Objective: According to oral traditions of horse caretakers and trainers, the differences in the position and number of facial hair whorls may be associated with temperamental traits. Elucidating genetic background of facial hair whorls and its relationship to temperamental traits may promote more efficient breeding and maintenance of racehorses. In this study, we estimated heritabilities of the position and number of facial hair whorls in Japanese Thoroughbred horses.
Results: The number of facial hair whorls varied from one to four and heritability estimate in 4024 Thoroughbred horses was low (h2= 0.160). The positions of facial hair whorls were categorized into high, medium, and low, based on their locations. This trait was estimated to have high heritability (h2= 0.643) in 3782 Thoroughbred horses. These results indicated that a larger proportion of the variation in the studied population was due to genetic factors for facial hair whorls position. Because a similar result was also observed in another horse breed, Polish Konik horses, high heritability of facial hair whorl position may be characteristic of multiple horse breeds. We expect that these results will stimulate future studies to elucidate the relationship among temperamental traits and facial hair whorls in all horse breeds.
Keywords: Hair whorl; Heritability; Horse; Thoroughbred.