Extreme Selective Breeding Gives an Arabian Horse a Concave Face That Horrifies Vets

Fagjun | Published 2017-10-25 00:33

Veterinarians express horror as a young Arabian horse, bred to “perfection”, sports a concave face as a result of selective breeding.

The El Rey Magnum colt [Photo by Orrion Farms]



Have you ever looked at a cartoon horse’s exaggerated features and thought, “that’s what real horses should look like”? No? Neither have many other people, probably, but the minds of breeders can be a confusing place. Breeders have aimed to exaggerate the dish-like features of an Arabian horse to produce a more “attractive” horse. Suffice it to say, these breeders were successful. They managed to produce a young colt with an cartoonishly concave face that has sent veterinarians in quite a tizzy.


Extreme breeding that overlooks health problems in favor of physical features deemed to be attractive has become common in animals like cats and dogs. Vets now fear that the same will be true among horses. The nine-month-old colt, whose parents have concave faces as well, may be plagued with breathing problems that can impact its quality of life.

A Worrying Development

Exaggerated facial features [Photo by Orrion Farms]



Breeders describe the colt, El Rey Magnum, to be “close to perfection”. Even now, the young Arabian horse is said to be worth millions of dollars. However, the appeal of the horse’s exaggerated concave face is lost on veterinarians and many others. “I find the whole thing unbelievable,” says equine specialist Tim Greet. “Arabians have always had a rather ‘dished’ face, but this takes things to a ridiculous level.”


The deformity--and that’s exactly what the horse’s skull shape is--may cause breathing difficulties for the horse in the future. Humans and animals like dogs can breathe through both the nose and the mouth. However, horses are only able to breathe through their noses. Thus, if the shape of the horse’s skull makes it difficult for the horse to breathe through its nose, then it may be in trouble.


Orrion Farms, the specialist horse farm in the US that owns El Rey Magnum, has defended their breeding practices. However, many veterinarians seem to be in agreement that extreme selective breeding puts too much importance on an animal’s appearance, and not enough on an animal’s well-being.


“The problem comes when you breed for particular looks and when those looks are detrimental to the horse’s health,” says Jonathan Pycock, president of the British Equine Veterinary Association. “In my book, that is fundamentally wrong. This is a worrying development.”

The Perfect Arabian Horse

Apalo, the El Rey Magnum colt's grandfather, already shows the hallmarks of extreme breeding [Photo by Regency Cove Farms]



Fortunately, it’s possible that the horse won’t suffer breathing issues because of its deformity. Orrion Farms manager Doug Leadley claims that so far, the horse isn’t suffering from any breathing problems. However, it’s entirely possible that if the farm breeds this particular horse, its descendants may experience the breathing difficulties that veterinarians and experts have predicted.


Arabian horses are known for their dished face, which is considered to be quite beautiful. The breeders may have wanted to achieve the “perfect” Arabian horse by breeding for an exaggerated form of the breed’s most distinctive feature. However, experts say that there’s no functionality in a face like the El Rey Magnum’s. Also, there’s the question of the morality of risking health problems in an animal or its descendants purely in favor of a fad or fashion.

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