Purebred New Zealand Connemara ponies are being used in a study exploring the influence of genes affecting coat colour on the formation of melanomas.
Hair samples from the country’s Connemaras are being sought for the study.
The research is being undertaken by a graduate student studying with the Equine Parentage and Animal Genetics Centre at Massey University.
The study is being undertaken amid increasing scientific evidence that the birth coat colour of grey ponies has an influence on the likelihood of whether they develop melanoma later in life, and just how severe this will ultimately be if they do.
New Zealand’s Connemaras are considered ideal for the study, as it is a small population of closely related ponies.
“If there are links between birth coat colour and developing melanoma, then it may be more obvious in this small, closely related population,” the genetics centre said in material supporting the study.
There are Connemara pony owners who do not belong to the Connemara Pony Society and the researchers are keen to reach them also.
Pedigree mapping will be used to link the colour genetics and inheritance patterns between and across generations.
“Hopefully, this research will help add to the knowledge about the influence of greying patterns and development of melanoma.”
The research requires Connemara owners to pull 20 to 30 hairs from either the mane or tail, with the hair root bulbs intact.
The samples need to be sent to the university, with one set of pony samples per envelope, accompanied in each case with a completed identification form.
There is no cost to pony owners who take part, apart from the postage, and each will receive an official certificate stating the colour genetics of each pony for which they submitted samples.
The information will be illuminating as the coat colour a pony actually shows can hide other colour genes. Owners taking part will learn the birth coat colour of each pony, the presence of any colour gene which is not expressed, and the presence or otherwise of the Cream gene (which results in palomino and buckskin).
The researchers want samples from any purebred Connemara mare, gelding or stallion foaled in New Zealand. Grey ponies whose birth coat colour is not known are especially welcome, as are samples from very old ponies.
The first document below provides more details on the study and the second is the submission form required to accompany the hair samples from each Connemara.