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Professor Gus Cothran

A landmark researcher of equine genomics at Texas A&M University.



1 -    What is the single greatest change you have witnessed in the equestrian world during your life time?

There seems to have been a great expansion of the “pleasure” horse so that many more people now own horses who would not have owned them in the past.


2 -    Do you ride?

Not really.


3 -    Do you own a horse?



4 -    Who is your favorite horse in history?



5 -    Who do you think was the most influential equestrian human in history and why?

Genghis Khan- just because of the successes of his cavalry and the perceptions  of the horsemanship of the Mongols that continues to this day.


6 -    What was your greatest equestrian influence from books or cinema when you were young?

Probably western movies, cowboys.


7 -    What equestrian book would you recommend today and why?

One that I like is Conquerors by Deb Bennett.


8 -    How did you initially become interested in your specific equestrian specialty?

I did not plan to study horses, it just sort of happened.  I had recently completed my Ph.D. and was looking for a job.  I was hired as a post-doc to work on a project looking at the association of genetic variation and reproductive success in Standardbred horses, which was very similar to work I had been doing using white-tailed deer as the research subject.  Then that post-doc position led to my going the Univ. of Kentucky where I began to do my own research on the genetics of horses.


9 -    What prompted you to enter that field?

The horse is an interesting subject for genetic studies due to their diversity and because most breeds are pedigreed which isn’t possible for most species.


10 -    Did someone encourage your decision or inspire you?



11 -  When did you begin your research, investigation, work?

I began working with horses in late 1982.


12 -    What do you think is your most important discovery, achievement or insight regarding your equestrian work?

The discovery that genetic variation can be lost very rapidly even in a large population like the Standardbred  horse due to human decisions about breeding.


13 -    What modern technology, techniques and media have you found most helpful?

Genetic technology is changing so rapidly that it is quite hard to keep up but some of the new whole genome advances will change everything that we do in horse genetic research.


14 -    What part of your work do you find most fulfilling?

Working with the individual breeders and helping them solve problems.


15 -    What’s been your biggest disappointment in your work?

The difficulty in obtaining funding to do some of the studies I’d like to do but can’t support out of my lab funds.  It is surprising how difficult it can be to get funding for horse research.


16 -    How do you explain the gulf between academic equestrian investigation and the average horse owner?

I actually find that the gulf is not that wide.  Even though most of what I do is far advanced from the basic genetics that most people had in school, if you try to explain it the average horse owner will get what you are telling them.


17 -    What equestrian subjects are in need of more research and investigation?

I personally would like to see more work on the genetic basis for behaviors in horses.  Also, the question of domestication is still not fully understood.


18 -    Which part of the equestrian world would you like to see reformed and why?



19 -    How do you traditionally deliver your findings or message and how would you ideally like to do so?

Scientific publication or presentation.  I do frequently talk to lay groups and like doing so.


20 -    What intellectual, technical or ethical advances would you like to see in the horse world?

I would like to see a world equine body.


21 -    Do you foresee any difficulties for the horse world in the immediate future?

The recent economic crisis has been very hard on horse owners and it may take some time for this to correct itself.


22 -    What is the greatest challenge facing the horse world in the long term?

Preservation of the diversity of horses that exist in the world today.  As with almost all domestic species, we are losing many of the varieties that currently exist because of simple neglect and lack of awareness that they are threatened.  There tends to be a focus on a few popular breeds and this leads to the loss of less known breeds because there is no market for them.  Just like so many thing, once they are gone they are gone forever and we never know what we will need until we need it.


23 -     What books, magazines, websites, etc. can people read and review to learn more about your work?

Much of my work can be accessed through Google searches.


24 -    Any final thoughts?



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