New hope for rare British horse breed after scientists bred filly whose sex was selected in the lab

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There is new hope for a rare endangered British horse breed after experts managed to breed a filly whose sex was selected in the lab to help increase their numbers.

There are currently only 72 Suffolk Punch mares left in the UK – and less than 300 across the world – meaning every filly born is vital to their survival.

This is the first time that the innovative approach to sexually sorting sperm has been used to support the continuation of a rare breed.

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There is new hope for a rare British horse in danger of extinction after experts successfully breed a filly (pictured with the mare, Euston Ruby and Tullis Matson) whose sex was selected in the lab

There are currently only 72 Suffolk Punch mares left in the UK - and less than 300 across the world - meaning every filly born is vital to their survival.  Pictured is the new colt, who has yet to be named, enjoying the outdoors with Tullis Matson (left) and his colleagues

There are currently only 72 Suffolk Punch mares left in the UK – and less than 300 across the world – meaning every filly born is vital to their survival. Pictured is the new foal, who has yet to be named, enjoying the outdoors with Tullis Matson

THE PUNCH SUFFOLK

The Suffolk Punch is a rare English breed of heavy draft horse (or cart) that is brown in color.

Hailing from the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, they were bred for agricultural work in the early 16th century.

However, they fell into disuse after WWII as agriculture became increasingly mechanized.

The breed is known for its power, endurance, and the minimal number of feathers around its hooves – essential for working on clay-rich farmlands – but also for its docility and easy-going temperament.

Only 72 Suffolk Punch mares currently remain in the UK, with around 300 hits in total.

The breeding project by sex was carried out by the equine reproduction center Stallion AI Services in collaboration with the bovine semen sorting companies Cogent and Sexing Technologies.

“To be able to use our breeding expertise in this way, to help preserve an irreplaceable part of our magnificent heavy horse heritage is something we have been working on for many years,” said Tullis Matson, owner of Stallion AI Services.

“The challenges have been great and numerous, but witnessing the birth of this magnificent healthy filly was a truly magical experience. “

Scientists used special equipment to sort the sperm from a Suffolk Punch stallion – named “Holbeach Iggy” – by differentiating the DNA content of individual sperm depending on whether or not they carried the male Y genome.

Holbeach Iggy is owned by Mike Clarke of Holbeache Farm, Suffolk, while the mare – who is called “Euston Ruby” – is a Suffolk Punch owned by Nottingham Trent University.

The pair have been carefully matched by the university and the Rare Breed Survival Trust based on their respective pedigree and genetic makeup to help minimize the risk of inbreeding and genetic decline in the small Suffolk Punches population.

Euston Ruby was first inseminated in June at Twemlows stud farm in Whitchurch, but it took a second attempt before Euston Ruby was scanned and found with a foal.

“This is great news for anyone concerned with the conservation of our native equines,” said Christopher Price, Managing Director of Rare Breed Survival Trust.

“The most effective way to increase the population size of this very rare breed is to increase the number of fillies born,” he added.

“The project demonstrates the viability of using new breeding techniques for female foals to increase the breeding population much faster than what could be achieved using traditional methods.”

“We hope that it will prove to be a model for other projects in the future.”

The breeding project by sex was carried out by the equine reproduction center Stallion AI Services in collaboration with the bovine semen sorting companies Cogent and Sexing Technologies.  Pictured is Euston Ruby with his yet-to-be-named foal

The breeding project by sex was carried out by the equine reproduction center Stallion AI Services in collaboration with the bovine semen sorting companies Cogent and Sexing Technologies. Pictured is Euston Ruby with his yet-to-be-named foal

“To be able to use our breeding expertise in this way, to help preserve an irreplaceable part of our magnificent heavy horse heritage is something we have been working on for many years,” said Tullis Matson, owner of Stallion AI Services, pictured here with a foal and Rubis Euston

“The challenges have been great and many, but witnessing the birth of this beautiful, healthy filly was a truly magical experience,” added Mr. Matson. In the photo, Euston Ruby and his foal

“The birth of this colt marks a major step towards securing the future of the Suffolk horse and all other rare animal breeds,” said equine scientist Gareth Starbuck of Nottingham Trent University.

“We are delighted that the eleven month wait has been successful and I want to thank everyone who played a role in it,” he added.

“We are delighted to announce the birth of a healthy Suffolk Punch filly,” added Mr. Matson.

The birth, he continued, “is a beacon of hope not only for the Suffolk Punch horse, but for all the critically endangered breeds currently on the verge of extinction.”

“The birth of this foal marks a major step towards securing the future of the Suffolk horse and all other rare animal breeds,” said equine scientist Gareth Starbuck of the University of Nottingham Trent, pictured here (right ) with (LR) Mr. Matson, the new colt and Euston Ruby


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