Aug 28, 2007

They Clone Horses, Don't They?

So, I have old-ish news for you today. People are cloning horses. Okay, yeah, where have I been for the last few years? (Actually where am I right now? Maybe I'm drinking too much. Or not enough. Yeah, that sounds about right.)

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Cryozootech, a French company, has been cloning horses for the past several years. You know, I imagined this was happening, but I figured it was probably motivated by scientific research. Yeah, well, not so much. So this company has cloned quite a few horses - their website isn't terribly clear (they're French, after all) - and while I am sure they are learning quite a bit about genetics and the process of cloning, etc...their primary objective seems supremely weird to me. It seems that owners are asking this company to clone their champion performance geldings (castrated males, for all you non-horsies), in order to keep the cloned foals as stallions and breed them. Examples are the clone of ET, a famous showjumper; the clone of Quidam de Revel, also a showjumper (though I must point out that Quidam is a stallion, but he's reaching the end of his baby-making days; thus, the clone); Pieraz, a famous endurance-racer; and they are looking in the future to clone Rusty, the dressage horse, and Calvaro, another top show-jumper.

Okay, first of all, WHAT?!!! Props to the horseracing world which does not allow 'weirdness' in the breeding of its horses. Cloning would definitely fall under that category. Okay, let me just be clear. I don't really have an opinion either way about cloning. Whatever. I don't honestly understand why someone would want to clone something, unless you're a scientist studying DNA and genetics, etc... But morally, I could care less. It's just not a problem for me. What I think is super-bizarre and vaguely offensive about all of this has nothing to do with the act of cloning. I mean, my knee-jerk reaction is: Well, why clone your horse? He was gelded (castrated). Too bad. That's the way it is. Deal with it. But that's just me being silly. The world changes and things adapt because of those changes.

No, I have a problem with people who think that just because you can create a clone with the exact same genetic code as a champion horse, the clone is the same horse and should be at stud. I would never breed my mare to a clone of ET. Yes, the genetic code is there. But the clone was bred for the specific purpose of being a stud. He will have been handled completely differently from the original animal. He will not be in any performance training and therefore have completely different experiences, not to mention that his immediate environment (climate, for instance) is totally different from the original's and his system will adapt accordingly... To say that he will pass on the same behavior, temperament, and ability is absurd. The expression of his genetic code could differ pretty greatly from the original horse and therefore, express itself differently in the way it is passed on to the progeny.

So, to me this is just mostly motivated by money. The clone of ET cannot and will not be ET. Collecting (probably exorbitant) stud fees for the purpose of having ET's genetic code just seems to be taking advantage both of people's misunderstandings about how DNA works and the simple desire to breed a winner. I think my mare (and breeding as a whole) would be far better served by picking a stallion that is currently on the market that has the performance, behaviors, and bloodlines that would complement my mare's. I mean, genetics only has so much to do with performance anyway. There are plenty of well-bred horses that are complete duds and the reverse is true, too.

Besides who really wants to breed their horse to a clone when the clones themselves "face a high risk of falling sick or dying young, apparently because of flaws inflicted to the genetic code during the cloning process." Um, okay, how exactly do these flaws to the genetic code not pass themselves along to any babies he might have? Please explain.

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