Monday, April 25, 2005

Champion Endurance Horse Cloned

This is interesting. An endurance champion, Pieraz, was cloned in Italy. The foal was born Feb 25th, 2005. While Thoroughbred racing has bans on cloned horses (thank goodness-- who'd want 10 Secretariats racing against each other? ) endurance doesn't have such rules (neither does barrel racing, roping, dressage, jumping, halter, cutting, reining, or any other sports that I'm aware of, but most news stories fail to mention that).

Pieraz's clone with his birth mother-- he will turn gray like Pieraz

However, the reason Pieraz was cloned is because he is a gelding-- and his owners want to breed him. I'm sure many gelding owners have had thought, "If only he was a stud..." but until now, it's just been wishful thinking.
The foal won't likely be used in competition, just as a stud. I know some people have strange notions about cloning, that it will some how 'bring back', in a sense, beloved pets, but really it's just like creating an identical twin. As twins know, they are individuals, they just share the same DNA so look like each other. There's no guarantee that a cloned animal will have the same personality as its original 'parent', or be as good in competition.

Actually I've read some white markings are created by the migration of cells after birth-- so clones may not even look identical and can have different white markings. Kind of irrelevant, but interesting!

On the
left, you can see Pieraz, ridden by Valerie Kanavy, who was the owner and the
trainer of the horse. On the right, Eric Palmer, from Cryozootech, is talking
with Pieraz's clone." source: Primidi.com

Pieraz's clone, named, get this, Pieraz-Cryozootech-Stallion has the same DNA as Pieraz, so breeding to the clone will get you the genes Pieraz the gelding can't pass on. Pieraz-Cryozootech-Stallion (his barn name is apparently the shorter and creative Pieraz II) was created out of about 200 tries. Only 3 mares were impregnated, and Pieraz II was the only foal born.
It made me wonder, what would they have done if 3 were born? "New on Ebay! Lot of 2 Pieraz clones!..." Sorry, bad joke.

However, from what I've read, endurance horses don't seem to come from any particular champion lines, and aren't specifically bred for like racehorses are. Also, unlike TB racing, endurance racing doesn't pay a lot. Maybe when you get to the top, but most people give out tack or prizes.
So I'm wondering why the time, effort, and cost was used to create this horse. Will there be any demand for his stud service? If he turns out to be a great stud, will it even be worth it--why not go out and find another great horse?

I wonder what kind of effect this is going to have on horse breeding. Will registries accept cloned horses? Will competitions allow clones, or offspring of clones, to compete? If not, would they allow identical twins to compete, which are 'natural' clones? How could they tell cloned competitors anyway (DNA test every horse?) What will happen to the gene pool if people start using clones for breeding? A champion mare could have 10 clones which are bred every year. Would someone with a champion stud just clone him every 10-15 years as needed, letting his genes live on forever? I can see how these uses could do the opposite and create poor quality horses that are too inbred.
Cloning is relatively new, expensive, and difficult, so this is all probably not happening any time soon, but still it's something to think about.

Pieraz is an Arab (makes sense), but two stories I've seen say "thoroughbred", and one says "Thoroughbred Arab". I'm guessing these are just errors made because they don't realize a TB is a breed...

More news on Pieraz II, from horse magazines: Horse & Hound - Standardbred Canada (says he's a TB -
I'm having trouble accessing the New Scientist article on it, but if I can get it I'll post it.

This one is weird-- I can understand their concerns about cloning (I have them too) but describing someone who gelds a horse as 'cruel' and saying an edurance horse 'galloped to victory' to win 'big bucks'.... ?

Pieraz-Cryozootech-Stallion - hopefully this is only a working name; we
shall refer to him as PCS - is the clone of world endurance champion Pieraz who
may have galloped his way to victory and big bucks, but was deprived by his
cruel mistress the pleasures attendant to procreation. In brief, he was
castrated at a young age.

Had his mistress been a kinder soul, Pieraz would have retired to pastures green, chased doe-eyed mares in spring sunshine whenever he fancied a bit of frolic, or a roll in the hay during winter, and sired his own brood of racehorses. But that was not to be.

Also, this article - "Castrated Horse Becomes Dad" -- mentions:

Scientists say that the cloning of complex multi-celled organisms is still at an
early technological stage.
Cloning entails taking an egg, removing its nucleus, and replacing it with the nucleus of any cell taken from the donor animal.
This nucleus contains almost all of the donor's genetic code, so if the egg is then transplanted into a surrogate and results in a birth, the offspring should be a genetic duplicate in all but negligible detail.
However, most cloning attempts result in miscarriages because the egg fails to develop properly. In addition, cloned mammals face a high risk of falling sick or dying young, apparently because of flaws inflicted to the genetic code during the cloning process.

I have started a thread on the message board for discussion, visit it here, and post what you think.
Would you ever clone your horse?
Do you think that cloning is OK if someone wants to dupicate champion horses? Or does that give them an unfair advantage?
Do you think it's OK to use it to allow a gelded/injured horse's genes to be passed on? Do you see cloning as a threat to the horse community? What should be done to prevent abuse? Some interesting things to think about!


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