Dr. Kerstin Darenius of Caballa, our SBS affiliate lab in Sweden, has recently become involved in the preservation of Swedish horse breeds with the creation of a frozen semen gene bank. For endangered or rare breeds, where the number of animals available for breeding is small, collection, freezing and storage of semen is a valuable method for preserving genetic material for future use. Many countries within the European Union have been taking action to preserve a number of valuable livestock species. During the last several years semen from cattle, sheep, horses and goats has been collected for this purpose.
In 2009 Dr. Kerstin Darenius began a project, in cooperation with the Swedish Board of Agriculture, to collect and freeze semen for the following native Swedish horse breeds, the North Swedish Horse, the Swedish Ardenner and the Gotland pony. The first two breeds are draft horses that are still used to some extent today for agricultural purposes and forestry. The Gotland Pony is the native pony of Sweden; there are domesticated ponies as well as a free running herd of wild ponies on the Island of Gotland. Gotland ponies are used both for riding, driving and racing (trotting).
The respective breed associations were asked to select two valuable stallions from each breed for semen collection and freezing. Two reserve stallions were also specified, should the results of semen freezing from the original selection be unsuccessful. In addition, they were asked to supply the semen collection station with three pony mares and three draft mares for collection, since none of the stallions had been used for semen collection before.
During 2009 semen from both the North Swedish Horse and the Swedish Ardenner were approved for freezing. Unfortunately semen from the Gotland pony did not respond as well to freezing. In 2009, one of the reserve stallions was approved. In 2010 testing was continued with the Gotland pony on an additional seven stallions, one was approved for freezing.
1. Gorino, Swedish Ardenner (top)
2. Nestor, Gotland Pony
3. Beltino, North Swedish Horse
4. Jagga Ess, Gotland Pony (bottom)