Friday, October 8, 2010

Flood of Books

I have been inundated by horse books books I actually want to read. But I haven't had time to read any of them. Tony Morris's and Matt Binns's Thoroughbred Breeding: Pedigree Theories and the Science of Genetics arrived this week. I have shelved it neatly on my (wholly metaphorical) bookshelf, right next to Edwin Anthony's The American Thoroughbred and Maryjean Wall's How Kentucky Became Southern.

There is so much to read these days. I read dozens of websites every day, some several times a day, just like everyone else--but I have this blog thingy, so I get to bitch about it. And then there's always a novel or two on my nightstand.

All that takes a rumble seat to writing three days a week, since that's what pays the bills....sorta. But Mim Bower's recent paper on the ethnicity, as it were, of the female foundation stock of the Thoroughbred has taken precedence the last couple of days.

The subject has long been one of my pet historical questions. Everybody from Lady Beaverbrook to C.M. Prior has argued that most if not all of the original foundation mares--the mares at the head of modern tail-female lines, were mostly if not all Arabians. That there has been practically no documentary evidence to support that contention seemed to matter not at all.

Bower's study uses mtDNA haplotyping to answer the question, at least as accurately as it can at a span of time of roughly 300 years. And, no, most of the 75 or so original mares in the GSB were NOT Arabians. Roughly 8% probably were. The rest were native English and Irish breeds, and a much larger portion were Barbs than previously imagined. That makes sense if one takes into account the Moorish conquest of Spain. Their Barb stock mixed heavily with native Spanish stock, and then spread throughout the continent. And I seem to recall that there are documented importations of mares from Spain and Italy in the records of the Royal Studs, but few if any directly from the Middle East, and much of the assertions about Arabian origin of female lines were based on assumptions that the "Royal mares" at the head of several families were Arabians. Nope, not according to modern genetics.

The publication of the study provides a wonderful lead-in to Monday's Pedigree and Genetics Symposium in Lexington. I'll be there. Will you?

I promise I'll put down my sci-fi novel.


  1. I will be there
    with sons John and Ben
    looking forward to it!!

  2. Hmmm ... A fact based treatise...I love it !!!

    ... and keep your priorities ... that's what a rumble seat is for ... we need you to keep writing.

  3. The symp! Where Big Bob will declaim and the genetics' crowd darlings Emma and Matthew will doubtless charm the crowd.