Those of us that love pedigree research regard it as a never ending treasure hunt for information, validation and piecing together the history of horse breeds. It can give us clues to color, genetic traits, breeding trends, even world events, such as the remount program created to mount the cavalry.We love to find the famous, the infamous, the rare and the building blocks.
Pedigrees can be a source of pride, or concern, depending on who is up close or far back. It's amazing how traits which seem minuscule can travel through the ages, carried by one horse in each generations. There are several Appaloosas that carry a literal trickle of Appaloosa blood, 1/32 or 1/64 and still come out wildly colored. When you consider how much each generation influences the horse in front of you it makes you think about the "strength" or "weakness" of some genes. Some seem to hide for awhile, recessives that only pop up when both parents have it, and then only in the right conditions, such as two chestnut agouti carriers that will not exhibit their hidden genes, yet their foal can produce a bay when bred to a black. Or dominant genes that always appear when present ( although sometimes you have to look really close!), manifesting in homozygous or heterozygous form.
We all get to read sale ads or hear brags about horses that go back to some great champion. I can't blame people that like to talk about their horse going back to Man O'War, he's an American hero. However, it is disturbing when they use a horse more than 4 generations back as a huge selling point. It's not. Unless that horse carries a unique genetic trait that can really affect the value of your horse ( and it's usually adversely) then more than 4 generations does not affect the horse in front of you.
So how much does each generation affect your horse? This chart shows how much and how little each succeeding generation contributes to the genetic makeup for your horse. So remember when you cite a famous horse, if he's more than 4 generations back he's not offering much, and if that's your value baseline you might want to rethink your prices and marketability. The average equine generation is 8 years, so from present to Man O'War is about 12 generations. He would be contributing .0244% to your horse's genetic make-up. That's not going to get you in the Derby and doesn't increase your horse's value one iota.
1) 2 Ancestors= 50% sire and dam
2) 4 Ancestors= 25% grandparents
3) 8 Ancestors= 12.5% great grandparents
4) 16 Ancestors= 6.25% great great grandparents
5) 32 Ancestors=3.125%
6) 64 Ancestors=1.5625%
7) 128 Ancestors=.7812%
8) 256 Ancestors= .3906%
9) 512 Ancestors =0.1952%
10) 1024 Ancestors=.09762%
11) 2048 Ancestors= .0488%
12) 4096 Ancestors=.0244%
13) 8192 Ancestors= .0122%
14) 16384 Ancestors=.0061%
15) 32768 Ancestors = .0030%
So enjoy your horse's pedigree, and admire the horses in it. It's the history of mankind's development of the amazing animals we love. Be realistic about the value of distant ancestors when marketing your horse and be sure to check for lines that carry genetic defects.
copyright 2016 Tracy Meisenbach
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