Archaeologists have been studying the remains of ancient Viking Age gravesites dotted all over Iceland. Over the course of their studies, it was noted that warriors from this period of time seemed so fond of their war horses that they were often buried with their steeds.
Now, after analyzing the DNA from the horses buried with Viking Age warriors, it has been established that many of these animals were males, according to the study which was published in the January edition of the Journal of Archaeological Science.
There are currently 355 known Viking burial sites in Iceland. Of these sites, 175 horses appear in 148 graves. The Vikings appeared to value their horses so much that there was evidence in the grave sites that the horses were killed "specifically for burial."
The previous studies of the known grave sites had brought experts to the assumption that male horses were important to the Icelandic people buried there. As in humans, the width of pelvic bones can determine the sex of a horse. In addition, canine teeth only present in male horses can also help to identify the sex of these animals. However, it is very hard to discover the sex of horses within these sites unless the animals are particularly well-preserved. So, up until the release of the new study, experts were making assumptions without the absolute identity of the animals being known.