Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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The world’s smallest horse, a colt named Einstein, was born 22 April 2010 on a farm in Barnstead, New Hampshire. Just 14 inches tall and weighing only 6 pounds at birth, Einstein appears to have beaten the previous “world’s tiniest horse” record holder by three pounds. This raises the question: how small can humans force horses to evolve through selective breeding? Apparently, pretty damned small, according to equine geneticist Samantha Brooks of Cornell University, who asserts that there may be no limit to how tiny we can make our horses.

Another video:

A news report about this horse:

I have a spare room in my flat where he could live.

Comments

  1. #1 rs
    May 5, 2010

    He is quite the cute colt, but he will be larger when he matures.

    Still, at this size he would be a nice toy for my 19 pound Maine Coon Cat.

  2. #2 Hannah Salyer
    May 5, 2010

    Hey that little guy is so cute! I wish I hade a horse! What breed is he? Sorry I’m rambling again. Were there any helth problems when he was born and how old is he now?

  3. #3 DrA
    May 5, 2010

    Appartently there are still quite a few of those Hyracotherium genes in the horse genome.

  4. #4 Katharine
    May 5, 2010

    How SMART is this horse?

    I find the fact that this horse is named Einstein ironic for the fact that it’s probably inbred.

  5. #5 "GrrlScientist"
    May 5, 2010

    i admit i was offended by the horse’s name, too. what a strange name for a horse that was so small and motionless when it was born that the owners originally thought it was dead!

  6. #6 Karen Friesecke
    May 5, 2010

    I find the size of this horse disturbing. To qualify as a horse, don’t you have to be able to ride it?

  7. #7 Luna_the_cat
    May 6, 2010

    No. Just NO. As with white tigers, what is not readily apparent to the public eye — but ought to be — is the immense sacrifice of animals in order to “achieve” this artificial “cute” type of animal. Many US breeders of miniature horses allow or even deliberately use genes for dwarfism that result in painful deformity and death for up to 1/3 of their foals, and between 1/4 to 1/3 of breeding mares cannot deliver successfully without surgical intervention. You want to see the ones that don’t make the papers? http://www.minibreeders.com/horsieheaven/ — be sure to visit pages 2-3 for the pictures they wouldn’t put on the first page. Just be warned, you need a strong stomach (for the tribute poems to the “little angels” who were “so precious” to the people who bred them, too, mind you — and, because according to this site the fatal dwarfisms associated with this breeding is “nothing to be ashamed of”).

    In many cases, what causes the deaths is that internal organs are larger than the musculoskeletal structure can accomodate, and are too restricted to function properly.

    I do not put animal interests above human interests, like many animal rights activists do. On the other hand, I *do* believe that there are moral and ethical limits to how animals should be used and manipulated, and why. “For the pleasure of whimsy and cuteness” with such a high toll of death and deformity is not high on my list of acceptability, either.

  8. #8 joshua
    May 7, 2010

    Eventually, you’re going to be able to get a pet dog which will fit in your shirt pocket.

    Mark my words.

  9. #9 joshua
    May 7, 2010

    Luna_the_cat: hear hear.

    I *do* put animals above humans. There are too many humans, at the expense of animals.

    (People look at me funny when I say such things. I must be a sociopath.)

  10. #10 stripey_cat
    May 7, 2010

    I’m another one appalled by the high rates of deformity and perinatal death in miniature horses. However, I’d be interested to know if this is a problem common to all studs or just to a section of irresponsible breeders.

  11. #11 Luna_the_cat
    May 12, 2010

    @stripey_cat — some breeders have worse rates because they do nothing to avoid breeding the more damaging dwarfism alleles together; these are the ones which have the close to 1/3 foal mortality. However, no breeder is free of these, and I think the minimum severe deformity/foal mortality from the mini-breeders, even the ones who try to avoid the more damaging forms of dwarfism, is about 5%. In order to get the “little angels” the loss of 1 foal out of every 20 seems to be taken as acceptable. And the rate of pregnancy complication is minimum 25% — the standard advice is to have blood tests taken to warn when delivery is likely, and have the vet with a full kit there a few hours before the delivery is due.