Genome Diversity and the Origin of the Arabian Horse

Elissa J. Cosgrove, Raheleh Sadeghi, Florencia Schlamp, Heather M. Holl, Mohammad Moradi-Shahrbabak, Seyed Reza Miraei-Ashtiani, Salma Abdalla, Ben Shykind, Mats Troedsson, Monika Stefaniuk-Szmukier, Anil Prabhu, Stefania Bucca, Monika Bugno-Poniewierska, Barbara Wallner, Joel Malek, Donald C. Miller, Andrew G. Clark, Douglas F. Antczak, Samantha A. Brooks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


The Arabian horse, one of the world’s oldest breeds of any domesticated animal, is characterized by natural beauty, graceful movement, athletic endurance, and, as a result of its development in the arid Middle East, the ability to thrive in a hot, dry environment. Here we studied 378 Arabian horses from 12 countries using equine single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) arrays and whole-genome re-sequencing to examine hypotheses about genomic diversity, population structure, and the relationship of the Arabian to other horse breeds. We identified a high degree of genetic variation and complex ancestry in Arabian horses from the Middle East region. Also, contrary to popular belief, we could detect no significant genomic contribution of the Arabian breed to the Thoroughbred racehorse, including Y chromosome ancestry. However, we found strong evidence for recent interbreeding of Thoroughbreds with Arabians used for flat-racing competitions. Genetic signatures suggestive of selective sweeps across the Arabian breed contain candidate genes for combating oxidative damage during exercise, and within the “Straight Egyptian” subgroup, for facial morphology. Overall, our data support an origin of the Arabian horse in the Middle East, no evidence for reduced global genetic diversity across the breed, and unique genetic adaptations for both physiology and conformation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9702
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

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© 2020, The Author(s).

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