Cross-posted from ABC News Blogs
Written by NED POTTER
All the great names in thoroughbred horse racing — from Secretariat to Man O’War, from Seabiscuit to Seattle Slew — they’re all related, and a team of geneticists has now traced their talent for speed back to a single ancestor. The “speed gene” that made them all so fast was apparently a genetic aberration, and it probably started with one British mare who lived in the mid-17th century.
Emmeline Hill of University College Dublin led a team that analyzed DNA in 593 horses from 22 modern breeds, as well as museum specimens from 12 historically famous stallions. Modern genetics have become sophisticated enough that they could tell, with considerable precision, what the horses had in common.
“The results show that the ‘speed gene’ entered the thoroughbred from a single founder, which was most likely a British mare about 300 years ago when local British horse types were the pre-eminent racing horses, prior to the formal foundation of the thoroughbred racehorse,” said Hill in a prepared statement.
She and her colleagues published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.