Your Guide to Equine Health Care

Equine Identification in the United States

Recent advances in microchip technology have made this procedure the desired identification modality of the future.

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Equine Identification in the United States
In the last five years, the equine industry in the United States has embraced the use of microchips for equine identification. | Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse
The need for horse identification spans back to the 1800s, when branding cattle and horses was commonplace for tracing them to specific ranches or owners. Historically, horses were identified by physical description. With many solid horses without unique identifying markings, this identification modality had limited usefulness. For example, it would be challenging to individually describe a group of yearling Friesian fillies in a field.

The transition to utilization of individual animal brands and lip tattoos aided in the identification of equine in the United States. Unfortunately, the recognized disadvantages of these identification modalities include inducing pain and stress in the animal, potential transmission of disease agents, and inherent safety issues associated with the procedures. Additionally, brands can be difficult to read, altered, and considered unsightly.

Over the years, the industry has researched innovative ways to uniquely identify horses. Iris scanning was developed by Japanese researchers in 2000, but the expense of this process and limited access to reading equipment made this a nonviable option. The recent advances in microchip technology has made this procedure the desired identification modality of the future.

Today, the international standards for acceptable microchips

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