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Concept: Horse


Although previous studies of horses have investigated their facial expressions in specific contexts, e.g. pain, until now there has been no methodology available that documents all the possible facial movements of the horse and provides a way to record all potential facial configurations. This is essential for an objective description of horse facial expressions across a range of contexts that reflect different emotional states. Facial Action Coding Systems (FACS) provide a systematic methodology of identifying and coding facial expressions on the basis of underlying facial musculature and muscle movement. FACS are anatomically based and document all possible facial movements rather than a configuration of movements associated with a particular situation. Consequently, FACS can be applied as a tool for a wide range of research questions. We developed FACS for the domestic horse (Equus caballus) through anatomical investigation of the underlying musculature and subsequent analysis of naturally occurring behaviour captured on high quality video. Discrete facial movements were identified and described in terms of the underlying muscle contractions, in correspondence with previous FACS systems. The reliability of others to be able to learn this system (EquiFACS) and consistently code behavioural sequences was high-and this included people with no previous experience of horses. A wide range of facial movements were identified, including many that are also seen in primates and other domestic animals (dogs and cats). EquiFACS provides a method that can now be used to document the facial movements associated with different social contexts and thus to address questions relevant to understanding social cognition and comparative psychology, as well as informing current veterinary and animal welfare practices.

Concepts: Psychology, Muscle contraction, Horse, Domestication, Wild horse, Equus, Equidae, Donkey


An equine SNP genotyping array was developed and evaluated on a panel of samples representing 14 domestic horse breeds and 18 evolutionarily related species. More than 54,000 polymorphic SNPs provided an average inter-SNP spacing of ∼43 kb. The mean minor allele frequency across domestic horse breeds was 0.23, and the number of polymorphic SNPs within breeds ranged from 43,287 to 52,085. Genome-wide linkage disequilibrium (LD) in most breeds declined rapidly over the first 50-100 kb and reached background levels within 1-2 Mb. The extent of LD and the level of inbreeding were highest in the Thoroughbred and lowest in the Mongolian and Quarter Horse. Multidimensional scaling (MDS) analyses demonstrated the tight grouping of individuals within most breeds, close proximity of related breeds, and less tight grouping in admixed breeds. The close relationship between the Przewalski’s Horse and the domestic horse was demonstrated by pair-wise genetic distance and MDS. Genotyping of other Perissodactyla (zebras, asses, tapirs, and rhinoceros) was variably successful, with call rates and the number of polymorphic loci varying across taxa. Parsimony analysis placed the modern horse as sister taxa to Equus przewalski. The utility of the SNP array in genome-wide association was confirmed by mapping the known recessive chestnut coat color locus (MC1R) and defining a conserved haplotype of ∼750 kb across all breeds. These results demonstrate the high quality of this SNP genotyping resource, its usefulness in diverse genome analyses of the horse, and potential use in related species.

Concepts: Genetics, Horse, Population genetics, Rhinoceros, Odd-toed ungulate, Equus, Przewalski's Horse, Tarpan


The aim of our study was to explore the association between dominance rank and body condition in outdoor group-living domestic horses, Equus caballus. Social interactions were recorded using a video camera during a feeding test, applied to 203 horses in 42 herds. Dominance rank was assigned to 194 individuals. The outcome variable body condition score (BCS) was recorded using a 9-point scale. The variables age and height were recorded and considered as potential confounders or effect modifiers. Results were analysed using multivariable linear and logistic regression techniques, controlling for herd group as a random effect. More dominant (p = 0.001) individuals generally had a higher body condition score (p = 0.001) and this association was entirely independent of age and height. In addition, a greater proportion of dominant individuals fell into the obese category (BCS ≥ 7/9, p = 0.005). There were more displacement encounters and a greater level of interactivity in herds that had less variation in age and height, lending strength to the hypothesis that phenotypic variation may aid cohesion in group-living species. In addition there was a strong quadratic relationship between age and dominance rank (p < 0.001), where middle-aged individuals were most likely to be dominant. These results are the first to link behavioural predictors to body condition and obesity status in horses and should prompt the future consideration of behavioural and social factors when evaluating clinical disease risk in group-living animals.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Horse, Wild horse, Equus, Equidae, Donkey, Pony, Domestication of the horse


The use of tack (equipment such as saddles and reins) and especially of bits because of rein tension resulting in pressure in the mouth is questioned because of welfare concerns. We hypothesised that rein tension patterns in walk and trot reflect general gait kinematics, but are also determined by individual horse and rider effects. Six professional riders rode three familiar horses in walk and trot. Horses were equipped with rein tension meters logged by inertial measurement unit technique. Left and right rein tension data were synchronized with the gait.

Concepts: Horse, Units of measurement, Saddle, Ambling, Horse tack, Horse training, Western riding


Many genes are known to have an influence on conformation and performance traits; however, the role of one gene, Myostatin (MSTN), has been highlighted in recent studies on horses. Myostatin acts as a repressor in the development and regulation of differentiation and proliferative growth of skeletal muscle. Several studies have examined the link between MSTN, conformation and performance in racing breeds, but no studies have investigated the relationship in Icelandic horses. Icelandic horses, a highly unique breed, are known both for their robust and compact conformation as well as their additional gaits tölt and pace. Three SNPs (g.65868604G>T [PR8604], g.66493737C>T [PR3737] and g.66495826A>G [PR5826]) flanking or within equine MSTN were genotyped in 195 Icelandic horses. The SNPs and haplotypes were analyzed for association with official estimated breeding values (EBV) for conformation traits (n=11) and gaits (n=5). The EBV for neck, withers and shoulders was significantly associated with both PR8604 and PR3737 (p<0.05). PR8604 was also associated with EBV for total conformation (p=0.05). These associations were all supported by the haplotype analysis. However, while SNP PR5826 showed a significant association with EBVs for leg stance and hooves (p<0.05), haplotype analyses for these traits failed to fully support these associations. This study demonstrates the possible role of MSTN on both the form and function of horses from non-racing breeds. Further analysis of Icelandic horses as well as other non-racing breeds would be beneficial and likely help to completely understand the influence of MSTN on conformation and performance in horses.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Gene expression, Horse, Haplotype, Icelandic horse, Ambling, Horse gait


In the present report, we describe the successful use of miniscrews to achieve vertical control in combination with the conventional sliding MBT™ straight-wire technique for the treatment of a 26-year-old Chinese woman with a very high mandibular plane angle, deep overbite, retrognathic mandible with backward rotation, prognathic maxilla, and gummy smile. The patient exhibited skeletal Class II malocclusion. Orthodontic miniscrews were placed in the maxillary anterior and posterior segments to provide rigid anchorage and vertical control through intrusion of the incisors and molars. Intrusion and torque control of the maxillary incisors relieved the deep overbite and corrected the gummy smile, while intrusion of the maxillary molars aided in counterclockwise rotation of the mandibular plane, which consequently resulted in an improved facial profile. After 3.5 years of retention, we observed a stable, well-aligned dentition with ideal intercuspation and more harmonious facial contours. Thus, we were able to achieve a satisfactory occlusion, a significantly improved facial profile, and an attractive smile for this patient. The findings from this case suggest that nonsurgical correction using miniscrew anchorage is an effective approach for camouflage treatment of high-angle cases with skeletal Class II malocclusion.

Concepts: Torque, Mandible, Horse, Teeth, Malocclusion, Orthodontics, Maxilla, Prognathism


Appropriate hoof preparation and symmetry are linked to the wellbeing of the horse. Previous studies have shown the efficacy of the pressure plates (PP) in delivering objective biomechanical analysis. We aimed to assess the effect of hoof trimming on hoof biomechanics using a PP. Nine clinically sound Arabian horses were walked across the PP while foot strike was recorded by a digital camera. Kinetic and kinematic parameters were recorded before and after trimming. P values ≤ 0.05 were considered significant. Vertical force (P = 0.026) and contact pressure (P = 0.006), increased after trimming. Stance phase duration (P = 0.006), swing phase duration (P = 0.023) and gait cycle duration (P = 0.007), decreased significantly post-trimming. The observed changes in kinetic and kinematic parameters are related to hoof trimming. The reported results underline the importance of the farriery practice and its effect on hoof biomechanics, which should be considered by farriers and veterinarians.

Concepts: Horse, Biomechanics, Classical mechanics, Velocity, Kinematics, Walking, Horse hoof, Farrier


The Eneolithic Botai culture of the Central Asian steppes provides the earliest archaeological evidence for horse husbandry, ~5,500 ya, but the exact nature of early horse domestication remains controversial. We generated 42 ancient horse genomes, including 20 from Botai. Compared to 46 published ancient and modern horse genomes, our data indicate that Przewalski’s horses are the feral descendants of horses herded at Botai and not truly wild horses. All domestic horses dated from ~4,000 ya to present only show ~2.7% of Botai-related ancestry. This indicates that a massive genomic turnover underpins the expansion of the horse stock that gave rise to modern domesticates, which coincides with large-scale human population expansions during the Early Bronze Age.

Concepts: Horse, Tin, Domestication, Neolithic, Wild horse, Domestication of the horse, Bronze Age, Central Asia


Abrupt perturbations of the global carbon cycle during the early Eocene are associated with rapid global warming events, which are analogous in many ways to present greenhouse warming. Mammal dwarfing has been observed, along with other changes in community structure, during the largest of these ancient global warming events, known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum [PETM; ~56 million years ago (Ma)]. We show that mammalian dwarfing accompanied the subsequent, smaller-magnitude warming event known as Eocene Thermal Maximum 2 [ETM2 (~53 Ma)]. Statistically significant decrease in body size during ETM2 is observed in two of four taxonomic groups analyzed in this study and is most clearly observed in early equids (horses). During ETM2, the best-sampled lineage of equids decreased in size by ~14%, as opposed to ~30% during the PETM. Thus, dwarfing appears to be a common evolutionary response of some mammals during past global warming events, and the extent of dwarfing seems related to the magnitude of the event.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Mammal, Horse, Bat, Carbon cycle, Eocene, Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, Paleocene


The extinct ‘New World stilt-legged’, or NWSL, equids constitute a perplexing group of Pleistocene horses endemic to North America. Their slender distal limb bones resemble those of Asiatic asses, such as the Persian onager. Previous palaeogenetic studies, however, have suggested a closer relationship to caballine horses than to Asiatic asses. Here, we report complete mitochondrial and partial nuclear genomes from NWSL equids from across their geographic range. Although multiple NWSL equid species have been named, our palaeogenomic and morphometric analyses support the idea that there was only a single species of middle to late Pleistocene NWSL equid, and demonstrate that it falls outside of crown group Equus. We therefore propose a new genus, Haringtonhippus, for the sole species H. francisci. Our combined genomic and phenomic approach to resolving the systematics of extinct megafauna will allow for an improved understanding of the full extent of the terminal Pleistocene extinction event.

Concepts: Horse, Extinction, Pleistocene, Equus, Donkey, Megafauna, Mammoth, Holocene extinction