Sunday, October 30, 2011

Genetic Selection by the Horses Themselves

When the opportunity permits, it seems that many horses seek out others similar in type or color to themselves. This is not always the case, but it happens enough to have an effect on the genetics of wild, free roaming horses.

It has been theorized that horses instinctively seek out horses of the color that they associated with warmth and security as foals, the color of their mothers. My light colored males tend to bond with each other as do most of the bays. The Corollas take up with other Corollas within a day of entering my herd. This lead to the logical assumption that they recognized each other from the wild. However, when Shacklefords, who came from an island 175 miles to the south of Corolla, were added to the mix, they bonded just as quickly with them.

In that case it seems that even more so than color and size the common factor was movement, specifically the gaits that made the Banker horses of Corolla and Shackleford different from the other horses in the herd. This is also born out by another unusual pair in our mare herd. My father's Walking Horse is tightly bound with a half Walking horse. They are of completely different colors but both are very spine high, with more pronounced withers than the other mares. Of course, they are the only horses in the herd that have a running walk.

This throws an interesting wrinkle into the idea that wild horses are entirely the result of natural selection. Without a doubt survival of the fittest is the principle force in driving their genetics, but it may also be that a degree of self selection and self imposed genetic isolation may also be part of the story.

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