Equine Science Update
Reports from the world of  equine research.
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Researchers at the Animal Health Trust, based in Suffolk, England, are working with the Suffolk Horse Society to develop a breeding program to help safeguard the future of their local native breed. The Suffolk Punch, an ancient draught breed is on the Rare Breed Survival Trust’s “critical” list. At the last count there were fewer than 300 breeding animals left in the UK.

With such limited numbers, inbreeding risks limiting genetic diversity. Eventually this could lead to health problems.

Dr Sarah Blott, leading the research in the Department of Genetics said “ Our local breeds are part of our history and culture. It is important to preserve them for future generations. The Suffolk horse is one of England’s most ancient breeds, but is now much less numerous than it used to be.”

“Our project aims to help breeders make the best use of the genetic knowledge in their quest to conserve the breed.”

The researchers are looking at the current level of genetic diversity in the Suffolk Punch horses in the UK. This information will be used to develop computer models to predict the outcome of various breeding strategies.

Possible new strategies can then be developed and assessed to see what impact they would have on the breed’s genetic diversity.

Hopefully the project will give Suffolk horse breeders the guidance they need to minimize the risk of genetic problems occurring, and so ensure the long-term future of this ancient breed.
 Published online 20.10.09.
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