There is a new study from Royal Society Publishing through Biology Letters on mitochondrial DNA in the female lineage of the Thoroughbred. Read it here.
The authors of the piece are MA Bower, et al., and among the listed contributors to the research are several of the prominent names associated with inquiry into Thoroughbred genetics like Emmeline Hill and Matthew Binns.
The title of the article sums up the gist: “The cosmopolitan maternal heritage of the Thoroughbred racehorse breed shows a significant contribution from British and Irish native mares.”
That sentence, in plainer English, was the consensus view of the origin of the Thoroughbred — Arab, Barb, and Turk stallions bred to native coursing and riding mares — for most histories of the breed, with occasional outbreaks of gentrification insisting on a pure Arab origin enlarged and improved in the limestone rich pastures of England and Ireland.
So, we were right all along. Fleet Arab chargers and elegant riding stock begot the fastest and most rugged racing breed in the world.
Don’t look too closely at some of the details, such as Figure 2 down the page a bit. The Thoroughbred is suspiciously close to the Shire, more than the smaller horses!
That is probably due to the deep origins of each breed (think big mares) centuries ago, rather than to any particular similarity today.
That said, what can we make of all this?
Not much, I think. But it’s interesting to know.