World’s first cloned horse has a foal (the old-fashioned way)

5 05 2008

Prometea, a cloned Haflinger mare, gave birth to Pegaso on March 17; full story here. Interesting that her creator, Professor Cesare Galli, has faced criminal and religious sanctions for his reproductive research. Anyone know what legal grounds Italian authorities would have for seizing a cloned bull?

Related posts:

Five memorable mares

They did it again

Cloned mule trains for first race at San Joaquin fair

Company produces clones from cutting horses

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Oh man, I am in LOVE

16 08 2007

with Fugly Horse of the Day:

This blog exists to object publicly to the breeding of fugly, often mixed breed horses which tend to have short, miserable lives and wind up in slaughterhouses. If you are not going to breed quality, don’t breed at all. It is not “cute” to have a cowhocked, knock kneed, fugly draft/QH/warmblood cross foal that you don’t do shit with and then dump for $150 at a killer auction as an unhandled two year old that runs people over. I see it ALL the time and I am SICK of it. If you do this, YOU SUCK. And that’s why I’m online bitching about you. Stop breeding the fugly, folks. There is no market for it. And if you don’t know what fugly is, read this blog and learn. My e-mail is and I am usually way behind on e-mail, so don’t be offended if you do not get a response right away.

Another advocate of RESPONSIBLE breeding, hooray! Sometimes cruel but always on target. Go bookmark it NOW. (Found via Carinya Park)

Related posts:

Breeding out the usefulness?

Buy one, get one free?!

Breeding back to the future–while you still can

Bridlepath’s Hall of Shame: Gene Parker

Starving horses were part of an unusual breeding program

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Twin foals born in Georgia

15 05 2007

It’s a boy! *And* a girl!

TWH mare Delight’s Rusty Dust recently gave birth to twins in Habersham County, Georgia. Skrunch, the filly, weighs about twenty pounds while her brother Munch is around fifty.

The chances of a twin pregnancy in a mare coming to term are slim. Having both foals survive is a “miracle,” according to Denise Coleman who, with her husband, Lamar Coleman, breeds Tennessee Walking Horses at LaReina Ranch on the outskirts of Cornelia…Coleman is seeking raw goat’s milk to help feed Skrunch. She asks anyone who is willing to donate to contact her.

Read more about them here, or visit the farm’s website here. MiKael at Rising Rainbow has raised Arabian twins, and you can read more about her little cuties here.

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Anyone have any foal advice?

30 04 2007

The folks at Soup Or Nuts have a little’un, and the mare is not allowing it to nurse. Like Scarlett O’Hara’s maid, I don’t know nuthin’ about birthin’ no babies, so if you have any good advice for them, please share it! (Not here. There.)

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Starving horses were part of an unusual breeding program

22 02 2007

This is just weird, not to mention sad and infuriating. An Australian vet, Jilie Tilbrook, has been accused of starving her horses, although she blames the ongoing Aussie drought for the horses’ condition. Apparently she was trying to breed for the brindle pattern using progeny of the unusual Thoroughbred stallion Catch A Bird. Although she will likely lose her vet credentials and may be facing jail time, her main worry is that the horses will be dispersed to rescue homes and the breeding program lost. Link

(Aside: what’s weird genetically is that Catch A Bird’s progeny look like true roans [scroll down–not all the horses on that page are his, btw], a gene heretofore undetected in Thoroughbreds, and some have odd coat textures…)

Catch A Bird

Catch A Bird (Noble Bijou x Showy Countess)

Update: Apparently this neglect had been going on for quite a while, with many people trying to get the authorities involved to no avail. Once people started bringing hay for them, the RSPC of Australia couldn’t get involved because now they were being fed. UNBELIEVABLE.

Foal roundup

30 01 2007


Last year, MiKael at Rising Rainbow had a unique experience: her Arab mare Scandalous Love gave birth to twins! You can read more about them here; MiKael goes into even more detail on her blog. Both foals, a filly named Scandalous Surprise and a colt named Scandalous Trouble, are doing well now and more than living up to their names. Coppertop’s Belgian mare Rowan is expecting any minute nowIT’S A GIRL! Those of you who hope to catch a foaling online can refer to an earlier post on Bridlepath, Horse Cams, for some links; also check out Mare Stare and FoalNet. Anyone else out there expecting any blessed events in the barn?

Who’s your daddy?

29 08 2006

Whatever it is, it's damn cuteAccording to a rancher in French-speaking Quebec province, a rare mating of a wild moose and a horse likely resulted in the birth of a funny-looking foal with a big head and long legs. The foal named Bambi was born 11 weeks ago following a mysterious conception,Although the foal is pretty gangly in the leg department, as a whole it appears pretty normal; from the neck up however you can see that it has the head of a moose (poor thing)!The owner, Francois Larocque told Le Soleil newspaper: “When the mare gave birth, my sisters said: ‘It has a moose head.’”

Passers-by spotted more similarities to a moose in the foal: Bambi has elongated legs, likes to hang out in a nearby forest where moose typically venture, and sleeps lying down instead of upright like a horse, Larocque said.

A front-page headline in the newspaper La Presse quipped with some long thought out originality: “Is Bambi a hoose or a morse.”

Gilles Landry however, a biologist with Quebec’s parks and wildlife department, remains sceptical.

“I have serious doubts because there has never been a birth from a moose and a horse reported, even though some have mated,” he said. “It’s more likely that it’s a deformed animal.”

The rancher insists his two stallions were sterilised over a month prior to Bambi’s conception and there are no other male horses in the region, only a few moose in a nearby wildlife reserve.

Perhaps this immaculate conception could be the next big follow up to The Da Vinci Code; whatever happens, veterinarians plan to carry out tests to check Bambi’s genetic profile.


Before you get too excited, the Messybeast animal hybrid site says:

Although there have been reports of moose mating with horses, according to biologist Gilles Landry of Quebec’s parks and wildlife department, no offspring have ever resulted. Moose and horses are not just different species, they belong to two completely different orders: moose are Cetartiodactyla while horses are Perissodactyla. This is simply a foal with a deformities and genetic tests are likely to confirm this identity. The unusual physical proportions could be due to recessive genes e.g. a heavy horse somewhere in its ancestry. Larocque insisted his only 2 stallions were gelded a month before the foal was conceived. There are apparently no other stallions in the region, though there are moose in the nearby wildlife reserve.

My thoughts: There’s not a heavy horse anywhere in the world which is going to give you a critter which looks like that. What is a “mysterious conception” supposed to mean? If the mare actually was pregnant, there was probably some fence-jumping and confusion over conception dates. She then lost the foal, and adopted a moose calf which wandered in from the bush. Assuming that the pic really is of the critter in question, its body shape isn’t equine at all. It’s a moose calf, folks. The only real mystery is what it’s doing in his horse pasture.

Update from Newsgab (Sept/06):

Since posting this story in July, I’ve noticed quite a few visitors coming to Newsgab thinking that the picture in this post is an actual picture of the moose / horse hybrid. At time of typing this story I couldn’t find a picture of Bambi the Morse so the pic you see in this post is a baby Moose. Nothing more, nothing less.

Even though we never said this was an actual picture of Bambi, It’s amusing to read the number of posts in forums and newsgroups analysing the angle of the nose or the distance between the eyes of the animal in this pic to prove to others that this is indeed a picture of a horse moose hybrid. So to make it clear ITS A BABY MOOSE.

Hopefully this will end the debate for many 8)

Two new horse books

20 08 2006

Aren’t there an awful lot of general horse books out there? You know the sort: quick evolutionary overview, breeds of the world (the pictures never look right), this is a currycomb, how to buy your own horse (which you probably shouldn’t be doing if you need a book like this), depictions of horses in sport, war and art from around the world, etc. I sometimes wonder if there’s only one of these books and they just keep putting different illustrations in them; chain bookstores often seem to keep a perpetual stock of them on the sales tables. If you’re like me, you probably have at least half a dozen of these tomes, and it’s a joy to find something with interesting, original research and a fresh interpretation. Lawrence Scanlan, author of Little Horse of Iron and several other fine horsey books, has come to the rescue in the August 19 Globe and Mail, in which he reviews a couple of fascinating new releases.

Horse: How the Horse Has Shaped Civilizations, by J. Edward Chamberlin, takes the reader through the evolution of the horse,as well as its adaptation to our culture (and vice versa). Most of the other reviews I’ve found suggest that this is a great general read, full of enough esoteric equine info to keep even the most jaded horse person enthralled; it’s already into its second printing, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find.

University of Guelph historian Margaret E. Derry takes a more academic approach in Horses in Society: A Story of Animal Breeding and Marketing Culture, 1800-1920. She examines the intersection of horse breeding and economic and social philosophy, including Darwinism, capitalism, and Mendelism.

An excerpt from Scanlan’s review:

Horses in Society chronicles a time when the bicycle and the car were considered passing fancies. Smart people argued that the horse — in transportation, war, agriculture, industry — would always have a future. Just 100 years ago, cars in Canada could legally go no faster than 15 miles an hour in the country and 10 miles an hour in the city. The law was meant to safeguard horses, riders and carriage drivers from “nuisance” cars.

Such a horse-centric world had a huge need for horses, but what kind? How big? The answers kept changing as soldiers, breeders, farmers, politicians and scientists all had their say. How do you protect a breed? If pink horses suddenly become fashionable, should breeders churn them out? Is a purebred better than a cross-bred, and can a studbook be trusted? As Derry writes, the circle kept turning. “What was quality, or purity, and how did pedigrees guarantee either?”

We are still asking these questions today, although I would argue that they are even more crucial considering the genetic bottleneck which plagues many modern breeds today (see my earlier screeds on this topic). Humans have been meddling with genes since we first began domesticating animals and plants, but it’s only recently that we’ve had the tools and the perspective to stop and think about what we’re doing and why, thanks to such giants of nineteenth-century science as Darwin and Mendel. “Breeding out the usefulness” (ahem) seems to be a fairly modern innovation; when horses are critical to your economy, military and trade, there’s more incentive to select for long-term soundness, stable temperament and all-round functionality. Now that horses are primarily a “leisure” activity (even racing exists primarily as entertainment, and as a magnet for gambling dollars) it’s far too tempting to think in the short term and focus on that which has only short-term value in meeting the fickle demands of competition. Considering their long and hallowed contribution to our civilization, horses deserve much, much better.

P.S.: I promise to shut up about breeding and genetics for a while…

Cartoon by T. McCracken

Breeding back to the future–while you still can

16 08 2006

WARNING: I have had it up to here. I will not be polite today. You can take it out on me in the comments, if you like.

It seems that a lot of breeds now find themselves divided into “traditional” and “modern” types, with devotees of the former saying that they are working to reclaim the original type, movement, soundness and temperament; the latter often say that the modern type is what wins, or is an “improvement” on the original breed. Now, why is something winning if it doesn’t meet the breed standard? Why would changing a breed “improve” it?

But what I really want to know is, on what planet is this a Shetland pony?!

Ramble Ridge Rocket

This, my darlings, is Ramble Ridge Rocket, a 3-time National Champion Shetland. Yes, really. Look at the Hackney influence there, the cruppered tail, the ridiculous feet, the heronlike neck; he looks like a wee Saddlebred or modern Morgan. Why would you take an ancient, functional breed and tart it up like this for the show ring? Why turn your back on centuries of breeding and adaptation and decide that the saddleseat ethos will rule your decisions from now on? More to the point, are you on crack or what?

Rare Breeds of Canada puts the Shetland on its Critical list, while the Hackney is considered Endangered. Does it make much sense to diminish the gene pool of each through unnecessary crossbreeding?

Sadly, the Shetland is only one of several breeds which has had to resort to creating a “foundation” or “classic” division in order to save the original phenotype and genotype in the face of trendy outcrossing. The Foundation Appaloosa Horse Club was created to preserve the original type and keep it from turning into just a spotted Quarter horse or Thoroughbred, while there are a few different foundation Quarter horse registries which aim to limit the amount of Thoroughbred blood.

In an earlier post, Breeding out the usefulness?, I mentioned the formation of the Foundation Morgan Horse Society as an attempt to save the breed from legal and illegal infusions of Saddlebred and Hackney blood. Here’s the kicker: the same man who was involved in the Rhythm Nation fiasco has now moved on to…Hackneys and Shetlands. (So much for that USEF ban, eh?)

People, I need to know: what exactly is going on in the horse world? Do people really prefer those park-type ponies and Morgans over the classic conformation, or have they just been brainwashed into thinking “My horse is typy! Damned typy!”? Does every stock breed have to be a Quarter horse? Are we so consumed with body image now that we want our horses to be as sleek, tube-shaped, and useless as Paris Hilton? More to the point, how does this deviation from a breed’s tradition get rewarded in the show ring?! Someone must be going along with it instead of discreetly excusing them from the ring, but why?

If you’re serious about honouring a breed–any breed, any animal–both the genotype (genetic makeup) and phenotype (physical characteristics) must be preserved and bred intelligently. Introducing outside blood or changing the conformation altogether will waste the legacy created by generations of previous horsemen and horsewomen, and deny future breeders the base they need to keep the line going. To be honest, I hate to see saddleseat introduced to a breed’s field of endeavour (I’m looking at YOU, Canadian Horses and Friesians), as for some reason that seems to create a situation where the “original” or “classic” horse is likely not a natural fit. This then induces people to start breeding away from the standard in order to get the neck and the motion required for the discipline. The rarer breeds can’t afford this; they are struggling to keep their numbers up as it is. If it isn’t something which comes naturally, why force it? You can’t turn a purebred Shire into a natural three-day event horse; this doesn’t mean you should start adding Thoroughbred blood to “improve” it. Let the Saddlebreds and Hackneys continue to shine in saddleseat; they’ve been bred towards that goal for many, many years. Just leave the Morgans, Friesians, Canadians, Arabs, and Shetlands out of it, and let them be what they are instead of trying to force them into a mold they were never intended to fit.

To everyone out there breeding “classic” or “foundation” horses and trying to preserve the legacy of those who went before you, I utter a heartfelt “Bravo” and “Keep up the good fight.” To everyone out there who is angered by this, or shaking your head thinking that I don’t get it–enlighten me, please. Why do you think you’re doing the right thing? Hopefully, trying to convince me will keep you too busy to keep squandering whatever valuable equine blood you still have left.

Buy one, get one free?!

12 07 2006

Have you noticed this when you’re looking at “horse for sale” ads? You see a nice mare advertised. You like her bloodlines; she’s either trained in the discipline(s) you want, or has the talent and potential. “Hrm,” you say to yourself, “she looks like a horse worth considering.”

And then you read a little further on: “Has been exposed to our stallion”, “sells in foal to X”, “will be bred to…” AGH! Why do people do this?! She’s a horse, not a vending machine! Maybe someone actually wants to USE that horse for riding or driving, rather than a foal machine! Many prospective buyers will be boarding the animal and do not have the time, space, money or expertise required to care for a pregnant mare, deal with foaling and raising the baby, and so on (and maybe they’re not that thrilled about the stallion either, but now they’re stuck with his foal).

Note to those marketing horses: You’re not doing yourself, let alone the mare, any favours. If someone wants her for breeding, they may ask to have her bred before taking her home, or they may have another stud in mind for her. Stop thinking that a “buy one, get one free” deal is going to attract more buyers if she’s been on the market for a while. How many people are going to pass that mare up because they don’t want to deal with a foal? The following year, if she’s not sold, the ad or website notice will probably run again–and say the same thing.

By the same token, it’s appalling to see so many mares who are put straight into a broodmare band without being broken to ride or drive. How does the breeder know if she even has the performance ability they seek (assuming that’s what they want and aren’t just trying to cash in on a popular bloodline, breed or colour) if nothing has ever been tried with her? I know that many responsible people do breed their mares young, and then train them later; that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m referring to those mares which are never backed or hitched, and only used to breed. Then, down the road, circumstances may change; the breeder may decide to go with a different bloodline or discipline, or is getting out of breeding. Now you have a mature mare who has done nothing and knows nothing, and is going to be very difficult to sell, except perhaps to another breeder. Unless she has produced some outstanding and well-known foals, her future looks a little bleak, wouldn’t you say? Her chances of ending up in a neglectful home, or even an auction or killpen, are a lot higher than those of a similar mare who can be marketed (unbred, mind you!) as a good jumper, barrel racer, kids’ horse, what have you. Her “free with purchase” foal also stands a good chance of winding up the same way.

It’s not like me to rant, and I’m sorry if I offended anyone, but there are so many horses which wind up going to auctions and likely end up being eaten, and right now it seems that a lot of people are having trouble selling horses due to economic factors, drought, high cost of hay and feed, and so on. A little forethought wouldn’t go amiss here.

One last thought on Barbaro

23 05 2006

Fans posted messages of support Monday at the hospital where he was recovering.

Incidentally, even if he makes it through surgery, and I fervently hope he does, Barbaro might not be out of the woods yet. They want to retire him to stud. Good. But. The Jockey Club doesn’t allow AI, only live cover. He’s got to jump the mares, crudely put. He’s going to have to put even MORE weight on those fragile back legs in order to do so. In other breeds, stallions can be taught to ‘collect’, as it’s called, into a container, er, held underneath him while he stands on all four feet; it saves wear and tear on the horse, particularly older stallions, and saves the mares a bit of bother too. That isn’t an option for Barbaro, at least not if they want racing foals…

Breeding out the usefulness?

23 05 2006

In the wake of Barbaro’s injury in Saturday’s Preakness, this article asks whether modern breeding and training practices have so weakened Thoroughbreds that we may not see another Triple Crown winner anytime soon. If so, this is only the most high-profile example of something which has been going on for a long time, and not just in TBs. Horse races in the 18th and 19th centuries were much longer, i.e. heats of 3 to five miles. A 3 y.o. horse is actually quite young, comparable to a person in their early teens; a horse isn’t fully mature until it’s about six–older if it’s a particularly large one. The growth plates harden into bone from the ground up, as it were; the ones in the spine and pelvis mature last. It isn’t just TBs either; quarter horses are ridden in futurities (horse shows, not racing) as young as two, which means they’re started under saddle as long yearlings. They break down early too. Why? $$$$$  The big TB stakes races are for 3 y.o.s; if they do well, they can be retired to the breeding shed early and also their sires (rarely their dams) see their value go up as producers. They’re raced and shown young to maximize the investment as fast as possible. You’re looking at 11 months gestation, then a year or two of training; there’s a lot of money at stake and you want to see results early. The punters aren’t going to sit still through heats of three and four miles either; where those races are still run, they are the province of stronger, mature animals. It isn’t cruel to run a fit horse that distance either (note the adjective); endurance horses can cover 100+ miles in 24 hours and still be hard to slow down at the end of it. They sure aren’t thoroughbreds though.

Taking a broader view, it’s not uncommon for the function to be bred out of the horse for the sake of form. Take the QH halter industry, where the fashion is for huge, muscly horses with tiny feet, which are prone to navicular disease, laminitis, and other forms of unsoundness; the babies are fed a lot of grain early to bulk up, almost like prize steers. More insidiously, you can get this overmuscled look quite easily–with HYPP, aka Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis:

Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP), also known as Impressive Syndrome, is an inherited autosomal dominant disorder which affects sodium channels in muscle cells and the ability to regulate potassium levels in the blood of horses. This inherited disease is characterized by uncontrollable muscle twitching and substantial muscle weakness or paralysis among affected horses. HYPP is a dominant disorder; therefore heterozygotes bred to genotypically normal horses will still likely produce clinically affected offspring 50% of the time.

The disease is most common in the bloodline of the famous Appendix American Quarter Horse stallion Impressive, who has over 55,000 living descendants as of 2003. Although the disease is primarily limited to the American Quarter Horse breed and closely related breeds such as American Paint Horses and Appaloosas at this time, cross-breeding has begun to extend it to grade horses and ponies. The spread of the disease is perpetuated by the favorable judgings given to diseased horses in showing, due in part to involuntary muscle twitching which helps to build large, bulky muscles that judges favor.
Impressive (god that's an ugly horse)

Why are HYPP carriers still being rewarded in the show ring, then, encouraging their owners to breed them on and perpetuate the syndrome? There are many QH owners, breeders and trainers who would like to see N/H horses (carrying one HYPP gene nd thus can pass it on to 50% of offspring) made ineligible for registration; currently horses which are H/H (homozygous for HYPP) will be ineligible for registration as of January 2007. While this will help, it still won’t eliminate the disease from the gene pool completely, and if these horses have an edge in the show ring, is there really any incentive to breed it out?! What people won’t do for a damned ribbon.

(QHs, especially those in certain cutting lines, can also inherit a skin malady called HERDA, but compared to HYPP it is quite rare)

Ideal Morgan mare and stallion, as per the AMHA

Other breeds have had their problems; the Foundation Morgan Horse movement was founded in an effort to save rare, pure bloodlines without the popular “show lines”, which have been found to contain legal and illegal crosses to Saddlebreds and Hackneys in an effort to produce high-stepping gaits and “hooky” Loch Ness monster necks for the show ring. Over 2/3 of Morgans now trace back to Upwey Ben Don and Upwey King Peavine. These Saddlebred crosses were legal at the time under the registry rules, but many, many breeders concentrate that blood until the original type is all but lost. The Chantilly Lace fiasco arose when it was discovered that false papers were used to cover up the use of Saddlebred mares. FCF Rhythm Nation was actually crowned Grand Champion Morgan Stallion (one of the judges was his breeder!) and it was later discovered that he was out of a Saddlebred mare! Now, I have nothing against Saddlebreds, or saddleseat, but saddleseat is, for most riders, very “fringey”; the average horse owner shows in Western classes, or hunter/jumper, dressage, competitive trail, etc.; a “saddley” horse isn’t going to appeal to a broad range of buyers, nor will it attract many new people to the breed. High action, flat croups and Nessie necks are not part of the Morgan standard, and the breed did not need this sort of “improvement”. Sadly, this has really split the Morgan breed into “show people” and “traditionalists”, with the former sticking with their version of glamour and the latter scrambling to preserve the old lines while they can.

A German shepherd with floppy ears, short face and a curly coat may be a fine pet but it isn’t much of a German shepherd any more; a horse which is deliberately bred to be unsound or a betrayal of its genetic heritage may be profitable in the short run, but it isn’t doing the animal any favours, and the damage done to the gene pool in the long run can be irrevocable. Let us hope that Barbaro recovers and can go on to a fine career in the breeding shed; let us also hope that he was injured as the result of an unfortunate accident and not a congenitally weak leg, lest the gene pool again be the loser in the long run.

NB: definitely see Dr. Deb Bennett’s excellent article on conformation, growth, and the history of horse racing.

Update: check out this article from The Sporting News, Barbaro’s Injury Forces Racing To Examine Itself as well as my followup post on this topic.

Cloned mule trains for first race at San Joaquin fair

20 05 2006

Alex Breitler
Record Staff Writer
Published Friday, May 19, 2006

 Jockey Dionicio Navarro rides Idaho Gem out of the San Joaquin County Fair gates for the first time Thursday morning STOCKTON – For someone who chews with his mouth open and gnaws on a wooden post, Idaho Gem commands attention. Gem, a bay-brown mule with a quick kick, is guarded by three security cameras mounted above his stall, unlike any of his neighbors in Barn Q of the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds.

He is the first member of the horse family to be successfully cloned. Gem has quietly taken up residence at the fairgrounds as he trains for his first race next month.

Mule racing has become a popular, big-money attraction at fairs throughout California. But the scientists who cloned Gem and two of his brothers say their work could assist them in another race: that of a cure for cancer.

Gem is unaware of all this, of course. He knows only the predictability of his daily routine: jogging on the racetrack in the morning, chomping five buckets full of hay and barley each day and showing off for visitors who snap his picture just like they did when he was only hours old on May 4, 2003.

“Some people say he’s just a mule,” said his trainer, Ruby Thomas of Sacramento. “He’s not just a mule. He’s special, and I treat him like a god.”Gem and one younger cloned brother, Idaho Star, will race against each other and other mules in Winnemucca, Nev., in early June. That’ll be the first athletic competition between clones of any kind, proponents say.

Read the rest of this entry »

Equine miscarriages linked to common caterpillar

20 05 2006

DALLAS – In March one case of Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome in Florida was confirmed by University of Florida researchers. Two others are strongly suspected. Now Texas’ veterinarians and the state’s equine industry are keeping a close eye on the problem.
Mare and foal
That’s because MRLS, as it is commonly called, is believed to be caused when horses ingest the eastern tent caterpillar, a native Texas insect that is found throughout the eastern half of the state.

All three Florida cases occurred this spring in Alachua County. Two involved septic foals, or foals with internal infections, which had to be euthanized. The third case was a late-term abortion.

The diagnosis was confirmed by University of Florida pathologist Dr. John Roberts, who worked at the University of Kentucky Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center during an outbreak of MRLS in the Bluegrass State in 2001-2002.

Click to read the full article

Derby thoughts: hearts, spleens, and maternal grandsires

20 05 2006

BarbaroThe odds have been set and poll [sic] positions assigned for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, often called the “most exciting two minutes in sports.”

The big question: Does odds-on favorite Brother Derek (3-1) have a big enough spleen to win?

Or will undefeated and second-ranked Barbaro (4-1) suck in enough oxygen to earn a victory lap? Maybe Flashy Bull, a 50-1 long shot, has already made up his mind to wear the rose blanket awarded in the winner’s circle.

These are the questions Kenneth McKeever ponders when considering the science that separates the winners from the also-rans. Kentucky quarter


There’s also been some fascinating research on heart size (both Eclipse and Secretariat had exceptionally large hearts). The large heart gene is carried on the X chromosome; thus the ideal broodmare would be carrying two copies. It also helps explain the maternal grandsire effect: For years, horsemen have acknowledged a phenomenon called the maternal-grandsire effect, when outstanding males do not immediately reproduce their greatness in the next generation. Instead, they produce daughters who are outstanding dams. An oft-cited example is Secretariat, perhaps the greatest thoroughbred of all time. Secretariat’s achievement was not matched by his direct get, who by and large were unremarkable, but rather was passed on through his daughters, many of whom went on to produce great performers. (Link — note how this works in other species as well)
The x-factor

Also check out the Horse Genome Project.

It’s fascinating to see research bear out the old adage “take the sire to the best blood of his dam”.

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