DNA registry for horses?

April 20, 2008

A few plucks at the mane is all it takes to register many breeds of horses these days. Just as DNA testing helps courts establish paternity in child-support cases, horse registries are using it to determine definitively who fathered foals.

"We're doing it to preserve the integrity of the breed," said Amie Lewis, a DNA specialist with the American Quarter Horse Association, the horse group that, in 1995, first required DNA testing to register a horse. "There are a lot of horses out there - and a lot of people who lie and cheat."

Fraud, in which a breeder falsely represents a horse's parentage, has occurred in some cases. But it is far more common for innocent mix-ups to occur - for instance when two stallions have access to a mare, said Marcia Eggleston, a molecular biologist at the University of California-Davis, where most equine DNA testing takes place.