The more than 30 healthy looking horses in a pasture here are all shapes and sizes and include an Appaloosa, a couple of bays, chestnuts and a Palomino.
But one thing these mares have in common is that they are pregnant - and not naturally.
Each has been impregnated with a cloned embryo produced by ViaGen Inc., an Austin, Texas, company that specializes in cloning horses, cattle and pigs. The mares are due to deliver in February.
Iran Polejaeva, chief scientific officer with ViaGen, said the company has successfully produced clones in seven different animal species. It is focusing on cloning performance horses for customers who want to reproduce their horses' genetic makeup.
Currently, the firm is not cloning thoroughbred racing horses. The Jockey Club, which regulates the registration of thoroughbreds, will not allow any foal to be registered that is produced by artificial insemination, embryo transfer or transplant, cloning or any other form of genetic manipulation.
The health of the breed is better served with natural breeding, said Bob Curran Jr., Vice President of Corporate Communication for the Jockey Club.
Michael San Filippo, spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association said endurance horse racing allows cloned competitors, as do the equine sports of show jumping, polo, carriage horse racing and dressage, the horsemanship's equivalent of gymnastics or ballet dancing.
ViaGen contracts with Purcell-based Royal Vista Southwest, which provides horses to carry the cloned embryos. They are produced in a process where the DNA-bearing nucleus of a horse's cell is placed into an unfertilized egg, which has had its nucleus removed.
The implanted DNA drives the egg to develop into an embryo, which is placed in a mare, which carries it to term and gives birth to a genetic clone of the animal whose DNA began the process.
The first cloned horse was born in 2003 in Italy. In 2005 Texas A&M University created the first cloned horse in the United States, the AP reports.
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