Preliminary Investigation of Morphological Differences Between Ten Breeds of Horses Suggests Selection for Paedomorphosis

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Paedomorphosis is the retention of juvenile morphology at maturity and is important in generating evolutionary change in domestic species and species in the wild. When comparing dogs with the wolf, this preliminary study saw paedomorphosis in their physical and behavioral traits (Goodwin, Bradshaw, & Wickens, 1997Goodwin, D., Bradshaw, J. W. S. and Wickens, S. M. 1997. Paedomorphosis affects visual signals of domestic dogs. Animal Behavior, 53: 297–304.[Crossref], [Web of Science ®] , [Google Scholar]). This preliminary study compared morphological characteristics of 10 breeds from northern regions (Shetland ponies) and southern regions (Arabians) with the Exmoor pony. Twenty-three respondents from the United Kingdom and Australia rated the breeds for 7 physical traits. As evidenced by low standard deviations, the respondents demonstrated a high degree of agreement. The study ranked breeds from the most similar (Highland pony) to the least similar (Arabian) to the Exmoor pony. The least similar breeds had physical traits suggestive of paedomorphosis: small heads, long legs, and a low head-to-body ratio. This preliminary study suggests that morphological, behavioral, and physiological differences between the breeds-plus morphometric comparisons of extant breeds and faunal remains of predomestication horses-warrant further study.