Preservation Breeding –
Dead End or Vision with a Future?

Exemplified by the Weil-Marbach breeding programme

In 1817, King William I. of Württemberg founded his Royal Stud of Weil and Scharnhausen. Therefore, the Weil-Marbach Arabian breeding programme celebrates its 200-year-anniversary next year. Reason enough, to be concerned about the continued existence of this subpopulation within the Arabian horse breed.

Preservation breeding means breeding of endangered animal species and livestock breeds with the aim, to preserve them from extinction. The aim is also to preserve biodiversity, i.e. to counteract the narrowing of the genepool. A variety of horse breeds with specific characteristics were developed through selective breeding which were optimally adapted to climate, feed, landscape conditions and usage requirements of people. Examples of preservation breeding in Marbach State Stud are the breeds of Old Württemberg horses as well as the Black Forest Draft horse.
In purebred Arabian breeding, one can not speak of an endangered species – even as a race the Arabian horse is not threatened -, but due to historical and geographical origins, Arab breeders differentiate several subpopulations within the breed. Therefore, to preserve certain subpopulations is also referred to as “preservation breeding”. The reasons, why such subpopulations are important to certain breeders are their cultural / historical origin or special features.
In Arab horse preservation breeding, three questions need to be answered:
WHY do we wish to preserve this subpopulation?
WHAT is it, that we wish to preserve (the phenotype, genotype, or certain characteristics?)
HOW can we preserve this subpopulation?

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