Unnatural Selection

As you may know, the runner-up at this year’s Kentucky Derby, Eight Belles, was euthanized shortly after the race due to ankle injuries she sustained just after crossing the finish line.

Interestingly, Eight Belles and all of her Kentucky Derby competitors were in part descended from Native Dancer, an accomplished racehorse whose career was eventually curtailed by a “recurring foot injury” and whose bloodline has a reputation for “producing fragile horses”.

Selective breeding leads to the inheritance of desired traits like being fast and light. When taken to extremes (as with the inbred pure-breeding of some Thoroughbreds, arguably), it’s not too surprising that narrow emphasis on a few traits breeds animals that may otherwise be unfit to withstand aspects of the stress they’re expected to endure.

But then again, Kentucky is home to the Creation Museum. Maybe if they ask nicely someone upstairs will just intelligently design a stronger racehorse.

Posted on Thursday, June 5th, 2008. Tags: .