Study: Arabian DNA Reveals Diversity, Other Breed Influences

Some of the Arabians in a far-reaching genomic study had as much as 62% of their DNA coming from Thoroughbreds.
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Study: Arabian DNA Reveals Diversity, Other Breed Influences
Some of the Arabians in a far-reaching genomic study had as much as 62% of their DNA coming from Thoroughbreds. | Photo: iStock
Fraught with a paradoxical mix of praise and heavy criticism, the historically revered Arabian horse breed is considered “pure” as often as it’s considered “inbred.” But a new and far-reaching genomic study has revealed that, except for rare individual horses, Arabians are neither.

On the contrary, the Arabian breed is, for the most part, “genetically healthy,” with significant diversity in its genes, both in its homeland regions of the Middle East as well as abroad, said study author Samantha A. Brooks, PhD, of the Department of Animal Science in the Genetics Institute of the University of Florida, in Gainesville.

Plus, some sire lines aren’t nearly as pure as their breeders might think, she said. Their genomes reveal significant interbreeding, primarily with the Thoroughbred.

Good News or Bad News?

The international team of 19 researchers involved in this study came to clear conclusions: In at least one line of Arabians—the flat racing lines—many individual horses have mixed blood bearing the influence of other breeds, mainly the Thoroughbred, said Brooks. Some horses had up to 62% of their DNA coming from the Thoroughbred

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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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