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Has the Selective Breeding of Horses gone too far?



El Rey Magnum Selectively Breeding Arabian Horse

The Arabian horse is easy to recognize. The dished face and slender throat-latch are characteristic of the breed. A young Arabian colt, El Rey Magnum, however, raised concerns among veterinarians.

El Rey Magnum: Has the Selective Breeding of Horses gone too far?

Concerns over breed standards exist in all sorts of domestic animal breeds. This happens when the search for an ideal look or function overcomes functionality and sometimes even the welfare of the animal. We see this in dogs, cats and sometimes — horses.

A young Arabian horse, El Rey Magnum, caused controversy in the veterinarian world. The colt shows an extreme dish to its face, a trait unique to the breed, but not to the extreme shown. The 2017 colt raised concern, as veterinarians believe his extremely dished face to be harmful. Such extreme, they say, may cause breathing problems in the young horse. Unlike dogs, horses can’t breed through their mouths. A potential blockage in their airways could lead to serious problems.

Like most animal breeds, the Arabian may suffer from congenital defects, some even fatal. The risk, however, comes from accepting what vets see as defects as necessary and welcome breed characteristics. Orrion Farms, owner of El Rey Magnum, says the colt is a step toward perfection. They claim he is already worth millions.

The Arabian horse’s typical dished face is one of its most iconic characteristics of the breed. The shape helps the horse breathe in its original desert environment, where the air is dry. Combined with large, wide nostrils, it enhances airflow into the lungs, which gives the horse its famous endurance.

El Rey Magnum Purebred Arabian Horse

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“It looks like a cartoon character”

But excessive breeding could turn this trait into a flaw. British veterinarian Tim Greet believes El Rey’s nose might impede his breathing. In his view, El Rey would not be able to cope with exercise. The major concern comes with breeding for appearances rather than function, especially in a breed known for its endurance and versatility. Halter horses tend to have more dish to their faces than other sports horses, even within the breed.

Adele Waters, editor for Veterinary Record, where the first hints of concern appeared, commented on the colt’s appearance. Expressing disbelief at first, she believed the horse to be fake.

“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?”

A cartoon horse, which critics say resembles the type of face seen in El Rey Magnum

Veterinarians say horses should not resemble a cartoon character.

But not all people agree on the El Rey Magnum’s looks. The nine-months-old colt polarized opinions. While some believe his appearance to be a step in the wrong direction, others believe it to be beautiful. American veterinarians who examined the colt claim he has no breathing problems and no health issues. Doug Leadley, of Orrion Farms, which bred El Rey Magnum, claims he has no issues.

We think he is the most beautiful Arabian in the world – we think he is a king.

Other people, such as Wayne McIlwraith, direction of musculoskeletal research at Colorado University, also came out in El Rey Magnum’s defense, saying there is no evidence the shape of the colt’s skull affects his breathing.

El Ray Magnum Arabian Horse

The Arabian breed isn’t the only one that rouses concerns about overbreeding. Other breeds, such as the Thoroughbred, face similar criticism, though in the latter’s case it involves their function as racehorses. The same happens to Quarter Horse, a breed whose bulkier halter horses have also come under fire.

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So what do you think of El Rey Magnum? Has the Selective Breeding of Horses gone too far?

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  1. Gloria

    16/10/2017 at 6:05 am

    I wish they wouldn’t breed them like that. It’s hideous! When will they be satisfied when foals are born NOT ABLE TO BREATH? This IS cruel!

    • Frankie Jaynes

      16/10/2017 at 1:35 pm

      I agree with you. This is cruel and poor horse does look like a cartoon character.

  2. Sheryl Toliver

    16/10/2017 at 2:25 pm

    I have had Arabian horses and to me this is a big nope! He looks deformed. Not a beautiful animal. Why do people get so focused on one characteristic and forget the whole?

    • Gale Prentice

      09/11/2017 at 2:52 am

      Are you of the same Toliver family that had Arabians near Owego, NY many, many years ago? If so, please friend me on FB. Gale Prentice, Apache Jct, AZ

  3. Julie Purdue

    17/10/2017 at 12:55 am

    Oh my…thatis just plain cruel..making a mockery of the Arabian breed. This animal looks like a cartoon character not a proud spirited Arabian. I love horses and DO NOT condone changing their natural beauty. They have had their specific looks for centuries and have been loved for that. LEAVE THEM ALONE. What is next, remote controlled horses? My God ppl…enjoy the natural beauty of these magnificent animals…stop insulting bthem!

  4. Cynthia

    18/10/2017 at 3:13 am

    This is a grotesque characteristic that needs to be stopped. I love my beautiful Arabians withering classic face. This is horrible. What man does in the name of progress often has many negative ramifications through the generations.

  5. Radmila

    18/10/2017 at 8:26 am

    He reminds me on chiwawa dog. This is sad! Cruel people kind.

    • Kati Berry

      27/10/2017 at 2:07 am

      Radmila,do you even know how to spell? I can’t understand your comment as a whole.

      El Rey Magnum shall suffer in the future. I feel so sorry for this colt.

      • Karen H

        22/11/2017 at 7:18 am

        Kati Berry – I don’t think that English is Radmila’s first language. Cut Radmila a break. 🙂

      • Iknowarabians

        19/04/2018 at 12:20 am

        These photos were taken as a baby, at angles & clipped to accentuate the dish in his face. Anyone who breeds arabians knows they are more extreme as babies. This colt is now a yearling, his head isn’t as extreme as it appears in these photos. He has no problems breathing. So many ill informed people jumping on the bandwagon to criticise him. I’ve seen him live, he is a beautiful colt.

  6. Annie Cass

    18/10/2017 at 8:32 pm

    Time will tell whether this facial deformity compromises the horse’s athletic ability, but for now, dear God that’s ugly! This poor little horse is proof positive that the breeding of animals really ought to be left to people who breed with the best interests of the horse and its performance future in mind.

  7. Rachida el Kaddioui

    19/10/2017 at 10:49 pm

    This is sick, this is one of the most deformed and therefore most ugly Arabian i have ever seen, people want to change every breed not at all thinking about the health issues it will causes the animals, show standards are men made and it is about money, the Classic Arabian is beautiful, but you rarely see one anymore because of certain show standards so lot of people and breeders don’t even know what a Classic Arabian looks like, this is so very sad, this the modern world everything must change, and not for the good that is for sure!!!

  8. Jinxy

    25/10/2017 at 6:03 am

    This is horrible for the breed and horses in general. They have done this to the Quarter Horse, especially with halter class. As a side note – whomever edited the article may want to check again as there are errors and takes away from the credibility of the article, if there is any. May be photo shopped?

  9. Gale Prentice

    09/11/2017 at 2:45 am

    Some 20 or so years ago, an Arabian stallion by the name of Arnette Perlaine was very popular because of his uncommonly defined dished face. I know that people from all over were wanting to breed their mares to him and either Wayne Newton wanted to buy him or actually did. I did hear that this horse died of breathing problems but because the Arabian horse world is so secretive about such matters, I do not know this for a fact. Having owned and loved Arabian horses for many years, I can only say that I think this colt’s head is too extreme. I think he is beautiful and not deformed looking, but I do not think he meets the criteria for having the face that has always been and should always be characteristic of both yesterday’s and today’s ideal Arabian horse. As for whether the extreme, dished face of this boy will affect his breathing, I do not know and think only time will tell. There just wasn’t much in my opinion that needed to be improved upon with the Arabian Horse. Just wish breeders would always breed with care, but not try to improve on things that need no improvement.

  10. BKC

    24/11/2017 at 8:57 am

    When I saw this picture, my first thought was he reminds me of Michael Jackson. He looks freakish, like the horse equivalent of an anime character. People love to play god.

  11. MPH

    29/12/2017 at 5:44 pm

    I agree with BKC…..I thought of Michael Jackson as well when I saw this poor animal….except MJ had a choice and the animal world does not. They are at the mercy of humans….and anything humans get involved in is abused and ruined. These people are SICK. They always have to push everything too far with no regard for the health of the animal. I guess it’s all about the money they hope to make….no concern for the betterment of the breed or the animals they create.

  12. L.

    06/01/2018 at 10:19 am

    I’ve owned horses for over 50 yrs., a couple of them were Arabians. I have to say that I find this little fellow’s face grotesque. I know that beauty in the eyes of the beholder…but this seems so extreme. Hope there are no breeding problems in his future.

  13. E. Claffy

    27/02/2018 at 4:54 am

    L., I hope there is NO breeding in his future! This sort of conformation should NOT be encouraged. I wonder how his teeth and jaws are affected by this gruesome facial structure. He looks like a seahorse. Which is fine — if you’re a seahorse.

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