Horses, Science, Genetics, Equestrian Eventing, Genetic Modification

Horses, Science

My little cloney: Scientists use DNA of Olympic champion’s late horse to create foal

Shropshire scientists behind creation of Arko III’s clone bring hope to preserving legacies of champion horses long after they pass on

9/24/2021 11:16:00 PM

🥇 After Arko III died in January, it was feared that its medal-winning genes would be lost forever. Now, a British-based genetic preservation company has helped clone the horse and its genetically identical twin was born in August

Shropshire scientists behind creation of Arko III’s clone bring hope to preserving legacies of champion horses long after they pass on

But after Arko III died in January, it was feared that its medal-winning genes would be lost forever.Now, a British-based genetic preservation company has helped clone the horse and its genetically identical twin was born in August.The foal will be raised by Pat, John and Lisa Hales of Shaw Farm Stud in Shropshire, who also owned Arko.

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“It was an extremely sad day for our family when we lost Arko. It felt like the end of an era,” the family said in a statement. His loss was not only massive for British breeding, but for competition breeding all over the world. The birth of his clone was a very emotional day for everybody involved.

“Arko had touched so many people’s hearts with both his ability in the ring and also as a sire passing on his marvellous attributes to his young stock. We are very proud to be one of only a few to have embraced this technology and be able to offer this magnificent bloodline for many years to come.” headtopics.com

Arko was crowned British Equestrian Showjumper of the Year on an unprecedented five occasions, and was the number one showjumper in Europe in 2004, 2005 and 2006, with earnings of more than £1.2 million.It has also sired many world-class horses, including stallions Argento and Aristio.

The clone, which has not yet been named, was generated from a skin sample from Arko, which was genetically preserved by Gemini Genetics, before being sent to ViaGen Pets & Equine, who completed the cloning process.Arko’s genes were placed into a donor egg and stimulated with an electric charge which mimics the moment that a sperm meets an egg. The resulting embryo was then implanted into a surrogate mother, who foaled 11 months later.

Lucy Morgan, the manager of Shropshire-based Gemini Genetics, which undertook the preservation, said: “If you have an animal you think the world of, you instinctively want to be able to bring them back after they have passed away.“Horses are equally special, and the other side of bringing back these huge horses of the equine world, is that you keep these proven genetics.

“Without cloning, Arko’s genetic stock would have been lost forever. It would be a huge missed opportunity to let them go knowing that we have the technology to preserve these highly influential horses.”While Arko was still alive, Stallion AI Services, Gemini’s sister company, worked closely with the Hales family, collecting semen for breeding. headtopics.com

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But although semen can be frozen and banked for use after death, the resulting animals have only 50 per cent of the genes of the original. Cloning gives a complete match and also means that castrated males – geldings – can reproduce.Tullis Matson, the founder and managing director of Stallion AI Services, said: “We are thrilled at the news of the successful birth of Arko’s clone. We look forward to the coming years of his clone, to the performance industry and the breeding sector.”

The Hales family said they intended to stand the foal at stud, allowing owners to breed their mares with the exact DNA of Arko.“You can always tell who is an Arko baby,” added Miss Morgan. “And there is a lot of physical similarity between Arko and the clone already. He has quite a cheeky face and the foal has that as well.

“Although they will be subject to different environments, it will be quite comparable because the Hales family also owned Arko from a young age. So although there will be some environmental differences, he is the closest living replica we could get to the original.”

The team at Gemini Genetics are hoping the technique will be used to preserve more championship animals so their genetic legacy can live on after their deaths.But they also offer genetic preservation for pets, and hope to use the technology to preserve endangered animals via an associated charity, Nature’s SAFE. headtopics.com

Other well-known horses to have been cloned include Cruising, gelding Gem Twist and eventing stallion Chilli Morning. Read more: The Telegraph »

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