Are Equine Personality Traits Heritable?

Researchers studied personality trends in draft horses, Warmbloods, and draft-Warmblood-crosses to find out.
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As researchers learn more about equine personalities, we as horse enthusiasts might become more interested in finding—and even breeding for—the “right horse personality” for us. Whether personality itself is truly hereditary in horses is a question scientists are still striving to answer.

However, one group of researchers studying personality trends within certain breed categories is beginning to find evidence suggesting that personality traits might, indeed, be heritable.

Researchers in France and Switzerland have already investigated personality in heavy draft breeds and Warmblood horses. Results from their latest study are now revealing what personality traits can be found in horses in between these two breeds. They found that the Franches-Montagnes horse, a light draft mix developed from heavy drafts and Warmbloods in Switzerland, has personality traits that fall between those of Warmbloods and heavy drafts. And, the researchers said, the more Warmblood genes one of these horses has, the more “Warmblood personality” it has.

“The Franches-Montagnes horse, falling between the draft and the sport horse, provides a strong basis for studying genetic trends in horses and, in particular, personality traits which differ significantly between the draft and the Warmblood,” said Alice Ruet, MSc, of the Agroscope Swiss National Stud Farm, a research institute in Avenches, Switzerland. Ruet presented the results of her group’s study at the 2016 International Society for Equitation Science conference, held June 23-26 in Saumur, France

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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