The trend of breeding animals to make them more attractive even when it damages their health has spread to horses, vets are warning, after a stable released images showing a ‘cartoon-like’ colt.
Extreme breeding practices have already left animals like French bulldogs and pugs struggling to breathe as their faces have become squashed over time to suit human demands.
But vets believe that the worrying practice is now happening in horses after a US stud farm offered an Arabian Colt for sale with an strange concave, or ‘dished’ profile.
The farm described the horse as a step towards ‘perfection’, but equine experts warned the animal may find it difficult to breathe and exercise with such a flattened nose.
UK equine expert Tim Greet of Rossdales Veterinary Service, in Newmarket, said although Arabians were known for their ‘dished’ features, the new colt ‘takes things to a ridiculous level,’ and said the deformity could be even worse for a horse than for a dog.
“Dogs like man can mouth breathe, but horses can only breathe through their nose,” he told Veterinary Record magazine.
“I suspect exercise would definitely be limited for this horse.”
The nine-month-old colt, called El Rey Magnum, was bred by Orrion Farms, a specialist Arabian breeding farm in Ellensburg, Washington, US.
Since launching a promotional video earlier this month, under the title ‘You Won’t Believe Your Eyes’ the farm has received interest from across the world, including the UK.
Doug Leadley, farm manager and primary breeding adviser for Orrion, said: “This horse is a stepping stone to getting close to perfection” and US vets who have examined the colt says it has no medical or respiratory issues.
Public reaction has been polarised with some people commenting that the horse looks beautiful while others have been horrified.
Commenting on the images, Adele Waters, Editor of Veterinary Record said: “My first thoughts were ‘is this the work of CGI trickery?’
“Many specialist horse vets have had a similar reaction. But the truth is this is a real horse and it has been bred to meet the demands of a particular market that likes a particular appearance.
“Where will it end? Is it really so bad for a horse to look like a horse and not a cartoon character?”
Jonathan Pycock equine reproduction expert and president of the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) said the horse represented a radical variation on what was normal.
And he warned that the head shape with a dipped nose “served no functional purpose and could put the horse at risk of breathing problems.”
Dr Madeleine Campbell, an equine reproduction specialist, expert in animal welfare and ethics and director of the Equine Ethics Consultancy, added: “Whilst it is obviously impossible to comment on an individual animal based only on photographic evidence, as a general principle any trend towards breeding for extremes of form which might adversely affect normal function must be condemned, on welfare grounds.
This would apply equally to head shape which might compromise the ability to breathe or eat normally or, for example, to extremes of animal size which might compromise the ability to give birth normally.”