science

Olympic champion horse 'brought back to life' as DNA cloned to create identical foal


Arko III was the Number one horse in Europe for five consecutive years and won gold at London 2012 and Rio 2016. But the legendary showjumper, who won over £1million during his career, sadly passed away in January – sparking concerns that its genes would be lost forever. But a British-based genetic preservation company helped clone the horse, and its genetically identical twin was born in August.

The foal will be raised by Pat, John and Lisa Hales of Shaw Farm Stud in Shropshire.

The family said in a statement: “It was an extremely sad day for our family when we lost Arko. It felt like the end of an era.

“His loss was not only massive for British breeding, but for competition breeding all over the world. The birth of his clone was a very emotional day for everybody involved.

“Arko had touched so many people’s hearts with both his ability in the ring and also as a sire passing on his marvellous attributes to his young stock.

“We are very proud to be one of only a few to have embraced this technology and be able to offer this magnificent bloodline for many years to come.”

The clone, which has not yet been named, was generated from a skin sample extracted from Arko by Gemini Genetics, before being sent to ViaGen Pets & Equine, who completed the cloning process.

The animal’s genes were placed into a donor egg and stimulated with an electric charge which mimics the moment that a sperm meets an egg.

The altered embryo was then implanted into a surrogate mother, who foaled 11 months later.

Lucy Morgan, the manager of Shropshire-based Gemini Genetics, said: “If you have an animal you think the world of, you instinctively want to be able to bring them back after they have passed away.

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“Horses are equally special, and the other side of bringing back these huge horses of the equine world is that you keep these proven genetics.

“Without cloning, Arko’s genetic stock would have been lost forever. It would be a huge missed opportunity to let them go knowing that we have the technology to preserve these highly influential horses.”

The Hales family have announced that they will stand the foal at stud, allowing owners to breed their mares with the exact DNA of Arko.

Miss Morgan added: “You can always tell who is an Arko baby.

“And there is a lot of physical similarity between Arko and the clone already. He has quite a cheeky face and the foal has that as well.

will be quite comparable because the Hales family also owned Arko from a young age.

“So although there will be some environmental differences, he is the closest living replica we could get to the original.”

Gemini Genetics hope the technique will be used to preserve more championship animals so their genetic legacy can live on after their deaths.

They also want to use o offer genetic preservation for pets, and hope to use the technology to preserve endangered animals via an associated charity, Nature’s SAFE.

Other well-known horses to have been cloned include Cruising, gelding Gem Twist and eventing stallion Chilli Morning.

“Although they will be subject to different environments, it

Cloning has come under criticism in recent years, though.

Some have concerns that technology is not yet developed enough to be safe, and that it could be prone to abuse.

Religious groups are divided, with some opposing the technology as usurping God’s place and, to the extent embryo are used, destroying a human life.

Others support therapeutic cloning’s potential life-saving benefits.

Cloning of animals is opposed by many activist groups as some cloned animals have suffered from malformations before they died.





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