Meet your match - first horse cloned in Ireland
The famous Irish-bred stallion Cruising, who represented Ireland in show jumping on the world stage for well over a decade, has been cloned.
This is the first time an Irish-based horse has been cloned. However, there are believed to be several hundred horse clones now worldwide.
Cruising's two clones, Cruising Arish and Cruising Encore, are almost three years old.
They will now stand as stallions at Hartwell Stud in Co Kildare, where Cruising was bred and lived out his 29 years until his death last September.
"They are growing into fine horses and it is uncanny how like Cruising they are - looks, mannerisms, everything. Cruising was also dark grey with those white spots when a youngster and his coat lightened as he got older," owner Mary McCann said.
"We felt that this was the next thing after artificial insemination and embryo transfer. We will treat them as normal horses and they will be covering mares this year like normal stallions. We've already had a lot of interest in them."
The cloning of animals has been a controversial subject for many years. To clone a horse costs upwards of €100,000 per animal.
The process of cloning Cruising began in 2010 when Ms McCann took up an offer from a US company to take biopsies from the horse, who had retired from stud some years earlier. DNA from those cells was then transferred into eggs, from which the genetic material had been removed. The resulting embryos were grown in an incubator for several days then transferred to recipient mares using a traditional embryo transfer process. After the normal gestation period of 11 months, Cruising's two clones were born. It is not clear where the cloning process took place.
Until 2010, cloned horses were banned from competing at Olympic level, particularly in show jumping, eventing and dressage.
However, the international governing body, the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), decided to overturn the ban during the summer of that year when it was proven that the clones were only 98pc copies of the originals.
Horse racing, on the other hand, has a worldwide ban on cloned horses being allowed to race.
The Jockey Club, an organisation dedicated to the improvement of thoroughbred racing and breeding, believes the sport of thoroughbred racing and the thoroughbred breed are best served by the current rules.
Horse Sport Ireland (HSI), the governing body for equestrian sport in Ireland, welcomed the news that two clones of Cruising will be available to Irish Sport Horse breeders in 2015.
HSI also operates the Irish Sport Horse Studbook, where both stallions are being registered.
HSI chief executive officer Damian McDonald said the sport horse sector has always embraced the use of science to breed better horses.
"The international governing body, the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) now allow clones to compete and we altered the rules of the Irish Sport Horse Studbook in recent years to permit the registration of clones," he said.
Cruising, who performed in front of mammoth crowds in the RDS in the 1990s with Trevor Coyle, won Grand Prix competitions around the world and at home and sired many jumpers and eventers that excelled. These included Flexible, Mo Chroí, Mr Medicott and Mr Cruise Control.