The mystery of the leopard-spotted horses depicted in the Stone Age at a cave in France was deciphered -- they did live alongside ancient humans, according to media reports Monday.
After comparing the DNA of modern horses and fossils of prehistoric horses, a group of scientists from Germany and UK found the famous spotted horses coexisted with their creators.
The finding was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Monday.
The almost 25,000-year-old paintings, "The Dappled Horses of Pech-Merle"on the walls of the Pech-Merle cave, remarkably look similar to a pattern known as "leopard" in modern horses such as Appaloosas, according to New York Times.
For a long time, they were regarded as fantasies rather than real accurate portrayals.
"It was critical to ensure that the horse depictions from the cave paintings were based on real-life experiences rather than products of the imagination," stated lead author Arne Ludwig from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin.
The finding can help figure out when horses were domesticated, a critical moment in the development of human societies, the study noted.
In general, domesticated species exist in a far greater variety of colors than wild ones, so understanding color variation in fossil animals can help pinpoint the timing, according to the New York Times.