The paintings "The Dappled Horses of Pech-Merle" found on the walls of a cave in France depict horses with a pattern very similar to the pattern known as "leopard" in modern horses.
Lead author Arne Ludwig from The Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Germany said an examination of fossil DNA of 31 horse specimens collected from across Europe found that six of the animals carried a mutation that causes modern horses to have white and black spots, the BBC reported Monday. Eighteen of the other specimens were brown and six were black.
Ludwig said the three colors likely created the diversity of coat colors and patterns seen in modern horses.
"This finding lends support to hypotheses arguing that cave paintings might have contained less of a symbolic or transcendental connotation than often assumed," an abstract of the study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said.