.
Allium strictum is found now in the light larch taiga, in the steppe zone of E. Europe, and in the steppe near Krasnoyarsk, W. Siberia (Walter, H. 1974).
Betula platyphylla, a birch, is growing now in the Khentei Mountain Range, Mongolia, in the forest and steppe zone of the Great Hsingan (Hingan), Inner Mongolia. This kind of birch is also found in the Mongolian steppe (Barga area), in the Alashan desert, Central Asia, and at Lake Baikal (H. Walter 1974).
Betula exilis, a birch. From the arctic coast down to about 55°N, to Lake Baikal (Meusel, H. 1965 map p. 119). In tundra, light larch taiga, in Outer Mongolia, and in Mongolian steppe (Khentei). (Walter, H. 1974).
Alnus fruticosa = Alnaster fruticosa. This alder is growing now in cold arctic desert, tundra, light larch taiga, at Lake Baikal, in Outer Mongolian steppe, and in the Altai, central Asia (Walter, H. 1974).
Selaginella selaginoides. In Northern Ireland, Northern England and Scotland, Scandinavia, the Alps, the Balkan. In central Siberia from northern treeline down to 55°N, and in E. Siberia from northern treeline down to 50°N.
Carex pediformis. This sedge is growing now in the light larch taiga, in the central Asian steppe, Transbaikal steppe, in Afghanistan, Hindukush, in the half-desert and desert of central Asia. It is also found in the steppe of the Altai, central Asia (Walter, H. 1974).
Thalictrum foetidum. In Europe, in the Alps, on the Balkan, in the Caucasus and eastern Turkey. It is also living in the steppe from Eastern Europe, across southern Siberia, central Asia, to Mongolia (Walter, H. 1974).
Caltha palustris. In dark (spruce) taiga, light (larch) taiga at Lake Baikal, in forests and steppes of SE Europe (Walter, H. 1974). In Europe from N. Norway to central Spain, Balkan, Siberia: down to 50-52°N, Caucasus. (Hultén, E. 1971, map 75).
Phragmites communis. This reed is found near bodies of water. It was also recovered from the stomach contents of the Berezovka mammoth. The closest azonal small isolated place, where this reed is growing, lies now: at the upper Lena River, near Yakutsk, some 1,000 km southwest from the place, where the Selerikan horse was found. The next isolated place, where Phragmites communis is living now, lies some 2,400 km further southwest from the upper Indigirka River, where the horse was found (Hultén, E. 1958, map 166).
The plant remains, recovered from the stomach of the Selerikan horse in northeastern Siberia, do prove this to me: The wild horse of the Mongolian type has lived during the time of the woolly mammoth in the Far North up to the shores of the Arctic Sea. Its remains have also been found still further north, on the now submerged continental shelf, off Siberia’s and Alaska’s present Arctic Coast. This horse Equus caballus, has grazed up there on zonal steppe and forest-steppe, as we find it now in Central Asia. This zonal steppe and forest-steppe was growing in a mild temperate climate, without an arctic winter, without ice and snow, and without any permafrost.
Wild horse (Przewalski horse). After: S. Legel (Ed.), Nutztiere der Tropen und Subtropen, Volume 3 (1993:21) Fig. 2.2.
Selerikan Horse: How it lived, how it perished
How has the Selerikan horse lived? When has it lived? In what kind of a climate and on what kind of a plant-cover has it grazed? How has it perished? How did this horse get into the frozen ground, 8 meters below the surface? What do the biological and geological facts, known now, tell us? - The biological and geological facts, known now, do lead me to conclude this:
The Selerikan horse was found at the Elga River, near 64°N, 142°E, a tributary of the upper Indigirka River, in northeastern Siberia. It was a stallion. It belonged to the same species, as the modern Mongolian horse, E. przewalskii, adapted to the high, dry steppes of Central Asia. Herds of wild horses, steppe bison, woolly mammoths, muskoxen, woolly rhinoceroses and other kinds of animals were grazing there. They were living on a meadow-steppe in a zonal forest-steppe, in a climate, as we do find it now in summer in Central Asia (Tienshan, Pamir), and on the Transbaikal steppe, southeast of Lake Baikal.
The seeds of the sedge Kobresia filifolia and Kobresia capilliformis, found in the stomach and intestines of the horse, were ripe. They do indicate the following climate: 20°C July temperature, 600 mm potential evapotranspiration (P.E.), 2000° temperature sum (ts.) with days above 10°C.
"Like Dima, the Selerikan pony carcass lay within organically rich sediments, interlaced with segregation ice, indicating that the sediments were water saturated at the time of freezing. Although the circumstances of its death and subsequent preservation are uncertain, there is sufficient information to reconstruct the time of the year the pony died. Pollen from the gastrointestinal tract was studied by N. G. Solonevich, B. A. Tikhomirov, and V. V. Ukraintseva (1977) and identified as mature, suggesting a late summer death. This interpretation was supported by T. V. Yegorova (1977), who identified mature seeds in the gastrointestinal tract. Pelage length is characteristic of a full winter coat. These facts point to late autumn at the time of death." - Guthrie, R. D. (1990:30, 31).
The stallion was grazing at the beginning of November 2370 B.C.E. on a lush meadow in the zonal forest steppe near the Upper Indigirka River, northeastern Siberia. The climate up there was mild temperate, without an arctic winter, without ice and snow. The zonal steppe and forest-steppe were growing up there in a climate, as we do find it now in summer in Central Asia.
Suddenly, northeastern Siberia was hit by an icy storm. And it began to rain 40 days and 40 nights. The global Flood of Noah’s days had come upon the whole earth. The stallion was either first killed by the deep arctic cold, hitting the Far North, or it drowned first in the silty water of the global Flood. The horse was killed in a sudden catastrophe. It died so quickly, that it did not even have time, to digest the fodder, it had eaten. That is why the plants in its stomach and intestines can even be identified down to the level of species. First, its body sank down to the bottom. But the ferments and microbes in its digestive tract kept on producing gases. And these internal gases began to bloat the body, causing it to rise again to the surface of the water. The waters of this global Flood were covering even the highest mountains of the earth.
Sand, silt, and loam were whirled up with the waters of the Flood. The bloated bodies of thousands of animals were floating on the surface of the water. During the following winter of 2370/2369 some of the bodies, drifting at the surface, may have become frozen. In the warmth of the following summer, many of the bloated bodies of woolly mammoth, woolly rhinoceroses, bison, and wild horses began to rot and to fall apart. Whole bodies, parts of the body, and isolated bones and tusks began to sink down with the sand, silt, and plant remains, drifting in the water.
During the next months, the water of the Flood was moving more and more from the continents into the basins of the sea. Because the continents began to rise up. And the basins of the sea were sinking down. The mountains before the Flood of Noah’ days were lower than now. So the water of the Flood was able to leave the continents (Psalms 104:5-9). Sand, silt, loam, plants, and the bodies of animals, or their isolated parts were sinking to the bottom, forming the mantle of silt and muck in the old creek valleys, with the gold-bearing sand. These sediments were also covering the ridges and slopes of the hills and mountains.
Also the Selerikan horse was sinking now down to the bottom, when the water of the Flood went down again. It sank down into the valley of the Elga River, a western tributary of the upper Indigirka River, near 65°N. But it sank down a little further upstream from the place, where it was found. The burial site of the Selerikan horse, with its geological setting, was published in Russian by O. A. Skarlato (Ed.) 1977, Fig. 1. It will help us now to unlock the mystery: How did the Selerikan horse get into the frozen ground, 8 meters below the surface? We shall start at the bottom of this geological site, to find the answer.
There lies the old creek bed, with its gold-bearing sand 8.9 m below the surface:
8.0 to 8.9 m: There is a 0.9-m thick frozen layer. It consists of sand, sandy loam, with a few pebbles and pieces of rock. In this layer, there are thick lenses of ice. These ice lenses are segregation ice. It shows us that this sand and clay contained much water, when they began to freeze, more than 4,000 years ago. It also shows us that these sediments were laid down by water. This 0.9-m thick layer, right on top of the old creek bed, with its gold-bearing sand, contains many remains of plants and bones, horns, and tusks. The gold miners have found there the remains of the mammoth, the bison, the muskox, the woolly mammoth, and of many other kinds of animals. Such a layer, with its many plant-remains, we do also find in the frozen ground of Alaska and the Yukon Territory. The gold miners there are calling it muck. The hind legs of the Selerikan horse are sitting in this layer of muck.
6.9-8.0 m (1.1 m thick) layer: This layer consists of loam and sandy loam, with a few pebbles and unrounded rocks, 2-3 cm in size, and plant remains.
3.5-4.6 m: Sand, fine pebbles, sandy loam, small pieces of rock, according to O. A. Skarlato (Ed.) (1977) and Ukraintseva, V. V. (1993).
How does all that now fit together? How did the Selerikan horse get into the frozen ground, 8 meters below the surface? – We shall start again from the bottom: On the old creek bed, 8.9-m below the surface, on top of the gold-bearing sand, there is the 0.9-m thick bed, made up of sand, sandy loam, with a few pebbles, and thick lenses of ice (segregation ice). This bed contains many organic particles, the remains of plants, and also bones, tusks and horns. The gold miners have found there the remains of the mammoth, bison, muskox, and woolly rhinoceros. – How has this layer of "muck", on top of the old creek bed, arisen?
During the Flood of Noah’s days, in the year 2370 B.C.E., water, several kilometers deep, was covering the earth. After a few months, the water of the Flood was moving back again. And more and more mineral and organic particles, suspended in the water, began to sink down to the bottom. Also the bloated bodies and isolated parts of their bodies (which began to rot and fall apart in the summer’s heat) – bones, tusks, heads, legs, etc. – began to sink down to the bottom, as the water of the Flood began to go back again. After one year, the water of the Flood had left the continents. The continents were again dry land. Somewhere, further up in the valley of the Elga River, the whole frozen body of the horse also sunk down into the mantle of mud and silt.
During the next winter of 2370/2369 B.C.E., the valley of the Elga River was filled with auf-ice. Auf-ice will arise in the Far North in winter, when it is very cold. Some of the creeks and rivers are frozen down right to the bottom. The water of this creek or river must flow then during the long winter months on top of the ice. At the end of the winter, the whole valley might be filled with this auf-ice. I myself have seen this auf-ice in late winter in the northern Yukon Territory. It was filling the whole valley. A thin layer of water was flowing over the ice. This ice, covered with water, was glittering in the sun of late winter, like a mirror. This auf-ice consists of thin, horizontal layers of ice. And it contains also air-bubbles. In spring, when it gets warmer, this auf-ice begins to melt and to break apart.
Right behind the frozen Selerikan horse is such a block of fossil auf-ice (the area with the TTTs in the drawing of the geological site). And in front, on top of the horse, there is another block of this fossil auf-ice. – How did these old blocks of auf-ice get there? – They have either arisen right there during the last winter, or they have floated down there from further up-river, during break-up in spring. Guthrie sees in it segregation ice, frozen out of the mud.
During this break-up in spring, when ice and snow are melting, when the cover of the ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up, the rivers and creeks are carrying much water. This water is cutting down then more and more the steep cut-banks of the rivers and creeks. During this break-up in the spring of 2368 B.C.E. (or later on), also the body of the horse, buried loosely in the cold, wet sand and clay, began to drift first down the slope into the Elga River and drifted downstream. Then it sank to the bottom of the river, between the two blocks of old auf-ice. The hind-legs of its frozen body sank down into the first bed. It has been laid down in the Flood, in 2370/2369 B.C.E.
The water during this spring break-up was moving so fast that it was also moving heavier particles: small pebbles, pieces of rock from the nearby slopes, and the whole, frozen body of the horse. This sand and clay then covered also the frozen body of the horse, "sitting" between the two blocks of old auf-ice. During the next years, the river laid down more and more sand and loam onto the older sediments. Then the ground began to freeze. It became as hard as rock. But why is the stallion’s head missing? – The burial site will also help us, to solve this mystery:
In front of the horse, the river (or creek) has dug itself a new bed. During each spring, at break-up, the water of the creek was gnawing itself deeper and deeper into the steep cut-bank, wherein the frozen horse was buried. The creek stopped breaking away the frozen soil of the cut-bank, when it had reached the front-legs of the horse. But further up on the cut-bank (at this place, where the horse was buried), the river had cut itself much deeper into the frozen bank. Whole chunks of frozen earth broke loose and fell into the river. In one of these frozen chunks of earth, falling down from the steep cut-bank, the head of the Selerikan horse was sitting. It was broken off from the rest of the frozen body. It was carried away by the swiftly flowing water in spring.
The front-legs of the Selerikan horse, now partly exposed in the cut-bank, did not break off, nor did they rot away. – Why? – Because the swift, silty river changed its course again. It quickly filled up this area, in front of the cut-bank, wherein the frozen horse was sitting, during the next years with new sediments. These sediments, brought there by the river, also contained the remains of plants. In any case: The area, in front of the body of the horse, was filled up again so quickly with new sediments, and it was deeply frozen again so quickly, that it was preserved till our time. In 1968, after 4,365 years (calculated from 1995), placer gold miners at the Selerikan gold mine then drove a horizontal shaft into the frozen loam, above the gold-bearing creek bed, 8 meters below the surface. And they found the well preserved, frozen body of the stallion. This wild steppe horse has lived before the global Flood of Noah’s days. And he perished in this global Flood, and was also buried by it.