Champion Endurance Horse Successfully Cloned

As was reported earlier today, Pieraz, the two-time World Champion endurance gelding owned by Valerie Kanavy of Virginia, was successfully cloned in Italy by Eric Palmer,DVM of the Italian laboratory LTR-CIZ, in collaboration with Cryozootech. The cloned colt, named Pieraz-Cryozootech-Stallion, will be used for breeding only.

Kanavy, who has breeding rights to the clone, stated, "Although he should look like Cash (the barn name for Pieraz), we don't know all the health issues. What Cash accomplished was partly because of his training. Were he (Cash) still a stallion, his sperm would have the same DNA (as the clone) and when combined with a mare, there would be a real good chance that you would get a capable foal. We won't know those answers for maybe 10 or 15 years.

"When they started doing artificial insemination, which led to collecting semen and shipping the across the country, it changed the whole complexity of breeding (as did in vitro fertilization)," Kanavy stated. "Now, unless you own a Thoroughbred, you don't have to haul a mare across the country; you fly the semen to the mare. The possibilities of cloning are exciting!"

Pieraz is only the second horse to be cloned successfully. The first clone, Prometea (born in 2002), was developed using the same technique developed by the Italian laboratory LTR-CIZ, and the project was lead by Cesare Galli, DVM. Three mules have been cloned at the University of Idaho.

Cryozootech, the company founded by Eric Palmer in 2001, with the help of Genopole (a genetics company in Evry, France), supplied the cells for the cloning of Pieraz. Palmer and Galli began working together in 2002 on the project that resulted in Cash's clone.

Pieraz-Cryozootech-Stallion was born Feb. 25, 2005, to a surrogate Haflinger mare that is about the same weight as--but smaller in stature than--an Arabian mare. The Haflinger was chosen because she was easy to handle and produced a lot of milk. The cloned foal weighed 42 kilograms or about 93 pounds at birth.

According to Palmer, the goal of this project between Cryozootech and LTR-CIZ is to clone for genetic preservation.

While cloning is controversial, Palmer reasons that "cloning gelded champions will produce stallions on the geldings' behalf, allowing the best performance horses to be the fathers of the next generation. The clone of a gelded champion would allow 50% more genetic progress than using a full brother."

DNA specimens of 30 horses and donkeys, most of which are champions in endurance, show jumping, dressage, eventing, with a few endangered breeds of horses and donkeys, are stored in the genetic bank. Another champion endurance horse and a show jumper are being cultured for cloning.

About the Author

Genie Stewart-Spears

Genie Stewart-Spears resides with her husband on Runamuck Ranch in southern Illinois, in the Shawnee National Forest. Now a pleasure rider, she competed in endurance for 10 years and has served as the Media Chairperson for the American Endurance Ride Conference. Her photography and articles appear in several equine magazines and many books, brochures, and advertisements.

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