Abstract

The Arabian horse, one of the world's oldest breeds of any domesticated animal, is characterized by natural beauty, graceful movement, athletic endurance, and, as a result of its development in the arid Middle East, the ability to thrive in a hot, dry environment. Here we studied 378 Arabian horses from 12 countries using equine single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) arrays and whole-genome re-sequencing to examine hypotheses about genomic diversity, population structure, and the relationship of the Arabian to other horse breeds. We identified a high degree of genetic variation and complex ancestry in Arabian horses from the Middle East region. Also, contrary to popular belief, we could detect no significant genomic contribution of the Arabian breed to the Thoroughbred racehorse, including Y chromosome ancestry. However, we found strong evidence for recent interbreeding of Thoroughbreds with Arabians used for flat-racing competitions. Genetic signatures suggestive of selective sweeps across the Arabian breed contain candidate genes for combating oxidative damage during exercise, and within the "Straight Egyptian" subgroup, for facial morphology. Overall, our data support an origin of the Arabian horse in the Middle East, no evidence for reduced global genetic diversity across the breed, and unique genetic adaptations for both physiology and conformation.

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

6-16-2020

Notes/Citation Information

Published in Scientific Reports, v. 10, issue 1, article no. 9702.

© The Author(s) 2020

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-66232-1

Funding Information

This study was made possible by National Priorities Research Program (NPRP) grant 6-1303-4-023 from the Qatar National Research Fund (a member of Qatar Foundation). Support was also received from The Harry M. Zweig Memorial Fund for Equine Research, Arabian Horse Foundation, Animal Health Foundation, Dorothy Russell Havemeyer Foundation, Inc. (DFA), and a Meinig Family Investigator award (AGC).

Related Content

The genotype data generated during this study are available at Mendeley Data: https://doi.org/10.17632/mkk5khxrbp.3. All raw sequencing data generated in this study has been submitted to the ENA under study #PRJEB33818.

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Supplementary file 1

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Supplementary file 2

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