We keep hearing of all the wonderful applications of evolution theory. Well, one area where evolution theory is not applied is in the breeding of racehorses. A 2002 New York Times article, titled "Winning Races, but Not Records"
, reports that the speed of racehorses has been stagnant for several decades ( indeed, it has even been theorized that racehorses are actually getting slower because the speeds have been stagnant while race courses have been getting faster). Why is that? Horsebreeders seem clueless. Well, they should be told, "it's like this, stupid": a perverse result of exorbitant stud fees
-- as high as $½ million for the best stud horses -- is that the fastest horses transmit their superior running abilities to few offspring. The high fees in combination with the great financial risk to the buyers of the stud services greatly limit the numbers of offspring. Usually the only thing that is guaranteed in exchange for these huge stud fees is a live foal -- there is no guarantee that the foal will ever earn a single dime. Furthermore, apparently no discount is offered if a filly rather than a colt is born. Fillies rarely win the biggest races -- for example, only 38 fillies have started in the Kentucky Derby
and only three have won. The fastest horses do have some excellent traits to transmit to offspring -- for example, the legendary Secretariat
had a heart approximately three times normal size.
Of course, racehorse breeders should not be blamed for trying to get as much for stud services as the market will bear. However, they are just going about it the wrong way. The smart thing to do would be to offer the stud services of the fastest horses for just a nominal charge or even for free, in exchange for a share of the future winnings of the offspring. This would maintain high incomes for the stud-service providers while eliminating the risk for the buyers of the stud services. The result would be a general increase in the speed of race horses, and interest in horse racing could be increased by offering prizes for breaking race-course records.
Labels: Evolution controversy (4 of 4)