The 2,000-year-old skeleton had prompted questions not only about the history and development of horse breeds, but also of human development, as the two are considered intimately connected.
But now genetic scientists at the University of Münster have confirmed the confusing new breed of horse was, in fact, a donkey.
“The mistake arose because the skeleton of the donkey was found next to those of four horses,” said Peter Forster, from Münster University’s Institute of Forensic Genetics.
“It would seem that some of the horse DNA got mixed up with the remains of the donkey.”
This has created relief among historians and archaeologists, who were having to rethink a number of theories.
“We’re trying to find out how we Europeans came to the Indo-Germanic culture more than 7,000 years ago by studying the history of the horse,” said Forster.
“One theory suggests that we came as people from the Steppes on horses, to Europe.”
The supposed new breed of horse found at Pompeii had thus caused great confusion and its outing as a donkey, corresponding relief.