Tuesday, May 23, 2006


A horse race to be held in Nevada next month will mark the first time cloned animals have officially competed in an event up against 'natural' horses.

The cloned horses are actually two mules, Idaho Gem and Idaho Star, were created three years ago in a process where the DNA of a foetus from a champion racer was cloned and reproduced.

Two clones competing in a field of non-clones. Should be interesting.

From the BBC : Analysing how the clones perform against each other will give scientists information on how variables like diet and training regimes affect developing racing mules.

Those behind the race say that just because they carry the DNA of past champions, there is no guarantee the clones will be successful.

"We know they have the genetic capability to be great," said Don Jacklin, president of the American Mule Racing Association, who leases Idaho Gem from the University of Idaho for about $1,000 (£533) a year.

Gordon Woods, the lead scientist on the University of Idaho project that created the clones was keen to emphasise there was nothing abnormal about the cloned mules.

Dr Woods told the Associated Press that the mule cloning project also provided insights into human cancer research and, in particular, calcium's possible role in tumour development.

Mr Jacklin said he hoped cloning technology would eventually be embraced by the horse racing industry as another breeding tool.

But The Jockey Club, thoroughbred racing's governing body in North America, keeps an extremely tight rein on breeding practices.

Only natural breeding methods are allowed, and club rules explicitly prohibit not only cloning but artificial insemination of any kind.

Yeah, for now. We're still waiting for the Cloned Mutant Animal Competitions, where Giraffophants and LionBears race each other through obstacle courses, and where PumaHounds whip around race tracks in half the time of their 'natural' competitors.

Basically, the ethical outrage will last for a few years, and then such things will creep into the mainstream (obviously not as extreme as my examples) because there will no doubt be an absolutely huge televison audience for such FreakTastic Clonimal Events.

And then, there will be the Olympics 2020, maybe 2028, when viewers will not have to witness winners and losers separated by a pubic hair's difference in times. When we can finally see twelve foot tall 'men' lift minbuses in open competition, and when high jump and long jump will be rolled into one event where gazelle-legged mutants will have to actually leap out of the Olympic Stadium to score a place in the finals.

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