ROME – Italian scientists said they have created their second cloned horse — produced from the DNA of a thoroughbred Arabian gelding race champion.
The foal, named Pieraz-Cryozootech-Stallion (search), was born Feb. 25, weighed 93 pounds and was "in excellent health," said scientists at the Laboratory of Reproductive Technology in the northern Italian city of Cremona.
The young stallion was cloned from Pieraz, retired to a stable in the United States (search) after winning world endurance championships in 1994 and 1996. The lab said the new cloned horse would not compete but as a stallion would be able to pass on its genes.
The laboratory classified the birth as a breakthrough that paves the way for preserving the lines of the best race horses by creating clones that can breed.
"This new approach opens the possibility of conserving the genetic inheritance of exceptional horses whose genetic heritage gets lost because they are castrated," the laboratory said in a statement Thursday.
Cesare Galli (search), director of the laboratory, said racing horses are sometimes castrated when they are 3 years old to make them easier to train.
The Italian scientists used DNA from skin cells taken from the former champion, employing the same technique used in cloning Dolly the sheep in Britain. Dolly was euthanized in 2003 after she contracted a common livestock disease and her cells showed signs of premature aging.
Pieraz-Cryozootech is the second horse cloned at the lab in Cremona. The first, Promotea, was born in May 2003.
Galli said the cloned horse's main purpose is to have it reproduce as soon as possible, which would not leave it time to train.
"It's important for the world of horse racing because it's proof that you can clone animals that are sterile," Galli said.
But at least in North America, the official breed registry said its rules ban cloned animals.
"Every thoroughbred in our registry is the descendant of two thoroughbreds, so this concerns the integrity of the breed," said the Jockey Club's spokesman, Bob Curran Jr.
"If some scientist cloned a horse and wanted to raise the cloned horse in their back yard that's fine, but that horse would not be registered by the Jockey Club," Curran said.