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Most modern horse breeds descend from Oriental stallions
Oriental horses are the male ancestors of modern European stallions.

Study shows overwhelming influence of breeding schemes

Almost all modern horses descend from recently imported oriental stallions, according to new research.

The paper, published in Current Biology, shows the overwhelming influence of breeding schemes driven by strong selection on males.

Armed with this new information, researchers say that it will be possible to shed light on the origin and relationship of any stallion line in detail.

“Apart from stallion lines in Northern European breeds, all stallion lines detected in other modern breeds derive from more recently introduced Oriental ancestors,” says Barbara Wallner at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna.

“Our data, therefore, illuminate the enormous impact modern horse breeding strategies—characterised by strong selection of males and the import of Oriental stallions—during the past few hundred years had on Y chromosome diversity.”  

In the study, researchers focused on a part of the Y-chromosome that is passed down from one generation to another. Any changes to that part are the result of new mutations.

"Since random mutations accumulate over time, males who originate from a common patrilineal ancestor will share a particular collection of Y chromosome mutations," Wallner explains, forming what's known as a haplogroup.

Until now, it has been difficult to reconstruct the history of stallions. This is because there is low diversity in the Y chromosomes of modern horses. To overcome this problem, researchers used deep, next generation DNA sequencing, allowing them to detect even the slightest changes.

Their analysis showed that the paternal lineages of various modern horses split much more recently than the domestication of the species, which dates back more than 5,000 years.

Minus a few private Northern European haplotypes, the authors report that all modern horse breeds included in the study clustered into a roughly 700-year-old haplogroup, transmitted to Europe by the import of Oriental stallions.

By linking the Y chromosome lineages with genealogical information derived from written records, the researchers say it’s now possible to define Y haplotypes for certain founder stallions.

“Our results pave the way for a fine-scaled genetic characterisation of stallion lines, which should become routine in the near future,” Walner concludes. 

Image (C) Spanische Hofreitschule.

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Classroom pets on the decline

News Story 1
 New research has found there are fewer pets in UK classrooms than in previous generations - despite 88 per cent of parents believing it significantly helps a child’s social skills and development.

More than half of the parents surveyed by Pets at Home (51 per cent) had a class pet as a child, compared to 46 per cent of children today.

The survey also found that non-traditional animals such as chickens, tadpoles, caterpillars and stick insects are becoming increasingly popular alternatives as classroom pets.  

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BVA survey seeks views on surveillance

Vets who use veterinary scanning surveillance networks are being asked to complete a survey to help ensure the networks are fully able to protect animals in the UK.

‘Surveillance use, understanding and engagement across the veterinary profession’ is the first of a series of surveillance surveys that will also include localised surveys for Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Drafted by members of BVA’s Surveillance Working Group, it will run until Friday, 31 August 2017. Data collected will inform BVA’s policy position ensuring it is representative of disease surveillance across the UK.