Helping to save the Suffolk Punch

A HORSE society has embarked on pioneering schemes to protect the future of the endangered Suffolk Punch.The Suffolk Horse Society in Woodbridge is working with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) to produce a DNA profile of the breed using blood samples taken from the 300 horses left in Britain.

A HORSE society has embarked on pioneering schemes to protect the future of the endangered Suffolk Punch.

The Suffolk Horse Society in Woodbridge is working with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) to produce a DNA profile of the breed using blood samples taken from the 300 horses left in Britain.

Amanda Hillier, administrative secretary at the society, said that the profile will be used as a "point of difference" to check the parentage and purity of a horse before it is bred or judged.

The society has also started to collect and freeze semen from the 18 registered licensed Suffolk Punch stallions in the studbook.


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The semen samples can then be used to breed the mares based miles away from a stallion and can act as sperm source should anything disastrous happen to the breed.

Mrs Hillier said: "The licensed registered stallions are tested to make sure they are suitable for freezing. If they are they can be used for artificial insemination. We had our first AI success this year and a foul was born in June in Wales."

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The society has already issued blood kits to 130 owners of the horses and vets take the samples when they are on routine visits. The society is aiming to finish the blood sampling early next year.

So far the semen from two animals has been taken and stored in the RBST's national genetic archive of Britain's native rare breeds in Warwickshire, which also includes samples from cattle, goats and sheep.

Mrs Hillier said: "Many people think the Suffolk Punch has had its day but who knows what will happen in the future. There may be a time when we have no electricity and we have to rely on horsepower again.

"There is a lot going on in the society at the moment and it is very exciting."

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