April 22, 2024

Cloned horses off to slow start

While human reproductive cloning is unlikely to be endorsed by any scientific body or government in the near future, cloning horses is also meeting strong opposition. "You’d have to see humans [cloned] before you’d even consider it for the horse," says Dan Fick, of the US Jockey Club, which writes the thoroughbred racing rulebook. Both the Jockey Club and the American Quarter Horse Association prohibit the practice.

Horse cloning is not making great strides at the moment, but there are about 20 cloned horses and 3 cloned mules. ViaGen, a Texas company which is a leader in the commercial application of cloning, feels that it is a good option for gelded horses which prove their mettle.

The industry believes that cloning, if successful, would reduce the gene pool because people would only want to reproduce the more successful bloodlines. "Once you have a superior animal and all you’re doing is making Xeroxes, where’s the fun in that?" says one prominent breeder. However, ViaGen says that demand for cloned animals will grow as the process become more efficient and less costly. In any case, clones can still compete in rodeos, where they can pick up substantial prizes.