Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Exmoor x Konik crosses

The Exmoor pony and the Konik pony are the two horse breeds most frequently used for rewilding, and are often associated with the European wild horse by their advocates (go here). Both breeds are more or less uniform in colour: most Koniks are of a black dun colour (although sorrel dun and black individuals can appear), and Exmoor ponies are either of a bay colour or a seal brown colour with the wildtype non-dun allele (nondun1) EDIT: Exmoor ponies have been found to have the d2 allele, hence the domestic non-dun variant. Thus, another breed for introducing wildtype non-dun would have to be found
But the European wild horse was not homogenous in colour for the most time of its existence. I made a post on the colour phenotypes of the European wild horse this year. The most frequent phenotypes were bay or black (with the wildtype non-dun allele) and bay dun and black dun. The genetic background of seal brown is not resolved yet. 
While neither the Konik or the Exmoor pony comprise all the wildtype colour phenotypes found in the native European wild horse, it happens that crossing those breeds would result in a population that has all the colour phenotypes because the Konik contributes the alleles for black and dun, the Exmoor pony contributes the alleles for bay and wildtype non-dun. Thus, a mix population of those two breeds would be authentic in terms of wildtype colours. More than ten years ago, the Dutch foundation Stichting Taurus, which is also involved in the Tauros Programme, did exactly that: they produced Exmoor x Konik crosses. 
© Henri Kerkdijk-Otten
I was sent the photo by Henri Kerkdijk-Otten (dear Henri, if you are reading this and are not OK with me posting that picture, please let me know). 
Not only do these animals comprise all alleles for all the main colour phenotypes found in the European wild horse, also one individual had an upright mane (for reasons unknown to me). This makes this combination even more exciting, as I no longer consider a falling mane plausible for the European wild horse (go here). 
Sadly, the Konik x Exmoor ponies were all slaughtered by the Stichting Taurus. However, both breeds can still be combined in other locations or projects. 


17 comments:

  1. I believe Derek Gow now has both Exmoors and Koniks. Perhaps he'll try it.

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  2. Those look incredible! What breeds would you suggest for breeding-back in the Southeast US?

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    1. That's an interesting question. Would you be trying to create European-style wild horses or American? We know a lot more about the former than the latter. For example, non-dun and black horses are wildtype traits, but this is only confirmed for Eurasian horses. The only confirmed wild colour for American horses is bay dun.

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    2. I am referring to the original southeast American horses, what have been traditionally labeled as Equus fraternus. With recent studies showing only Equus ferus was present, I would consider the southeastern variant Equus ferus cf fraternus. I know there isn't much material of this variant, or even a DNA examination that I could find.

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    3. I guess it would just be a matter of finding breeds that are already present and well-adapted to the area then. Some selection for known wildtype colours and against things like whitespots would be desirable and you wouldn't want anything too large but really there's probably not much work necessary to create a suitable and aesthetically appropriate horse fit for purpose.

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  3. you posted a while back commenting on the occasional upright mane among koniks and on how this migh arise from the introduction of Heck Horses (which contained genes from Przwalski horse) into the Konik breed during or after the 1940s. Perhaps that explains the upright mane in one of the animals in the photo.

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    1. It's certainly plausible that the upright mane is due to the Przewalski's introgression in the Konik breed, but wonder why the upright mane appeared in that particular individual. I don't know if there has been any work done on the genetic background of upright/falling manes and if it is a Mendelian or polygenic trait.

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  4. Are there some more pictures of Exmoor x Konik somewhere?

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  5. Also, is there a genetic basis for the length of mane? Am I right in saying that Koniks and Exmoors have manes that don't usually grow very long? This in contrast to many other breeds whose manes get very very long. That said, I saw the group of Exmoors at Knepp in England a few years ago and the new stallion had a very very long mane, in contrast to the mares.

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  6. Hi Daniel, I was wondering what your thoughts are on a cross between exmoors and przewalskis. To me this feels like the best choice for creating a breed that looks and behaves very wild. the result will have an erect mane if selected for it. they will have a wild coat colour, even the almost black colour could be achieved when dark exmoors are used. and because of the exmoor influence they should be (partly) adapted to the western european climate and flora. I don't know about the availability of przewalski's and the legal issues concerning releasing and crossing with an endangered species but it seems like it is no problem if i look at the lippeaue horses.

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    1. You'd still need to introduce the black allele somehow. Exmoor x (KonikxPrzewalski) could be interesting

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  7. Perhaps the Norwegian Fjord could be another good breed to mix with the others.

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  8. I think that the horse of the left has takhi blood.

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  9. It could be interesting combining Exmoor, Konik and Przewalsky.

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  10. https://theconversation.com/the-mystery-of-chernobyls-wild-horses-137270

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  11. Exmoors have ND2 as far as I could find, not ND1.
    https://docplayer.net/75836064-Nature-genetics-doi-ng-3475.html
    https://www.nature.com/articles/ng.3475

    Their darker shade on their back comes probable from the (yet untestable) sooty gene(s). Not because of the non-dun 1 gene.

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    1. That's interesting, thanks! I'm curious, where did you find that supplementary material to the nature paper? I wasn't able to find it previously.

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