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Previous information on relatedness within horse breeds is based on pedigrees or DNA data with few details or markers. With more detailed information, it is possible to make comparisons between the breeds and see how the Nordic horse breeds have developed in relation to each other. Perhaps some of the Nordic horse breeds have unique variants of genes compared to other horse breeds as a consequence of local adaptation and unique uses. It is important to document any adaptations, to provide arguments for taking care of the breed and taking measures to avoid the horse breeds being lost.
Within a breed, the project will investigate the level of inbreeding – for example, whether there are different regions of the DNA with high or low variation, whether the individuals of a breed are predominantly quite similar to each other, or whether there are subgroups within the breed. This can help the breeding organizations and horse owners make important decisions about how the breeding work should be done, in order to take care of the breed in the best possible way. The analyzes should also contribute to a more complete picture of the cultural history that includes the Nordic horse breeds.
The research project is funded by Stiftelsen Hästforskning, and is a collaboration between researchers from NordGen NMBU (Norwegian University of Environmental and Biosciences) and SLU (Sveriges Lantbrukuniversitet) and a representative from the Norwegian Equine Center.
Image: Saija Tenhunen