New genetic tool saves Queen’s favorite horse breed from extinction


“This was a turning point: the breed could easily have died out if urgent genetic management had not been established,” said Professor Philippe Wilson and Dr Andy Dell of Nottingham Trent University, who set out to create a way for breeders to avoid comparing themselves closely. -Related horses.

“Indeed, the breed was already seeing signs of increasing infertility, it was becoming more and more difficult to have full mares, then to bring those who had done so to term and to produce young breeders.

“There was anecdotal evidence for the development of genetically related arthritic and respiratory conditions.”

Inbreeding creates a risk of genetic disease and deformities

If left unchecked, inbreeding can lead to a high level of genetic diseases, shortened lifespan, infertility and deformities.

The Nottingham-based researchers have spent 16 years repairing the damage caused by inbreeding and working on a procedure for the safe and sustainable reproduction of Cleveland berries.

Their primary tool is courtesy of the Cleveland Bay Horse Society, which has herd books dating back to 1885 and pedigree information dating back to 1723.

This extended family tree now contains over 38 generations and is older than the United States of America.

The information on these pages forms the backbone of a new ‘Breed Conservation and Management System’ (BCAS) that allows breeders to see how closely related two Cleveland Bay horses are and if they are. must be prevented from recurring.

Traffic light system prevents mating of closely related horses

Each mare / stallion pair receives a traffic light according to their family link and the risk of consanguinity. Green is encouraged; yellow is “the best of the rest”; orange is not recommended; and red should be avoided “because they are very inbred”.

The use of this tool has prevented the mating of potentially closely related horses and the production of highly inbred offspring and as of 2020 the effective population size was 171 and there are 100 purebred stallions worldwide. , including 41 in the United Kingdom. The inbreeding rate has also dropped to just 0.5 percent.

“The population is certainly now much safer than it was before the work began,” the scientists said.

“The breed is in a much safer position, although it is important to maintain such management practices to prevent such genetic problems from reoccurring.”

Other species and races are suffering a fate similar to that of Cleveland berries, and the BCAS tool could be reconfigured and reused to help them, experts say.

“All livestock must be registered by law and we have created a tool that uses pedigree records and the genetic status of animals to inform breeding strategy,” said Dr Dell.

“We have shown that this tool works successfully in improving the genetics of the endangered Cleveland Bay horse population and we can apply our system to other endangered breeds.

“The BCAS system can be extended to any population with genealogical data, so the potential is obvious. “

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