Study reveals possible genetic links between horse whorls and temperament

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A double whorl, one running clockwise, the other anti-clockwise.
A double whorl, one running clockwise, the other anti-clockwise. Photo by Zahaoha

There may be some truth to the long-held belief that whorls can indicate the temperament of horses, the findings of fresh research in Brazil suggest.

Little is known about the biological events that potentially drive this association, Diogo Felipe Pereira de Assis Lima and his fellow researchers reported in the journal Animals.

The study team, with the Federal University of Bahia and the São Paulo State University Franca Campus, set out to identify the main genomic regions that influence whorl traits in livestock, using horses as a model.

The researchers performed a genome-wide association analysis to identify chromosome regions and candidate genes associated with hair whorl traits.

Data from 342 Quarter Horses genotyped for about 53,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were used in an association study using a single-step procedure. An SNP is a variation at a single position in a DNA sequence among individuals.

Genomic regions associated with hair whorl traits in horses were successfully identified, they reported. In these regions, many genes related to hair follicle growth were investigated, with evidence indicating they influenced whorl-related traits.

“Curiously, some of these genes also have known neurological and behavioral functions,” the study team reported.

A facial double whorl, both running clockwise.
A facial double whorl, both running clockwise.

This, they said, is the first indication of genetic–biological support of the association between hair whorls and temperament in animals, providing a plausible explanation for hair whorl position as an indicator of behavior.

The study team comprised Diogo Felipe Pereira de Assis Lima, Valdecy Aparecida Rocha da Cruz, Raphael Bermal Costa and Gregório Miguel Ferreira de Camargo, all with the Federal University of Bahia; and Guilherme Luís Pereira and Rogério Abdallah, with São Paulo State University Franca Campus

Lima, D.F.P.d.A.; da Cruz, V.A.R.; Pereira, G.L.; Curi, R.A.; Costa, R.B.; de Camargo, G.M.F. Genomic Regions Associated with the Position and Number of Hair Whorls in Horses. Animals 2021, 11, 2925. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11102925

The study, published under a Creative Commons License, can be read here

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One thought on “Study reveals possible genetic links between horse whorls and temperament

  • October 11, 2021 at 2:25 pm
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    I love it when science finally catches up on these things! The people who say this is silly will call it junk science as they do every other study that supports horse whorl theory.
    horsewhorls.com

    Reply

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