Ranch Breeds Horses For Competition
Discussions about the acceptance of clones have been around since the first cloned sheep was born in 1996. Since then other animals have been cloned, including the first cloned horse, a mare called Prometea in 2003. Four years later the committee in charge of international equine sports banned cloned horses from competing in international events.
In July of this year the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) lifted the ban. This allows cloned horses to compete in international events like the Olympics. A number of other regulating bodies still have bans on clones in competition.
Said FEI veterinary director Graeme Cooke in a statement, “An up-to-date review on cloning, resulting in an increased understanding of the technique, was presented to and debated at the FEI Sports Forum. The performance of a cloned horse is unlikely to match that of the original horse for a number of reasons…[and] as progeny of cloned horses will be produced by conventional reproductive methods, such as natural covering or artificial insemination, the FEI’s 2007 stated objective of maintaining fair play is upheld. The FEI will therefore not forbid participation of clones or their progenies in FEI competitions.”
The lifting of the ban creates a larger market for companies like Viagen of Amarillo, Texas. Their labs take DNA from tissue samples of living horses and clone a new foal using a technique called somatic cell transfer.
This creates a near-perfect genetic copy of the contributing horse. Current technology and techniques still allow a two percent variation from the original to occur.
The cloning of horses has been a practice for many years. The clones were then used as breeding stock, allowing the original to compete while the clone helped create new foals. This practice was particularly important for male horses that were gelded to make them more manageable.
The Globe and News/AP video