TIMBER CREEK CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — A cloned horse who has the potential to save its species is born, here on the High Plains. However, Kurt is not your average foal.
“His hair is different. His tail is different, his hooves are way different. They they’re that hoofile capsule is a lot different than these little foals. It’s really thick,” said Dr. Gregg Veneklasen Timber Creek Veterinarian Hospital. “I’ve not been to Mongolia, but, obviously, this design is from hundreds of thousands of years, of doing something at someplace, and it’s probably a great design from where they’re from.”
Thought to be the last truly wild horse breed, Przewalski’s horses are currently, endangered when they were nearly extinct in the early 1900s.
About 12 horses were bred over time creating around 2,000 Prezwalski’s horses that are now in existence, but, there is only one Kurt.
“I’ve done this a long time,” Dr. Veneklasen said, “I’ve been around lots and lots of horses. I’ve never been around anything like this.”
Kurt’s genetic material comes from an entirely different source than the 12 horses which saved the breed from extinction.
That will help his species avoid a genetic bottleneck when inbreeding starts to cause health and reproductive issues with the animals.
Kurt is an exact genetic twin of his father, Kuporovic who lived for many years at the San Diego Zoo.
The zoo froze his genetic material, making Kurt possible, 40-years later.
Jason Abraham, who provided the surrogate horse said, “Even though epigenetics kicks in he’s going to act a little different than the original, his offsprings will be just like out of the original because the DNA he’s passing on is the exact thing.”
Kurt’s personality is one of the things that Revive & Restore Lead Scientist Ben Novak says shows he’s a success.
“He’s a bit of a bonehead. He’s head butting. He’s nipping. He’s really rambunctious–and that is exactly what we want out of Prezwelski’s horse, we want him to be wild.” Novak said. “We want him to have wild offspring. And you know, that bodes really well for the for him as well as the future of cloning for endangered species.”
This scientific achievement may open the door to other conservation and restoration possibilities as well.
Blake Russell who is the President of ViaGen Animal and Equine said, “How do we embrace proven technology to help us bring these conservation steps forward? Because, again, the solutions aren’t necessarily in our history. Um, they might be in our present and again, building into our future.”
Kurt’s future, however, is more certain.
“The world will be able to go to the San Diego Zoo and see Kurt. But what’s special about what he’ll be doing at the San Diego Zoo is he’ll be in a herd of other Prezwalski’s horses where he will eventually breed and have sons and daughters and those sons and daughters will be some of the most genetically diverse Przewalski’s horses in the world. And eventually, we hope that his son’s daughters, grandsons, etc end up being distributed throughout other zoos, spreading his genetics and eventually get returned to the wild in Mongolia and China to join those herds and help bring those genetics to those herds as well,” Novak said.
The San Diego Zoo’s Frozen Zoo continues its work to save other species, read more about it here.