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Genetics

How to Hit the Genetic Jackpot and Breed a Melbourne Cup Winner

November 2018

The win of Japanese stayer Admire Rakti in the 2014 Caulfield Cup, followed by Irish bred colt Adelaide’s win in the Cox Plate, brought into question the stamina (staying) credentials of Australian bred racehorses. It seems less and less likely that an Australian bred horse will win another Melbourne Cup, and most people involved in horseracing will tell you that Australian horses are not bred to win over long distances. So, what are they bred to do? And how does someone go about breeding a Melbourne Cup winner?

Przewalski's Horses: New Study Overturns Long-Held Assumptions

April 2018

Research published in Science has overturned a long-held assumption Przewalski's horses, native to the Eurasian steppes, are the last wild horse species on Earth. Instead, phylogenetic analysis shows Przewalski's horses are feral, descended from the earliest-known instance of horse domestication by the Botai people of northern Kazakhstan some 5,500 years ago. Further, the new paper finds modern, domesticated horses didn't descend from the Botai horses - an assumption previously held by many scientists.

Identifying Horses at Risk of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

July 2017

Scientists have identified a genetic mutation that should help identify horses at risk for squamous cell carcinoma of the eye. A genetic DNA test is now available to help horse owners to make informed breeding decisions. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a very common skin tumour, which is locally aggressive and can progress rapidly. It is the most common cancer found in equine eyes and the second most common tumour of the horse overall.

Lessons From Ancient History: Iron Age Horses Reveal a Much Wider Genetic Variability

June 2017

Nomad Scythian herders roamed vast areas spanning the Central Asian steppes during the Iron Age, approximately from the 9th to the 1st Century BCE (Before Common Era). These livestock pastoralists, who lived on wagons covered by tents, left their mark in the history of warfare for their exceptional equestrian skills. They were among the first to master mounted riding and to make use of composite bows while riding.

History of Horse Coat Colour Preferences Revealed

February 2017

Human preferences for horse coat colours have changed greatly over time and across cultures. Spotted and diluted horses were more frequent from the beginning of domestication until the end of the Roman Empire, whereas solid colours (bay, black and chestnut) were predominant in the Middle Ages. These are the findings of an international research team under the direction of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW).  

Are Genetics Enough to Breed an Equine Superstar?

September 2015

As Registered Equine Reproduction Specialist Dr John Chopin explains, the single most limiting factor affecting a horse’s athletic potential might be the 11 months spent in utero. Did you choose the best bloodlines?  Are you feeding your equine athlete all the recommended feeds and micronutrients?  Have you got the best trainer?  Do you get them regularly massaged or acupunctured?  Are you looking for something else to maximise the potential of a horse that, genetically, should be a superstar, but is not quite living up to expectations?

Ancient Horse Fossil Preserves Uterus with Unborn Foal

March 2015

A specimen of the ancient horse Eurohippus messelensis has been discovered in Germany with a preserved foetus, as well as parts of the uterus and associated tissues. This find demonstrates that reproduction in early horses was very similar to that of the modern horse, despite the differences in size and structure. 

Genetic Research Reveals the Consequences of the Domestication of Horses

February 2015

A new study, led by the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen, in collaboration with researchers from 11 international universities, has revealed a significant part of the genetic variation in modern domesticated horses may be attributed to interbreeding with the descendants of a now extinct wild horse population. 

Greatest Racehorse to be Cloned

May 2014

Researchers at the University of London’s Department of Veterinary Embryology have successfully created viable fibroblasts using genetic material from history’s greatest racehorse, Eclipse - an 18th Century Thoroughbred who won 18 races. Using the genetic material in tail hair, which had been woven into the tassel of ‘The Whip’, the prize of the self-named race, marks the first successful step towards a live clone. 

Single Gene Mutation Responsible for Pacing

March 2014

Researchers at Uppsala University, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and their international collaborators discovered a mutation in a single gene in horses that is critical for the ability to perform ambling gaits, like pacing. Experiments on this gene in mice have led to fundamental new knowledge about the neural circuits that control leg movements. This explains why some horse breeds are able to move their legs only in diagonal pairs, while others, like Standardbreds, Icelandic horses and Paso Fino horses, can also perform lateral gaits.

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