Latest Research Highlights

A new study examines the pedigree of horses in Oman

16 Mar, 2020 | Return|

Al-Abri: The findings are important for horse owners and decision-makers

Dr Mohammed Ali Al Abri

Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences


Purebred Arabian horsesis an expression that often makes headlines in horse racing news, which gives rise to a number of questions about their genetic background, and the kind of horses we have in the Sultanate. 

To address these queries, Tawasulinterviewed Dr Mohammed Ali Al-Abri – Assistant Professor at the Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, College of Agricultural and Marine Sciences. He has conducted a research project, the first of its kind, to examine the population structure and genetic diversity of the Arabian horses in Oman. 

The research was in collaboration with the University of Florida (Dr Samantha Brooks) and The Royal Cavalry of Oman.

Al-Arbi sheds light on the historical background of the horses and their important uses in farming, war, trade and transport. Ever since wild horses started to be tamed, about 5,500 years ago, there have been some 400 different breeds that have evolved due to the selection of many desirable traits.

He added that Arabian horses have always topped the list of horses preferred by breeders, because of their metabolic efficiency, ability to withstand harsh desert climatic conditions, and unwavering loyalty. For these reasons, he said, purebred Arabian horses have become very important for the survival of Bedouins and their culture in the Arabian Peninsula, where they had for centuries followed and carefully examined the pedigree and ancestry of their horses.

Dr Al-Abri remarked that, notwithstanding the importance and utility of horses, no studies have been carried out to investigate the genetic background of Omani Arabian horses. “Unfortunately, many horse owners abandoned their horses after the introduction of modern transportation in the 1970s, which resulted in a decline in the Arabian horse population. Moreover, the recent introduction of new Arabian horse bloodlines in Oman has resulted in an ambiguity regarding the origins of Arabian horses in Oman today.” 

In his research project, the academic aimed to clarify the genetic background and levels of genomic inbreeding of Omani Arabian horses. To that end, a total of 72 hair samples from 24 horses from Sharkiah, Dahira and Batinah were obtained. DNA was extracted using standard methods and approximately 65,000 genome wide SNPs genotypes were obtained per animal using the Equine SNP70 SNP chip. In addition, genotypes belonging to 22 French Arabians, 17 Egyptian Arabians, 11 Polish Arabians, and 36 American Arabians, genotyped using various density platforms, were included in the study. 

He added that Multi-Dimensional Scaling Analysis (MDS) (Figure – a) and Phylogenetic Tree Analysis (Figure – b) had shown that the majority of Arabian horses in Oman have descended from French Arabian horses. 

“In line with our expectations, no pure Omani Arabian bloodlines exist today in Oman. This was confirmed both by the horse owners as well as the MDS analysis. The average genomic inbreeding levels in the French and Omani Arabian horses (-0.009 and -0.05) were the lowest compared to the Egyptian (0.156), Polish (0.05) and US Arabians (0.043). In addition, the genomic relationships obtained confirmed the pedigree relationships of the Omani Arabians included in the project and revealed some new, previously unknown, relationships to the owners. Our results are critical for decision makers as well as owners in shaping future policies and decisions in Arabian horses breeding and management.” 

a. a-2           b.b-2