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Champ Producer 1st Mare Cloned

Tuesday, 4th April 2006

A champion quarter-horse (who is a leading producer of performance horses in the US) "became the 1st mare to be commercially cloned when a foal produced from her DNA was born in Oklahoma," reported racingpost.co.uk. Texas-based ViaGen (a company specialising in livestock genetics technologies) announced it has "4 more commercially-cloned foals due to be born this spring". Royal Blue Boon (the 26-year-old mare from whose DNA the clone was produced) was a top-class cutting horse (a type of performance horse developed from working ranch horses who were used to separate or 'cut' individual cows from the herd); cutting is one of the most popular equine sports in America, with 16,000 members & more than US$36 million in annual prize-money. Royal Blue Boon (who earned over US$380,000 as a top cutting horse during the 1980s) is the leading dam of cutting horses by progeny earnings, with 17 successful foals who have collectively earned more than US$2.5m (1 of her daughters is also the dam of a champion & 1 of her sons was freshman sire of the year in 2003). She has been retired from the breeding shed & owner Elaine Hall (who paid ViaGen US$150,000 to have the mare cloned) explained: "This animal has created a legacy in the cutting arena that is unmatched by any other mare, & I simply could not imagine not being able to continue to breed this fine animal & improve the genetics of future generations." Equine cloning has progressed steadily since the 1st clones were born in 2003: 3 mule foals produced at the University Of Idaho & a horse foal in the Laboratory of Reproductive Technology in Cremona in Italy. The Italian team also cloned a champion endurance horse (born last year) & Texas A&M University has been producing cloned foals since last year. Dr Jim Bailey (who oversaw the birth of the latest clone) said: "From the time I transferred the embryo into the recipient mare, the pregnancy was normal in every way & the birth followed suit. The resulting foal was born normally & immediately stood to nurse."

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