Archaeologists have found evidence of horses being domesticated 1,000 years earlier than previously though.

Exeter and Bristol universities have traced domestication back to the Botai Culture of Kazakhstan circa 5,500 years ago.

“The domestication of horses is known to have had immense social and economical significance, advancing communications, transport, food production and warfare,” said Dr Alan Outram of the University of Exeter.

“This is significant because it changes our understanding of how these early societies developed,” he added.

Findings from the fourth millennium BC, shows horses in Kazakhstan were being selectively bred and harnessed – possibly for riding.

Researchers used a new technique to search for ‘bit damage’, a trait observed in horses that had been harnessed or bridled.

The study also suggests that horses were originally domesticated to provide food, including milk.

Horses milk is still consumed in Kazakhstan, usually as a fermented alcoholic drink known as Koumiss.