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In Syria, the discovery of the first hybrid animal created by man

At the rich burial site of Umm el-Marra in northern Syria, the bones of 44 kungas were discovered.

The biologists just have made a stunning discovery in Syria. 4500 years ago, the Mesopotamians imagined and gave birth to the "kunga", a cross between a domestic donkey and a wild hemione, to optimize the strength, speed and size of equines taken to war.

Discovered at the rich burial site of Umm el-Marra in northern Syria, DNA analysis of the bones of 44 kungas has revealed the historical mystery of what looked like “horses” represented in Mesopotamian art. Until now, archaeologists and scientists had no proof of the existence of kungas, often represented on frescoes and in Sumerian stories.


Kungas pulling chariots represented on a 4500 year old mosaic. © Zunkir


The first voluntary hybridization for war

Kungas were born from the human need to be accompanied in war. Kungas were used to pull four-wheeled tanks, especially during combat. As Eva-Maria Geigl, biologist and author of the study, explains, the Sumerians made the effort to conceive the kunga because donkeys could be used as draught animals, but were unusable in combat since they refused to charge towards the enemy. Thus, kungas were both more docile than wild donkeys, but also faster and stronger than domesticated donkeys.

These crossbreeds were an institution for Sumerian warriors until the arrival of horses, half a century later. And as the hybrid species did not have the possibility to reproduce, they quickly replaced the kungas. On the other hand, this constraining characteristic demonstrates the human intention of breeding kungas and the mobilization of considerable efforts and means to maintain their production, especially since hemiones had to be first captured and then maintained in captivity while they were known for their aggressiveness.