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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Should performance at different race lengths be treated as genetically distinct traits in Coldblooded trotters?

Berglund, Paulina; Andonov, Sreten; Strandberg, Erling; Eriksson, Susanne


Speed, in the form of racing time per kilometre (km), is a performance trait of the Swedish-Norwegian Coldblooded trotter included in the joint Swedish-Norwegian genetic evaluation. A few popular stallions have dominated Coldblooded trotter breeding, which has led to an increasing average relationship between individuals in the population. This study investigated the scope for broadening the breeding goal by selecting for racing time per km over different race lengths (short: 1640 m, medium: 2140 m and long: 2640 m), as this could encourage the use of breeding sires that are less related to the population. Performance data on three- to 12-year-old Coldblooded trotters in all Swedish races run 1995-2021 were obtained from the Swedish Trotting Association. These data consisted of 46,356 observations for 8375 horses in short-distance races, 430,512 observations for 11,193 horses in medium-distance races and 11,006 observations for 3341 horses in long-distance races. Variance components and genetic correlations were calculated using a trivariate animal model with Gibbs sampling from the BLUPF90 suite of programs. Breeding values for the three traits were then estimated using univariate animal models with the same fixed and random effects as in the trivariate model. Heritability estimates of 0.27-0.28 and genetic correlations between racing time per km at the different distances of 0.97-0.99 were obtained. Despite the strong genetic correlation between the traits, there was some re-ranking among the top 10 and top 30 stallions based on distance-specific breeding values. Estimated rank correlation between breeding values for racing time per km in short- and medium-distance races was 0.86, while between short- and long-distance races and between medium- and long-distance races it was 0.61. Mean relationship within the top 10 and top 30 stallions based on breeding values for racing time per km at each distance was 0.31-0.33 and 0.23-0.24 while mean relationship to the rest of the population ranged from 0.17 to 0.18 for all groups, although the 10 and 30 top-ranking stallions differed somewhat in the traits. Estimated average increase in inbreeding was 0.1% per year of birth and 1.2% per generation. The strong genetic correlation between racing time per km at different distances did not support their use as genetically distinct traits. Re-ranking of stallions for racing time per km at different race lengths could favour the use of a larger number of stallions in breeding, but according to our results it would not promote the use of stallions that are less related to the total population. Other traits like longevity or health traits, for example, career length and orthopaedic status, may be more relevant in broadening the breeding goal and preventing a few sires dominating future breeding, and this would be interesting to study further.


genetic correlation; performance; race length; re-ranking; speed

Published in

Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics
2024, Volume: 141, number: 2, pages: 220-234
Publisher: WILEY