The clones are not coming; they’re already here!

I recently did a bit of research about clones and was amazed at what I found.

Yes, I knew that some famous horses had been cloned, but had not given a lot of thought to the subject.

I knew of mares and stallions that had been cloned for breeding purposes. I also knew that there were uncastrated clones of geldings, but had not really considered the ramifications.

The clones I was aware of were from jumpers, eventers and barrel racers. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the leading discipline for clones is polo! Are you surprised too? Without exaggeration, it is possible that a polo match will soon occur where all of the horses (at least on one team) will be clones. They may or may not be clones of the same original, but they could all be clones nonetheless.

Leading the charge (excuse the pun) in the cloning of polo ponies is a lab in Argentina with a branch in the USA.

Mostly Identical

When you think of a clone do you assume that it is a 100% identical copy of the original? That was, and likely still is, the common belief.

Did you know that clones can have different markings than the original and even different markings from clone to clone of the same original? True. Such are the characteristics of markings.

Did you know that there is a portion of mitochondrial DNA in the stripped egg (oocyte) that they use to house the DNA of the original before artificially convincing the egg that it is fertilized? That means that the mare that donates the egg, whether she carries the embryo or not, adds her mitochondrial DNA to the mix. It is unclear to me what the full significance of that is at this point, but it is interesting that I found claims that clones are 98%, not 100%, identical to the originals.

I wonder what the percentage will be as testing improves over time.

Your Thoughts

How do you feel about clones? Do you think that they are too expensive to create to be commonplace? Do you recall how expensive and rare computers or cell phones used to be?

Will you be thrilled to compete against the clone of a former champion? What about competing against five or ten or twenty clones of one or more champions?

Should there be a limit on the number of clones per individual? Who should set such limits?

Do you think clones should have to prove themselves as competitors or should they be able to trade on the record of the original?

Would you breed to a clone or use one as a broodmare?

Would you want to know if the horse you own or are considering buying is the offspring of a clone? Can current testing methods tell the difference?

How do you think registries should handle the issue of clones and the offspring of clones? There have already been court cases over the issue of registering clones and their offspring.

What about the clones of clones? Does anyone know what will happen ‘generation’ after ‘generation’ of cloning? Will using the same oocyte donors or different oocyte donors matter?

Do you believe that safeguards should be in place before clones become even more commonplace? What do you think such safeguards should be?

This is, of course, an oversimplification, but it may spark some research on the part of a few of you. The questions posed in this post are not hypothetical; they are real and they are timely.

Personally, I think that you can fool or manipulate Mother Nature for a while, but that she seems to have a way of re-establishing her superiority in the long run. I’m just not sure how she will do that when it comes to clones and cloning.




  1. paula mcrae

    What about the fact that the mare has two X chromosomes – the maternal and paternal and we dont know which one she contributes to her progeny? This could be the reason that full siblings can be so different, one a champion, the other insignificant. What if the champion sibling receives the maternal X chromosome ( which is bigger then the paternal) and the other the paternal X chromosome?
    Can they manipulate which chromosome is inherited by the clone?

    At this point i am not sure how i feel about breeding to clones, i havent done any research into this area at all.
    I think i would probably prefer to use a son of the cloned horse , but without further research into this i dont feel that i can contribute meaningfully to the discussion

    1. admin Post author

      Hi Paula

      In a clone there is no inheritance of chromosomes in the traditional sense. It is not like a mating. The ‘intact’ DNA of the original is inserted into the stripped egg (save for some mitochondrial DNA from the mare donating the egg). The egg with the original’s DNA is then stimulated into thinking it is fertilized and grows into an embryo. It can do this because it actually contains a full set of chromosomes from the original as well as a bit of additional mDNA from the egg donor.

  2. Ceci Snow

    Interesting and provocative information. I particularly like your final paragraph and wonder as well at what point Mother Nature will have had enough of our interference and assert herself.

    The world of dogs offers clear evidence that our human manipulation of their breeding has not always produced desirable results. In the search for ever smaller and cuter versions of various breeds and cross breeds, some have been created that are prone to certain diseases, others to genetic skeletal abnormalities – some to the point where breathing is a challenge. “Mini” versions of any breeds are always questionable. When you breed the runt of a litter to the runt of another litter, you certainly increase the odds of creating problems down the line – they are runts for a reason and left to their own devices in nature, probably wouldn’t have survived.

    As Edith said to Archie Bunker, “you ain’t god”. Cloning is yet another attempt for man to assume a bigger role in creating the future for all species. I, for one, don’t wish to live in Jurassic Park.

    1. admin Post author

      Hi, Ceci

      Yes, the human element is likely the scariest of all. The lethal combination of arrogance and ignorance concerns me deeply.
      However, if there is such a thing as an up side to the cloning issue, it may be that they are cloning the top sniffer dogs. I’m not sure why I see the reduction in ‘failure rate’ in sniffer dogs as acceptable, though. I shall have to ponder whether I have a double standard – horses vs dogs – or not.

  3. Gail Gardner

    Humans are not wise enough to know what the unintended consequences of their actions are in the short term, much less over generations. Count me out. I will keep my pure bloodlines and only breed from them. If I’m still around when I need another herd stallion, he will have to come from some other multi-generational breeder who knows there are no clones in their bloodlines.

    Hopefully, someone will come up with a test so that in the future we can at least know for sure which breeding stock does not have clones in their ancestry. For those who think Thoroughbreds had limited gene pools already, cloning will make that issue much worse.

    1. admin Post author

      Hey, Gail

      I’m pretty sure that the Jockey Club will never allow clones, but until there is a test that can determine the difference and it is employed regularly, the possibility exists for unscrupulous people to find loopholes. I can envision the possibility of an undeclared clone doing the job of the infertile original.

  4. Nancy Roth, DVM

    I believe that organisms evolve with demands of the times, and clones keep with the past, and excuse the pun, can be surpassed. There is some evidence of genetic fraility, some clones are more prone to disease and have shorter life spans. I think it is a good tool to preserve valuable bloodlines as long as undesirable traits are not passed along. I think cloning animals is prohibitively expensive. I would rather take the genetic roll of the dice than stay in the past with unknown consequences.

    1. admin Post author

      Thank you for your input, Nancy.
      I suspect that the ‘unknown consequences’ are what scare me the most about cloning…and other things.

  5. Marjorie Phillips

    I will start with my belief that clones don’t age as long, as a horse or sheep, whatever does for its’ natural lifespan. I was told that the donated cell is X years old so the offspring even though born a “baby” has age at birth. Makes sense to me.
    I will answer you questions in order.
    *I am really against cloning. It just seems so unnatural and so unnecessary. Man flexing his muscle.
    *I don’t think competing against a clone would bother me.
    *I don’t think it is possible to limit this practice. i think AI is wrong. Every Quarter Horse in the world is very closely related. Not good. Let nature produce the duds she does but there is always the magic offspring from 2 not so great parents. That is what makes it fun but I guess not profitable.
    *Clones should have to prove themselves. There is something to say about training and also just general care. A happy horse will perform better than one who is under stress. Chromosomes only go so far.
    *I would not breed or use stock that was cloned.
    *I would certainly want to know if the horse I was buying was cloned or had anything at all to do with clones. I think it should be a legal requirement that buyers know.
    * I think it is up to the registries and not the courts to do what they think best for the breed.
    *Nothing good will happen using clones of clones.
    *I don’t think they should be allowed, let along safe quards. People disregard safe guards.
    *Mother Nature always strikes back. I hope sooner rather than later. As long as there is a nickle to be made here it will continue.

    This is an interesting topic.

    1. admin Post author

      Hi, Marjorie

      Yes, it is an interesting topic, and I think there will be (or should be) a lot more question than answers for years to come.

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