The spread of the humble and yet ever-popular apple is thought to have been made possible by the first domestication of horses in central Asia, which then transported the fruit far and wide says an Oxford scientist.

Dr Barrie Juniper said the common ancestor of every apple from Granny Smith’s to Cox’s originated in the little known Celestial mountains of Kazakhstan, which border on China.

He told The Telegraph that the domestication of the horse enabled the precious fruit from huge fruit forests to be transported far and wide: “In earlier historical times there were vast mixed fruit forests across the area.”

The former national capital city of Kazakhstan, Almaty, means ‘Father of Apples’.

Dr Juniper said that along with horses, bears may have favoured sweet varieties and also spread the fruit beyond Asia.

Dr Juniper’s book “The Story of the Apple” highlights the origin of the apple and shows the devastation wrought by man on the once vast forests.

Successive waves of Soviet agricultural policies under Stalin and Krushchev in the 50s and 60sd cleared the forests for intensive farming, turning Kazakhstan from a natural fruit growing area into the bread-basket of the Soviet Union.

The Kazakhstan government is now engaged in frantic efforts to save what remains of the forests, which is believed to be a mere 20 per cent. There are 7,500 varieties of apple with China producing 35 per cent of the world’s apples.