Worcestershire Record No. 20 April 2007 p. 42


P. F. Whitehead

During 1990 I was asked to examine a tooth found at South Littleton, Worcestershire (SP0746), during excavations in an old orchard at an altitude of 48m O.D. The tooth was encountered at a depth of 51 cms in brownish clay with a significant element of sub-rounded to sub-angular sand grains, and occasional fragments of mollusc shell. These sediments were presumably mostly introduced by solifluction to waterbodies (tributary streams of the River Avon or wetland associated with them) draining the higher ground of Cleeve Hill just to the west.

The tooth is in good condition, with the cement covering intact, and is a left lower premolar of an adult animal. It is readily apparent that the tooth is a fossil, and based on experience, might be expected to date from 10000-20000 years BP, i.e. last glacial. Wild horse-bearing terrace sediments of last glacial date in the valley of the River Avon had completed their aggradation by about 26000 years BP, and I am disinclined to suggest that the South Littleton tooth is so old.

This tooth may represent a late-glacial or early post-glacial survivor of a species that favoured rocky uplands in the English Midlands, although in the absence of a finite date that cannot be proven. Skeletal and dental remains of wild horse have been found very rarely on the land-surface of the Gloucestershire Cotswold Hills at 305m altitude O.D. (Whitehead, 1979) and in scree on Bredon Hill at 220m altitude O.D. (Whitehead, 1989). These are likely to be late-glacial or early post-glacial. The major climatic and vegetational changes that occurred in Britain from about 9500 years BP would have placed the wild horse under considerable negative selection pressure, at the same time rendering it an increasingly easy target for hunters. Stuart (1995) accepted that E. ferus survived in England into the early post-glacial.

The wild horse of the last glacial is now usually referred to E. ferus Boddaert, 1785, which is almost certainly synonymous with E. spelaeus Owen, 1869, and this is the identity of all of these animals.


Stuart, A.J., 1995. Insularity and Quaternary vertebrate faunas in Britain and Ireland. In: Preece, R.C. (ed.), Island Britain: a Quaternary perspective. Geological Society Special Publication 96. Geological Society of London.
Whitehead, P.F., 1979. A tooth of Equus cf. spelaeus gallicus (Prat) from the Cotswolds. Quaternary Newsletter 29:18-20.
Whitehead, P.F., 1989. A wild horse bone from Bredon Hill, Worcestershire. Quaternary Newsletter 59:24.


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