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92.9fm Regional News

  • Writer's pictureAlayna Fong

UNE Professor leads world-first study

Horses are bred for specific work or sports, however individual horses may have temperaments that make them ill-suited to the role they were bred for, resulting in a mismatch that can be bad for horses and people.

In search for answers, University of New England Professor of Animal Behaviour, Paul McGreevy is collaborating with animal behaviour expert Professor Temple Grandin of Colorado State University in leading a world-first study that will support future efforts to better match horses with their desired roles by identifying the genetic roots of certain horse behaviours.

By identifying the genes that make horses prone to behaving a certain way under specific conditions, Professors McGreevy and Grandin hope to establish a scientific foundation for breeding horses more reliably equipped with a temperament that suits the work they are asked to do.

Genetics is all about data – the more, the better. Professor McGreevy has turned to one of the world’s largest, most diverse group of horse enthusiasts to act as ‘citizen scientists’ in the study: American Quarter Horse owners.

The Quarter Horse is an extraordinarily versatile breed. The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) has 280,000 paying members who are split across six disciplines: cutting, halter, racing, reining, Western Pleasure and working cow.

The study will enlist volunteer Quarter Horse owners across these disciplines to respond to a carefully curated set of questions about the behaviour of horses in their care.

The data, and the genetic information encoded in the tail hair that respondents will also be asked to submit, will be used in an attempt to identify relevant, highly heritable differences in Quarter Horse behaviour.

That data may in future be used to predict behavioural traits at the genetic level.

UNE's Professor Paul McGreevy.


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