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Horse Genome Project


International Equine Genome Mapping Workshop
The 8th Dorothy Russell Havemeyer Foundation International Equine Genome Mapping Workshop took place near Newmarket, UK from July 22 to 25, 2009...[more]

Writers at the Louisville Courier Journal recently won the 2008 Media Eclipse Award for journalism based on an article about Thoroughbred racing and break-downs. They published a 3 part story, including genetics, track surfaces and medications. In connection with the genetics section they interviewed several members of the Horse Genome Project. See the accompanying links for the full stories on the 2008 Media Eclipse Award and the article itself.

Courier-Journal Web site wins award for horse project
Genetics may hold key to Injury-prone horses
[December 2008]

The first draft of the horse genome sequence was recently completed and deposited...
[JAVMA News, April 2007]

Data on Equine Genome Freely Available to Researchers Worldwide
[NIH News, February 2007]

The first genome map of a horse is complete, providing scientists with new tools for investigating equine disease. [ April 2006]


Twilight is a Thoroughbred mare bred and raised at the McConnville Barn at Cornell University.  She provided the DNA for the whole genome sequence of the horse that was completed and assembled at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, MA.  The Thoroughbred originated in England during the late 1600s as a race horse.  One of the oldest stud books was established to maintain records and aid breeders in selecting for sound, fast race horses. Thoroughbred racing was popular and was adopted worldwide over the next 3 centuries.  All modern Thoroughbred horses trace 81% of their genes to 31 ancestors.

Bravo is a male Thoroughbred, closely related to Twilight. He lives at the McConnville Barn at Cornell University with Twilight. DNA from his blood cells was cut into large fragments and cloned into a tool called a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC). The collect of clones is called a “BAC Library”.

Scientists can use BAC libraries to find and study DNA sequences. Scientists use the information from Bravo's DNA together with Twilight's whole genome sequence to better understand the interplay of genetics, health and performance in horses.

Hrafnhetta is an Icelandic horse mare currently living in Prospect, Kentucky.  She was chosen for random sequencing  for comparison to the DNA sequence of Twlight.  Icelandic horses come from Iceland and are noteworthy for their fast, comfortable ambling gait called a tǿlt.   The population was established from horses brought by the Norwegians in the 9th century and maintained as an isolated breed.
Desert Heir (Bisquette)

Desert Heir (better known as Bisquette) is a male American Saddlebred horse. He was very important to the horse genome project. His blood cells grow very well in cell culture and it was easy for cytogeneticists to study his chromosomes. When it was time to determine the order of genes on a chromosome, the results from computer assembly of Twilight’s DNA sequences were double checked by mapping the BACs for some genes to Bisquette’s chromosomes. Agreement between the two approaches proved that the horse DNA sequence was correctly assembled.

American Saddlebreds were developed in the southern United States during the late 1800s. They were prized for their smooth gaits, good disposition and intelligence. Many of the famous television horses of the 1960s were Saddlebreds, including Mr. Ed and Fury!

Ssirena is a Lusitano mare currently living in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. She was chosen for DNA sequencing and comparison to Twilight.  Lusitano horses originated on the Iberian peninsula, in Portugal, along with a sister breed, the Andalusian horse of Spain.  This breed may be descended from remnant horse populations pushed onto the Iberian peninsula from northern Europe during the last ice age and later influenced by Barb and Arabian horses introduced to the area during the 8th century.
running horses

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