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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 : Evaluation of collar types used on working donkeys in Europe

João Rodrigues talks about the evaluation of collar types used on working donkeys in Europe. Joao qualified at the University of Tras-os-Montes and Alto Douro (2007), was classified as an Expert in Veterinary Dentistry and Maxillofacial Surgery by the Complutense University of Madrid (2011), and obtained a Ph.D. focusing on research in the field of donkey dentistry (2013). He was appointed as Professor of Medicine and Surgery of Equids in Portugal in 2013 and joined The Donkey Sanctuary in 2016. Joao has extensive donkey medical and welfare experience in Europe and with working donkeys globally, is a regular lecturer, tutor, and practical assessor in equid dentistry worldwide, and has published numerous articles and contributions to books. He is the chair of the Portuguese Association of Animal Traction (APTRAN) and the FECTU - European Draught Horse Federation.

FECTU Webinar : Common conditions of the hoof in working and companion equids

FECTU Webinar with Alex Thiemann: Common conditions of the hoof in working and companion equids Alex’s family owned donkeys and this led to a life- long interest in the species. She qualified from Cambridge Vet School and worked in mixed then equine practice, joining the Donkey Sanctuary in 1998, where she is now Senior Veterinary Surgeon with responsibility for advancing educational aims. Alex has a Certificate in Advanced Equine Practice, a Masters in International Animal Health from Edinburgh, and an education qualification from the Royal Vet College. Alex has worked in the UK, Europe and many countries across the world where donkeys are used for livelihoods, milk and meat, and has seen the need for better welfare globally. She hopes vets will take a better interest in donkeys and enjoy working with them.

FECTU Webinar : How working equids have an essential role in one Health?

The topic of 'One Health' explores the interdependence between human, animal and environmental health. In this webinar, the background to One Health and the relevance to working equids is be discussed. Examples from around the globe demonstrate how working equid communities put One Health into practice on a daily basis, proving that it is more than just a concept. Rebekah Sullivan is Lead Veterinary Surgeon for Medicine at The Donkey Sanctuary and Part-time student of MSc in One Health with the University of Edinburgh. Rebekah qualified as a vet in 2005 and spent a month volunteering with the working equid charity, SPANA, in a clinic in Morocco, before settling down to work in mixed veterinary practice in the UK and a short stint in New Zealand. A further period spent volunteering for an animal charity in Egypt confirmed Rebekah's keen interest in working equids and the relationship between working equid health and welfare and human livelihoods, health and wellbeing. A life long love of the great outdoors has encouraged Rebekah to be environmentally aware and be involved in projects that support biodiversity and sustainable living.
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