The extinct horses of Great Abaco Island may live again

Abaco horses were either roans or blue-eyed “splash white” pintos. © ARND BRONKHORST.
Abaco horses were either roans or blue-eyed “splash white” pintos. © ARND BRONKHORST.

WILD HORSES (Atlas Obscura) — An impending storm darkens the sky above the splintered canopy of Caribbean pines.

Milanne “Mimi” Rehor points out plants that once sustained the herd of wild horses that inhabited this limestone crescent in the northern Bahamas until just two years ago. “Palm fronds. They ate the palms, and briars, and of course the grass,” she says, and then nods toward a shiny green tree on the edge of the road. “Also this. Don’t brush up against this. It’ll give you blisters. Poisonwood. But after fires, the horses used to eat this, too, once the oils burned off.”

Equines long roamed the forests that blanket Great Abaco Island, but the last horse died in 2015, marking the extinction of a historically and genetically significant sub-breed of the threatened Colonial Spanish Horse. The Abaco Barb, like most feral equines, was compact and sturdy thanks to generations of surviving in the wild. The horses stood about 13.2 to 14.2 hands (54 to 58 inches) at the withers and each weighed an average of 800 pounds. Their feet were hard and well-shaped from trekking across the island’s rocky surface in search of food.

However, unlike most other wild horses in the Americas, the Abaco Barb spent generations in geographic isolation. According to equine geneticist Gus Cothran, who analyzed the DNA of 22 Abaco Barbs for Rehor in the 1990s, the horses were little changed from those brought across the Atlantic more than five-hundred years ago.

About half were blue-eyed “splash white” pintos, with belts and bonnets of white thrown against a brown hair base. Others were roans, with ivory hairs running throughout mahogany or copper coats, giving them a faded appearance.

Most were “gaited,” meaning that in addition to the four types of movements most horses use (walk, trot, canter, and gallop), they had the capacity for very smooth lateral gaits in which both legs on each side move in unison. Similar movements are seen in other horses with old roots, including Paso Finos, but not in more modern Spanish breeds.

Though the Abaco Barb thrived on the island for generations, beginning in the 1960s, human actions and environmental changes weakened the herd and ultimately led to [their] demise.

Today, Rehor still fights to maintain her vision of returning Abaco Barbs to their island via cloning. Read more »

Nunki, last of the Great Abaco Island Wild Horses, now extinct. Cloning the only way to bring them back?
Nunki, last of the Great Abaco Island Wild Horses, now extinct. Cloning the only way to bring them back?

We recommend you read this entire fascinating story »

America’s Wild Horses

TAKE ACTION

The U.S. federal government want to wipe out America’s remaining wild herds and murder the close to 100,000 they have mercilessly rounded up and imprisoned costing the taxpayer millions every year.

And that is why they want to murder them they say — because these horses are costing the taxpayer millions. Why? It is all thanks to the willfully cruel and negligent management of these horses by the federal government who needlessly put these horses where they are.

Please note. This ongoing unjustified mayhem and unilateral destruction of America’s iconic Mustangs continues on the taxpayer dime no matter who sits in the Oval Office. What lobby is behind this destruction regardless of who is President or what party is seemingly “in power”?

They must be exposed and stopped. Take citizen action. Lobby your lawmakers in Washington D.C. today on behalf of wild horses and burros. It is their job to make your voice heard. If they do not, vote them out of there.

Make a donation to the Horse Fund’s Horse on the Hill™ »

WHITE PAPER

Use your U.S. Representative and two U.S. Senators’ online contact form to leave a link to the Wild Horse Freedom Federations’s White Paper (http://wildhorsefreedomfederation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/White-Paper.pdf) and ask them to vote against killing wild horses and burros in long-term holding or using them as work and experimental animals.

Please do it today. These horses cannot afford for you to wait. It truly does no get much more urgent than this. Help.

Find Your U.S. Senators »
Find Your U.S. Representative (you will need your zip code +4) »

Please store this information so you don’t need to keep looking it up, i.e. create a contact group on your phone with all the information you need for these people.

Read more on White Paper here »

Updated 4:49 pm EST

Lawsuit over quarter horse’s clone may redefine animal breeding

By SAMANTHA MASUNAGA
Los Angeles Times »

Three identical horses. by Pixgood.com.
Three identical horses, possible with today’s science of cloning. But is it a good thing considering the rampant overbreeding done in the natural way, not taking into account of course frozen semen and no live cover already allowed by the AQHA. Image by Pixgood.com.

Texas horse breeder Jason Abraham and veterinarian Gregg Veneklasen sued the American Quarter Horse Assn., claiming that Lynx Melody Too should be allowed to register as an official quarter horse.

A Texas jury decided in their favor in 2013, but a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that ruling in January, saying there was “insufficient” evidence of wrongdoing by the association.

Abraham and Veneklasen are now seeking a rehearing before the full 15-judge circuit panel.

The suit is among the first to deal with the status of clones in breeding and competition, and its outcome could impact a number of fields, including thoroughbred horse racing and dog breeding.

The quarter horse association is adamant that clones and their offspring have no place in its registry.

“It’s what AQHA was founded on — tracking and preserving the pedigrees of these American quarter horses,” said Tom Persechino, executive director of marketing for the association. “When a person buys an American quarter horse, they want to know that my quarter horse has the blood of these horses running through it, not copies of it.”

But Abraham and Veneklasen say that cloning follows a long tradition of using the latest technology to improve and maintain the breed.

First Clone to Clone Foal.
First clone to clone foal. When is a horse truly a horse with this type of madness is going on. Picture attributed by Google to hoofease.com.

Cloning “is nothing more than an assisted reproductive technique, similar to in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination,” the plaintiffs wrote in their suit. “A clone is simply the genetic twin of the original animal separated in time.”

Ever since Dolly the sheep was cloned in 1996 in Scotland, the use of clones as food, resurrected pets or competitive animals has been hotly discussed. Continue reading at the LA Times »

Cloned horses good enough for Olympics but not Thoroughbred racing

Teresa Genaro. TurfBloggers image.
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Teresa Genaro writing for Forbes Magazine states:

Last month, the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the international governing body for equestrian sport, announced a change in its position on cloned equine athletes.

Thoroughbred racing is unlikely to soon follow suit. The Jockey Club, which is the breed registry for Thoroughbred horses in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, is “dedicated to the improvement of Thoroughbred breeding and racing,” and expressly prohibits Thoroughbred procreation through any but natural means. You can read the details here, rule 1, section D, which includes all the biological specifics (as graphic and dispassionate as a middle school sex ed class).

Cloning isn’t the only technology that Thoroughbred racing forbids; it also nixes artificial insemination, which harness racing permits. Dr. Doug Antczak, a professor of equine medicine and an equine geneticist at Cornell University, attributes the sport’s resistance to assisted reproductive technology to both financial and biological reasons. Continue reading >>

Teresa Genaro is a turf writer. From backstretch to winner’s circle, she write about the sport of kings. See http://www.brooklynbackstretch.com/.