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We report the earliest evidence of equine dentistry, from the Mongolian Steppe, at 1150 BCE.Key shifts in equine dentistry practice through time can be linked first to the emergence of horseback riding and later to the use of metal bits that enabled better control of horses.

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Although free-range grazing on gritty forage mitigates many equine dental issues, contemporary Mongolian horsemen nonetheless practice some forms of dentistry, including the removal of problematic deciduous teeth and the vestigial first premolar (“wolf tooth”).

Here, we present archaezoological data from equine skeletal remains spanning the past 3,200 y, indicating that nomadic dental practices have great antiquity.

In China, domestic horses first appeared during the end of the Shang Dynasty, 1200 BCE (12).

Following their introduction to the region, horses became the basis for long-distance communication and transport, as well as military power, within only a few hundred years (13).

Dental health is of systemic importance to the health of almost any animal (18), and some scholars hypothesize that it must have been practiced by early charioteers in western Asia and the Near East (11); however, very little physical or textual evidence exists to support inferences of equine dentistry during the Eneolithic or Bronze Age.

Some archaeologists hypothesize that a strange wear pattern found on a horse from the site of Buhen, Egypt, dated to 1675 BCE was produced by dental filing of the lower second premolar (19), although the most likely explanation of this damage is “bit wear,” damage caused directly to a tooth by a bit during use (20).The domestication of horses and adoption of horse riding were critical processes that culminated in the emergence of mounted warriors and nomadic empires that shaped world history.The constraints of horse biology and riding equipment meant that equine veterinary care, particularly of teeth, was a core component of the success of the human–horse relationship.The maintenance of horse health through dentistry underwrote the key role of horses in cultures and economies around the world.From the American West to the steppes of Eurasia, the domestic horse transformed human societies, providing rapid transport, communication, and military power, and serving as an important subsistence animal.S2), a pattern that appears best explained by mounted horseback riding rather than chariots or cart use (9).

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