Heritability of recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis in Thoroughbred racehorses

Am J Vet Res. 1999 Feb;60(2):250-6.


Objective: To determine the likely mode of inheritance and identify probable foundation horses for recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis (RER) in Thoroughbred (TB) racehorses.

Animals: 4 families of TB racehorses with a high prevalence of RER, consisting of 3 to 53 horses/family, were used to determine mode of inheritance. Sixty-two TB horses with RER and 34 control TB racehorses without RER were used to identify probable foundation horses for the RER trait.

Procedure: RER was diagnosed by a veterinarian and verified by detecting high serum creatine kinase activity. Pedigrees dating from 1930 for all horses were entered into a database. Pedigrees of horses in 4 families were visually inspected for a pattern of inheritance and used for calculation of foundation horse contributions and inbreeding coefficients. The Markov chain Monte Carlo technique was used to analyze pedigrees of the 62 affected and 34 control horses for the conditional probability of foundation genotypes. A dominant mode of inheritance with variable expression model was used.

Results: Pedigree analysis supported an autosomal dominant mode of inheritance with variable expression. All affected horses from the 4 families shared a common ancestor. This ancestor and 5 other stallions had a conditional probability of 1.00 for being affected. All 6 stallions shared a common male ancestor within 3 to 5 generations.

Conclusions and clinical relevance: On the basis of this study, the RER trait has been in TB racehorses for more than 70 years and may be inherited as an autosomal dominant trait with variable expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Creatine Kinase / blood
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Genes, Dominant / genetics
  • Horse Diseases / genetics*
  • Horses
  • Inbreeding
  • Male
  • Markov Chains
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Nuclear Family
  • Parents
  • Pedigree
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal
  • Recurrence
  • Rhabdomyolysis / genetics
  • Rhabdomyolysis / veterinary*


  • Creatine Kinase