CENTAURO: Equid introduction, hybridisation and agricultural intensification in the Ebro valley from the late Neolithic to the Iron Age

Principal Investigator: Ariadna Nieto Espinet (Grup d'Investigació Prehistòrica (GIP), Departament d'Història, Universitat de Lleida). Equids (horses, donkeys and mules) are highly versatile species. Current research suggests that the first domestic horses appeared in the Eurasian steppes about 5,000 years ago (Outram et al. 2009). Since then, and throughout recent history, equids have undertaken multiple tasks. Equids also have a great amount of symbolism, as they were not only working animals, but elements of prestige and essential companions both in and after life. Throughout both contemporary and historical times, equids have contributed to the development of rural economies as essential elements of sustainable and better-interconnected agricultural systems. Was this also the case of the pre-Roman communities of the Ebro Valley? The moment when equids were introduced and how they integrated into the local agricultural systems of the NE of Iberia remain still largely unknown. Was their introduction a response to new socio-economic needs or a stimulus which made a decisive contribution in the processes of expansion, development and economic integration which characterised the outset of the Iron Age? CENTAURO will assess the impact of domestication and animal traction with equids on the development of human economies in different historical periods. This is an area which has provided exceptional and unique archaeological finds evidencing an intense interaction between human and equines during the Late Neolithic, and incipient horse breeding in the Early Iron Age in the framework of the earliest cases of urbanism and fortified centres of power. This project intends to study equid bone remains from different archaeological sites in the NE of Iberia (present-day Aragon and Catalonia) between the Late Neolithic to the Iberian period (2900 cal BC - 200 BC). Therefore, through an innovative and multidisciplinary approach, CENTAURO will analyse the introduction processes of the donkey together with changes in the management, diet and mobility patterns of equids throughout a wide timeframe and territorial scale. The sites dated from the Late Neolithic to Iron Age preserve the highest number of equid remains, but analysing the Late Neolithic and the Middle Bronze Age sites will allow us to assess the real impact of influences from elsewhere in the Mediterranean on the cultural systems of the Ebro Valley. The feasibility and impact of the project benefits from the support and a close collaboration between archaeologists, biologists, farmers, breeders and veterinarians specialising in equid. An understanding of the impact of the domestication and management of equids on the development and expansion of prehistoric economic and cultural systems in NE Iberia will valorise the traditional economic uses of equines, today highly threatened. This is a challenge for public administrations and breeders who, in recent years, have focused their efforts on creating conservation programmes within the framework of national and international agreements (BOE-A-2019-2859). This project will valorise one of the most vital allies of rural societies, and will help to reinforce livestock sustainability by prioritising local equine breeds compatible with local ecosystems.

FECTU Webinar : Workhorse as pack animal - an almost forgotten work with equines

FECTU Webinar with Albert Schweizer: Workhorse as pack animal - an almost forgotten work with equines The webinar is in German. Albert Schweizer is a well known expert in Europe for pack animals. He is often on the walk with his donkey on pack tours through the Alp. Albert Schweizer was a board member from the Austrian draft horse organsisation ÖIPK. For his efforts regarding pack animals Albert Schweizer got the "Eiserner Gustav" Award from the Bavarian organisation VfD.

FECTU Webinar: Draft horses and mules among the Amish of North America

Draft horses and mules among the Amish of North America About speaker, Dale K. Stoltzfus: I was born in 1951 on a dairy farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. My father and mother and my 5 sisters and I all worked hard to take care of the 45 dairy cows and their replacements as well as the 2000 laying hens we kept. We carried all the milk from the cows in buckets to pour into the bulk tank in the milk house and we carried all the eggs in baskets to be washed and packed into cartons to send to a wholesale egg processor. I spent many happy hours playing with my dog Lady too. I spent 11 years managing my own retail food business and then 25 years as a Realtor helping people to find homes and farms. I have always had a special affinity for animals, especially horses. In 1988 I bought a pair of Belgian mares. I chose heavy horses so that I could further my latent horse interests by taking my family and friends on wagon rides. As I learned more about heavy horse activities that were going on around me, I became more drawn into life-fulfilling experiences I could not have imagined. These include my volunteer work with Horse Progress Days and my work with the annual Pennsylvania Draft Horse Sale, both of which have had major impacts in the Draft Horse culture of North America. I grew to adulthood in a community-at-large that, because of a major Amish presence, has always taken the presence of Draft animals for granted, but my own interest has always been extra keen; partly because of the horses and partly because of the unlikelihood that a group of Christian religionists who relied on horsepower to farm could exist and thrive in modern times; this in a country that prides itself on what it defines as progressive innovation in all things. Furthermore, my involvement with Horse Progress Days has unexpectedly opened my life experience into developing friendships and acquaintance with people from many parts of the world. Lately I have become aware of the "Millenium Goals" of the United Nations to eliminate hunger throughout the world by the year 2030. I believe draft animal power could play a major role in this effort if it is recognized for what it is and what it has to offer. My latest efforts include working toward a cultural exchange program supported by a partnership between Horse Progress Days and the international aid organization Mennonite Central Committee that is making plans to bring a Tanzanian agricultural engineer to eastern PA to work with local Amish shops to develop equipment and harness for oxen and donkeys to be made with components that are readily available in Tanzania. I also take great pleasure in working with my own horses making hay on our own land and on the lands of a neighboring Amish farmer.

Working animals in the mountains

In October 2016 the Portuguese Association for Animal Traction APTRAN together with the European working horse network FECTU organized a symposium on THE XXI CENTURY MOUNTAINS:SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT OF MOUNTAINOUS AREAS BASED ON ANIMAL TRACTION in Bragança (Portugal) during the Ist INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN MOUNTAIN REGIONS. The following abstracts of the symposium underline the relevance of working animals worldwide and the important role they continue to play today. After an overview of the renaissance of working horses in Europe in the last decades different aspects of the possible use and further development of animal traction are presented, based on experiences in Portugal, Switzerland and Italy and dealing with societal, economical, environmental and agrotechnical issues.
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