Monday, September 9, 2019

Kiger mustangs carry rare Iberian Sorraia mtDNA


A chalk drawing on a broken school desk I made for an art show.

Someone posted a photo of dun-colored Kiger mustangs, a horse that carries a rare mtDNA recessive dun-color gene from Iberia, and I fell down the Google rabbithole. I noted the phenotype was similar to the endangered Iberian horses related to the Gallego, and Sorraia breeds. The Southeastern Oregon Kiger mustangs were originally flagged as being unusual because of their dun coloring. Instead of shooting the mustangs for dogfood, someone thought to sequence their DNA. So, being a horse of a different color literally saved a rare genetic pool from extinction.

BLM photo of dun Kiger mustangs in southeastern Oregon

The BLM photos of the Kiger mustangs made me think of the autochthonous, or Neolithic CeltIberian Sorraia (closely related to the Marismeño) horse, also with rare mtDNA markers. Coat coloration was the clue. Horses that are dun colored (a bay, or chestnut dilution gene), or grey-dun grullo (an even rarer black dilution gene—neither roan, nor grey) not only carry a primitive recessive coloration gene, they often have dark faces and points with pangaré markings, body mottling, zebra-striped leg, and dorsal stripes—a primitive dun horse trait similar to those tarpan-like horses represented in paleolithic cave paintings. Their manes and tails are often bi-colored white and black like that of the feral Polish Konik horse, and the wild Przewalski's horse.
Many equines appearing in prehistoric cave paintings such as in Chauvet cave are dun, and several closely related species in the genus Equus show dun characteristics. These include the Przewalski's horse...and an extinct subspecies of horse, the tarpan. —Wiki

Chauvet, Ardèche, France, 31 000 BP —Wiki

Contrary to popular belief, Spanish didn't send their prize Baroque Andalusian horses to the New World. They sent primitive native horses on long ocean voyages that lasted two months or more. Hardy and resistant, unlike the valuable blooded horses preferred by the nobility, those diminutive horses captured from the fens and marshes of Portugal, could survive the harshest of conditions, and subsist on little food or water.

Paleolithic artwork in Lascaux II, note the horse is pacing, not trotting—Wiki
Because the native ponies weren't valued as blood animals, they also nearly became extinct in both the New and Old Worlds via neglect and distain. The Sorraia was once hunted for food, and the Exmoor pony was used for target practice during WWII, they were a source of illegal meat in the cities. During the 1970s, the BLM was infamous for slaughtering entire herds of mustangs for dogfood. And their nearest ancestor, the native American wild horse was probably hunted to extinction during the Ice Age.

Cave painting of a dun horse at Lascaux; note the horse is pacing, not trotting —Wiki
(A pony is not a miniature horse, or an immature horse, it is distinct from a horse in conformation and temperament, what generally distinguishes them apart is height: a horse stands at least 14.2 hands (4', 10") at the withers, while a pony clocks in under 14.2 hands. The average span of a hand is 4 inches. But those are just the obvious differences, Not only do ponies have thicker necks, raised manes and heavy tails to brave the elements, they have heavier bones, shorter legs, stronger pasterns, bigger hooves, and wider chests, smaller organs, and they have short heads. But don't let that apparent lack of headspace fool you. They're way smarter than horses too. My wily Shetlands were consummate escape artists.)

But the beauty of these rare pony breeds (breed is a relatively new concept, they term phenotype is more accurate) is more than skin deep, their conformation is distinctive as well. Most are amblers, or two-beat pacers, another rare genetic predisposition, sort of like having four on the floor, plus overdrive in car terms. Think jennet, or palfrey in the Middle Ages, or modern Standardbreds, Walking horses, Icelandic ponies, and Paso Finos—smooth rides, all at the walk or pace. Getting Brandy, the massive Standardbred chestnut gelding I used to ride, to gallop, was nearly impossible. Ditto that with Helgar, an Icelandic pony I also rode, he was a house afire, and when he tólted, your chin needed a sportsbra to stay on.
Although ambling gaits are seen in some Mustangs, and other Colonial Spanish Horses, DMRT3 mutations [that are responsible for ambling] are rarely seen in feral or wild horses. —Wiki
Epona, 3rd c. AD, Freyming, France. Note the horse is tölting. Wiki

So, Oregon's Kiger mustang (some Kigers are gaited), along with the gaited Seminole, or Florida Cracker, and the isolated Sulphur mustang of Utah, represent archaic horse lineages that links back to the marshes and isolated regions of Iberia. The Garrano, another Celtic pony from northern Portugal, is also a laterally gaited breed. The Galician mountain pony is closely related to both the Garrano, and the dun-colored Sorraia.
The Garrano horse is believed to be an ancient breed, with Northern Iberian Paleolithic cave paintings depicting horses with similar profiles. The similarities between the breed and the depicted animals lead to the conclusion that the breed's appearance has remained stable. There is genetic evidence that the horse originates in Celtic regions... —Wiki
The Gallego, like other small breeds of the northern part of the Iberian peninsula, descends from small dark-coloured horses introduced by Celtic immigrants in the sixth century BC. —Wiki
Paleolithic art in the region depict equines with a likeness to the Sorraia, with similar zebra-like markings. Analysis of mtDNA on Mustangs... show similar mtDNA patterns between some mustangs and Sorraias. Spanish conquistadors took Iberian horses... to the Americas, as pack animals. Similarities between the Sorraia and several North and South American breeds are shown in the dun and grullo coloring and other characteristics. The Sorraia, their ancestors, with similar features, may have had a long history in the Iberian region and a role in the creation of American breeds. —Wiki
At one point, during my travels to Latin America, it dawned on me that those ragged village horses (especially island, or mountain horses), like the one I rode in the Andes, who would rather pace or trot than break into a gallop—might also be related to the archaic Iberian horses. Treated little better than donkeys, they were not considered valuable, but were able to survive the harshest of conditions, and were largely ignored as unimportant beasts of burden. But they also carried traces of the ancestral gene pool related to the extinct New World horse. Now DNA sequencing is proof-positive that my hunches hold some validity.

Then I found this genetic study:
Iberia was the source of much of the original stock that was used to populate the New World with horses.... The second haplogroup ... includes Marismeño horses (stripped horses from the Guadalquivir salt marshes) that, like the Sorraia, are considered a primitive Iberian equine type.... The high frequency of New World horses in this haplogroup may be explained by historical records... mares taken to the American continent by Christopher Columbus and during the subsequent Spanish colonization, were bought from the stock bred in the islands and salt marshes of the Guadalquivir River. 
Of the three geographic regions studied, South America is the only one having sequences that belong to haplogroup C617C, and ... haplogroup C601C. Indeed, the only non–South American samples that belong to this latter haplogroup are two individuals from the Caballo de Corro breed, a Celtic origin pony from Asturias.... who consider this as distinctive for northern European ponies, known to have Celtic origin (that)... may indicate common matrilineal ancestors between Celtic ponies and South American breeds... in 1508 the Spanish crown authorized the transport of 40 Celtic type horses (small and resistant) in the expedition organized by Alonso Ojeda and Diego Nicuesa to Panama.
New World breeds have a high frequency of haplotypes of Iberian origin and represent a subset of the diversity found in Iberia. Therefore, this study supports the historically documented Iberian origins of New World horses.—Iberian Origins of New World Horse Breeds
I think the Caballo de Corro mentioned in the study above refers to is the Asturcón, another gaited Celtic pony. There is nospecific reference on the Internet to caballo de corro.
The Asturcón has been documented since Roman times: it has an unusual ambling gait, described in the epigram of Martial, and by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia, where he describes its characteristic ambling gait. (The Latin word asturco was later used for other similar small horses with ambling gait.) It is of Celtic type, and shows similarity to the Pottok and Losino of Spain, the Garrano of Portugal, and the Dartmoor, Exmoor, FellHighland, Shetland and Welsh breeds of the British Isles.—Wiki
if you really want to torture yourself, there's a great mitochondrial horse family tree, sort of an equid who's-who map in a PNAS paper,  Mitochondrial DNA and the origins of the domestic horse. "Relatively recent bottlenecks are also reflected in the mitochondria, namely in the Senner, Sorraia...locally regarded as indigenous."

Epona and her horses, Köngen, Germany, ca. 200 AD.Wiki

In the 1990s, as I was studying medieval Celtic literature, I realized that the sculptures of the Celtic Matronae were represented on small gaited horses, or ponies. The Celtic ponies paced (or tólted—where front and back legs don't move diagonally, but laterally), which is a recessive trait. The Gaulish horse goddess Epona ("the Great Mare", from whence we get the word, pony), and Welsh Otherworld Celtic diety, Rhiannon rode gaited ponies. Smooth rides. And the medieval descriptions of the ponies' coloring sounded like it was grullo, another rare, recessive trait that the marginalized wild horses of Portugal also carry.

Epona, 2nd-3rd C. AD, Contern, Luxembourg —Wiki

Exmoor ponies of southwest England also carry similar primitive, native genes. "Exmoors are believed to be the most primitive of the northern European horse breeds, and the breed’s antiquity and genetic distance from other breeds has been demonstrated." (Livestock Conservancy). There are accounts of Bronze Age Britons racing their ponies with two-wheeled chariots as early as 400 BC, and until recent times, Exmoors were used as pit ponies, there was significant mining on Exmoor during the Roman occupation. "Roman carvings, showing British and Roman chariots pulled by ponies phenotypically similar to the Exmoor, have been found in Somerset" (Wiki). A carving dating from the Roman era depicts a pony with a characteristic “toad” eye, an extra eyefold, and the Bayeux Tapestry of 1066, depicts a pony resembling an Exmoor, carrying a warrior. (The Horse Guide).

9th c. Bullian stone, Pictish horse is ambling, not walking —Wiki

Britain's oldest aboriginal pony, the Exmoor, is probably as close as one can get to the original wild horse native to North America. The mummified remains of late Pleistocene native Yukon ponies preserved in the Alaskan permafrost (Bereigia), shared the same unique jaw type as the Exmoors, and other genetic traits. (In 2013, scientists analyzed the oldest DNA ever recovered in the world, of a 700,000 year old Ice Age horse, found in a gold mine on Thistle Creek, in the Yukon.) Equus caballus originated ca. 1.7 million years ago in North America and traveled to Asia. The Yukon wild horse, E. lambei, died out between 13,000 and 11,000 years ago, at the same time that the Exmoor ponies roamed the forests and fens of the British Isles.

The Exmoors came so very close to extinction, like the Sorraia, and other native European horses. Because they weren't valued as bloodstock, all was nearly lost forever. (The idea of breed is a new term). Ironically, the hardy Exmoors contributed foundation blood to several modern breeds including trotting horses and the Thoroughbred hunter.

But now, with mtDNA testing, the rare genetic sequences in several horse breeds have been isolated, and measures have been taken to preserve these ancient horse phenotypes including the gene pool of the Kiger mustang. Dr. Jay F. Kirkpatrick, in The Surprising History of America's Wild Horses, makes a compelling argument:
[T]he Mongolian wild horse (E. przewalskii, or E. caballus przewalskii) disappeared from its habitat in Mongolia and northern China a hundred years ago. It survived only in zoos and reserves....Then surplus animals were released during the 1990s and now repopulate a portion of their native range in Mongolia and China. Are they a reintroduced native species or not? And how does their claim to endemism differ from that of E. caballus in North America, except for the length and degree of captivity? —LiveScience
Though the wild horses of North America are considered non-native invasive species by federal and state agencies—they're not. They were merely reintroduced to their native homelands, after a 12,000-year absence, with a little help from the Spanish conquistadors. After all, humans might have been responsible for driving the North American horse to extinction, to begin with. The Kiger mustang is an integral part of that enduring legacy that is the story of the horse in the Americas.

A relief of Epona, flanked by two pairs of horses, Roman Macedonia.—Wiki

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Scanning old negatives of the Napa Poetry Conferences 1981-1986 (photos)


I've added more photos under the Comments section on Facebook. Check it out.
While scanning old negatives of the Napa Poetry Conferences (1981-1986), I didn't realize how profound a sense of community there was with the Napa Poetry Conferences (NPC), a tribe of poets, similar to California Poets in the Schools, that met once a year, and included poets from the Americas, and beyond.

Founder Dave Evans began the NPC with a group of Berkeley poets in 1981, the original series, where no one was ever turned away for lack of money, and the series ran until his death, in 1987, The late John Leggett, who retired from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, developed the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference (NVWC) fiction portion of the workshops in 1986, and the NPC took on its present form. Not the same. That's my uncredited photo on their web page (albeit a terrible copy). I hope to rectify that soon.

I'm still friends with many of the original NPC poets, among them, I treasure my long-term friendships with Donna Hilbert, Florence Weinberger, Kathleen Lynch, Sharon Doubiago, Sandra McPherson, Carolyn Forché, Bob Hass, Robert Pinsky, and others. I just found Joan Maiers on Facebook and I'm thrilled to connect with her after all these years.

I found in my Napa Poetry Conference negatives from 1983, a photo of Susan Herron Sibbet! I didn't realize that I knew her way back then. So many poets are gone, founder Dave Evans, Susan Sibbit, Maggie Meyers, Mary Rudge, Carolyn Kizer, Galway Kinnell. So many writers whose names I've forgotten. Let this scanfest be the beginning of an homage to our extended writing community, to both the living and the dead. In some small way, what I can give back to those who have nurtured me, are these old memories, photos chronicling the past. 

So many people I wish I had kept in touch with: Tess Gallagher, Diane Glancy, Laurie Deusing, Jess River, Cindy Frank, and more.

This is a sneak preview. I’ve scanned all of the 1983 negatives, and am about 2/3 through 1984. Need to clean them up before I post (mostly artifacts, or dust embedded in the negatives). Still to do, 1985....and I’ve only found a few 1982 negatives. Hope they turn up.

If you can figure out a way for me to get funded for doing this work, a grant, a scholarship, a residency, please let me know. Also, I am daunted by how I can present these photos, so many of them. I made a Facebook prototype where I used one photo as a main subject and the comments section to post related photos.

Here is a link to the NPC Bahamas poetry conference on Facebook, it's open to the public. A gathering of poets, Orange Hill, Nassau Island, The Bahamas, 1985. There are many more photos posted as comments below each main photo, which you may not see on a smartphone or tablet unless you click on the comments. You might notice the photo has three comments, that’s three more hidden photos.

— with Dave Evans, Robert Hass, Marcella Taylor, Glenna Luschei, Nathaniel Mackey, Carolyn Forché, Gary Sange, Kris Lauritsen, Sharon Doubiago

See A gathering of poets, Orange Hill, Nassau Island

More poet scans from National Poetry Week: Poetry Flash marathon reading, 1983, Fort Mason. With Gene Ruggles, Herman Berlandt, Mary Rudge. QR Hand, AD Winans, Max Schwartz, Darrell Gauff, Diana Sainz.

Mystery poets, 1980s, early 90s? National Poetry Week. Fort Mason. Herman Berlandt is the only poet I could identify.

A gathering of poets, Orange Hill, Nassau Island, The Bahamas, 1985. )photos)


The Bahamas, 1985 more photos posted as comments below each Facebook photo

A gathering of poets, Orange Hill, Nassau Island, The Bahamas, 1985. There are many more photos posted as comments below each main photo on Facebook (the link is public), which you may not see on a smartphone or tablet unless you actually click on comments. You might notice that a photo has three comments, that’s three more photos embedded in the comments.
I arrived in the archipelago of some 700 atolls and islands spread across 550 miles, a week early to help set up the conference. Dave Evans, founder of the Napa Valley Poetry Conference, was the brainchild and midwife of an exotic adventure into poetry. The cast of poets is pretty extraordinary too. With the underwriting of a famous novelist's wife, we managed to relocate the entire conference from the Napa wine country to the Bahamas. We drove to the tiny airport to welcome the poets. Nearly all the poets were from California, and a few from New York, to attend this first international Bahamas writers' conference.... —from Monster from the Deep

Sharon Doubiago, ? Kristine Lauritsen, ? Nathaniel Mackey, ? Robert Hass, Carolyn Forché, ? Marcella Taylor; Dave Evans,??? me.

I’m so tickled I was able to finally get a clean copy of the group shot. This is where going digital really pays off. I scan the negatives in color @ 3200ppi, to get wider range of greyscale, then reduce the saturation level so that there is only the greyscale band left, no RGB. That's what gives them depth. (The richness and depth of the background makes me all drooley. Also the crosslight on faces. Or the way the presence of light can create the framework for the photo. It's a Vermeer thing.)

The original photo was Tri-X 400 ASA, probably pushed to 800 ASA. I never could get a decent print of it. By digitalizing it, I was able to bring out the details. Something I never managed to do in the darkroom. Ilford glossy paper (vs. matt paper, which had a wider range of greyscale) gave the best overall results but much was lost in the stark contrast between black and white. Paper choice was always a juggling act.

Scanners don't do well with B&W negatives, part of the problem is that the silver bromide left on the film reflects back light to the lens. I'm using an Epson Perfection v550, which has a single lens. I really should use the Epson Perfection v850 scanner with its dual lens system. It handles the reflected light much better. I realize this is all Blah blah blah Ginger to most of you (WTF is she nattering on about?)

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

For the Bahamas (scans from 1985) (photos)




For the Bahamas. That fragile strand of atolls, jeweled necklace of the sea. We were in the Bahamas in 1985 for a writers' conference, and became friends with many local writers. I hope they are safe, especially Gareth on Cat Island, near Freeport, and Eleuthera, or Cigateo, the birthplace of the Bahamas, home of the Arawak/Taino. To see the related photos posted as comment son Facebook visit my page. I found and scanned the b&w negatives of the poetry conference. I will post them later after I’ve cleaned them up. I'll be posting some of the B&W photos of us soon.