The Arabian horse. Ancient and easily recognizable. These horses are thought to be a huge genetic contributor to many modern day breeds, including the iconic Thoroughbred. But with new research comes new theories, and it may not be what we have long thought.
A group of international scientists are on a genetic quest to define the modern Arabian. This study, conducted over 8 years, involves 378 Arabian horses. These horses come from 12 countries, including Qatar, Iran, UAE, USA, Egypt, United Kingdom and Denmark.
The process of collection takes a lot of effort. The samples of the Arabians’ blood and hair are anonymous for analysis purposes. However, each sample records the horse’s location and general use (endurance competition, flat course racing or show horse).
University of Florida’s Samantha Brooks, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of animal sciences, summarized the genetic information they found throughout this study. She said although they found vast diversity across the breed as a whole, there were some groups showing signing of inbreeding. This is not unheard of. Due to human interference, many horses’ specific traits are aggressively in favor. The largest contrast came in relation to racing Arabians and their speculated association with Thoroughbreds.
“What we found in these samples was not that much Arabian ancestry was part of the Thoroughbred line, but the opposite: that Thoroughbred DNA exists in most of the modern racing Arabian lines, indicating a more recent interbreeding within this group,” Brooks said. “I can’t speculate on the how or why, but this is clearly the story the DNA is telling us.”
This massive study will be in use for years to come. Altogether, the samples collected and researched will have potential to determine geographical signs of Arabian’s specific characteristics. It will also help continue the quest to uncover the truth about the modern horse.
This research was published June 16, 2020 in the journal “Scientific Reports.” Read more from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.