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This site is named for the famous statement of US Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver from Missouri : "I`m from Missouri -- you'll have to show me." This site is dedicated to skepticism of official dogma in all subjects. Just-so stories are not accepted here. This is a site where controversial subjects such as evolution theory and the Holocaust may be freely debated.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

My biggest motivation for creating my own blogs was to avoid the arbitrary censorship practiced by other blogs and various other Internet forums. Censorship will be avoided in my blogs -- there will be no deletion of comments, no closing of comment threads, no holding up of comments for moderation, and no commenter registration hassles. Comments containing nothing but insults and/or ad hominem attacks are discouraged. My non-response to a particular comment should not be interpreted as agreement, approval, or inability to answer.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Unnatural selection in racehorses

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.

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14 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We keep hearing of all the wonderful applications of evolution theory."

We also keep hearing of all the wonderful applications where ID theory is applied.

Well, one of these is NOT in the area of breeding racehorses.

Therefore ID is disproven.

QED.

Saturday, May 13, 2006 2:17:00 PM  
Blogger BWE said...

Jesus Larry,

You just provided an argument for evolution.

What makes you keep doing this?

Saturday, May 13, 2006 3:00:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

BWE said --

>>>>>You just provided an argument for evolution.<<<<<

How is that? What I said does not argue for evolution at all. In fact, what I said is a reason why it is not important to teach evolution, and that reason is that a lot of people who have been taught evolution are not applying its principles, anyway.

Saturday, May 13, 2006 6:49:00 PM  
Blogger Jeffahn said...

A Horse is a Horse, Of Course, Of Course

http://downloads.theregister.co.uk/Windows/
Desktop/DesktopThemes/horseisahorse.html

Sunday, May 14, 2006 3:04:00 PM  
Anonymous W. Kevin VIcklund said...

>>>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 be disastrous from an evolutionary standpoint. There is already a founder effect in Thoroughbred breeding - all Thoroughbreds can be traced back to just a few horses (less than ten, as I recall). By doing this, it would bottleneck the gene-pool even further. What would happen in Larry's scenario? The four or five top studs would dominate a generation. If one of those studs had a recessive deleterious mutation, 10% of the next generation could end up as carriers. And then the next generation, you end up not just with carriers, but the deleterious mutation. Sexual species rely on maintaining variety to help mitigate this effect.

Also, the macro-economics would argue against such an arrangement working the way Larry thinks it would. Larry's suggestion would essentially fix the price at an astronomically low value. Law of supply and demand would enter in - the demand for the services would be correspondingly astronomically high. Breeders would therefore attempt to take advantage of this. They would start requiring larger shares of the future earnings. The buyers would then face the choice of higher chance of winning but lowered winnings, or lower chance of winning but higher winnings. The status quo would be maintained. (Also, the breeders would fight against earning on future winnings, but that is a side issue).

Sunday, May 14, 2006 7:41:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Reply to W. Kevin VIcklund ( 5/14/2006 07:41:48 PM ) --

Kevin, I am really pissed off at you. You are still asking the Panda's Thumb bloggers to kick me off, yet you brazenly come over here and post comments because you know that I cannot retaliate against you because of my no-censorship pledge. Everyone can see what a big hypocrite you are. I am answering your comments here because I have to, not because I want to.

>>>>> 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 be disastrous from an evolutionary standpoint. There is already a founder effect in Thoroughbred breeding - all Thoroughbreds can be traced back to just a few horses (less than ten, as I recall).<<<<<<

You have just made a BIG argument against Darwinism. If organisms cannot be improved through scientifically controlled breeding, then how in the hell are organisms going to improve through natural forces alone ?

According to the first of the articles in my opening post, "Winning Races, But Not Records," inbreeding may be a problem in thoroughbreds, as you note. But scientifically controlled breeding based on genetics rather than on dollars would be able to prevent or minimize the expression of recessive deleterious genes, sort of working like "genetic counseling" in humans. Some horses have some excellent positive traits to be transmitted to offspring, like the heart size of Secretariat, which was three times normal.

>>>>>The four or five top studs would dominate a generation.<<<<<

Such highly restricted parentage would not be necessary.

>>>>>Larry's suggestion would essentially fix the price at an astronomically low value. Law of supply and demand would enter in - the demand for the services would be correspondingly astronomically high. Breeders would therefore attempt to take advantage of this. They would start requiring larger shares of the future earnings.<<<<<<

If demand becomes excessive, the stud service providers could respond by raising the up-front charge (while still keeping this charge at a fairly low level) as well as by requiring a larger share of future winnings. And asking for a large share of future winnings would not be a problem, because the buyers of the stud service would not be taking the big financial risk that would be involved with high stud fees. If the up-front charge is practically nothing and the stud service provider gets, say, half of an offspring's million dollar winnings, the owner of the offspring still comes out way ahead without having taken a big risk.

BTW, I once saw the following definition of "shortage" in a dictionary of economic terms (honest): "A shortage exists when the demand for something at a particular price exceeds the supply. The solution to end the shortage is to raise the price." LOL

BTW, it seems that horsebreeding would be very difficult to control, considering that the horses are probably permitted to roam freely a lot of the time. Stallions and mares would have to constantly be kept in separate enclosures. It seems that sometimes the parentage of a particular horse may be in doubt, particularly without DNA testing, which is relatively new. Unscrupulous horsebreeders might sometimes even deliberately falsify the parentage of a horse.

Monday, May 15, 2006 3:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Salvelinus said...

Larry do you even know what the term founder effect means? You provided an argument for evolution. Your ignorance of genetics does not make your statement and criticism.

Saturday, May 20, 2006 1:16:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Salvelinus said ( Saturday, May 20, 2006 1:16:01 AM ) --

>>>>Larry do you even know what the term founder effect means? You provided an argument for evolution. Your ignorance of genetics does not make your statement and criticism.<<<<<

If I don't know what something means, I can look it up.

Basically, the problem that Kevin Vicklund described is inbreeding. The thoroughbred population in the USA is probably too large to be affected by inbreeding, even if breeding is highly selective. About 35,000 thoroughbred foals are registered in the USA each year -- see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thoroughbred

And as I pointed out, any possible deleterious effects of inbreeding of thoroughbreds can be minimized by "genetic counseling", which is now done for humans. My proposal is just a better, more effective means of achieving what racehorse breeders are already trying to do -- transmitting the running abilities of the fastest racehorses to offspring.

And as I pointed out, your and Kevin's arguments are arguments against evolution. If racehorses cannot be improved through controlled scientific breeding, then how in hell could racehorses improve by means of natural causes in the wild?

Saturday, May 20, 2006 1:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any discussion of breeding in thoroughbreds should be made in light of the rules of the Jockey Club for the breed.

Those with some acquaintance with animal husbandry will recognize that the number of mares that a stallion can cover per year is finite. Depending on potency of the stallion, a mare may need to be bred between one and ten times to be relatively certain of conception. The Jockey Club requires normal breeding, and will not register foals that are due to artificial insemination, cloning, or embryo transfer. One way that breeders reduce costs is to form syndicates for stallions, where one of the benefits of being part of the syndicate for a stallion is that one usually does not have to pay stud fees. There seems to be no evidence that stallions commanding large stud fees are underutilized because of the stud fee structure. As mentioned, the members of the stallion syndicate will be able to breed their mares without paying additional fees in most cases.

Not all new surfaces are "faster", as Polytrack demonstrates.

Sunday, May 21, 2006 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Anonymous said ( 5/21/2006 10:41:36 PM )

>>>>>>One way that breeders reduce costs is to form syndicates for stallions, where one of the benefits of being part of the syndicate for a stallion is that one usually does not have to pay stud fees.<<<<<<

OK, these syndicates are another good way of spreading the risk, but they have disadvantages. For example, to get free stud service, you are limited to just the studs that you partly own.

>>>>>There seems to be no evidence that stallions commanding large stud fees are underutilized because of the stud fee structure.<<<<<

I would say that for the most expensive stud stallions, with fees ranging into 6 figures and going as high as $½ million, the combination of the high fees and the high risk probably does result in underutilization of the studs.

>>>>>As mentioned, the members of the stallion syndicate will be able to breed their mares without paying additional fees in most cases.<<<<<<

Certainly, even where a stud stallion has a single owner, that owner can use it free of charge for his own breeding. However, I said that a more effective way of getting income from the studs would be to offer the stud service for a nominal charge or for free and in exchange get a right to a percentage of the foal's future earnings. As I said, that would maintain high incomes for the stud stallion owners while minimizing risk for the buyers of the stud services.

Monday, May 22, 2006 8:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Salvelinus said...

Larry, you still haven't demonstrated any understanding of the founder effect. You said you could look it up, but clearly haven't.

A little hint . . . founder effect is not against evolutionary theory it is a part of the theory. Just like every high school biology textbook states. A 10th grader is likely to understand evolution better than you.

Thursday, May 25, 2006 11:07:00 PM  
Anonymous W. Kevin Vicklund said...

>>>BTW, it seems that horsebreeding would be very difficult to control, considering that the horses are probably permitted to roam freely a lot of the time. Stallions and mares would have to constantly be kept in separate enclosures. It seems that sometimes the parentage of a particular horse may be in doubt, particularly without DNA testing, which is relatively new. Unscrupulous horsebreeders might sometimes even deliberately falsify the parentage of a horse.<<<

Did you actually say this sincerely? You don't even know the asics of horse-breeding! No, horses are not allowed to roam freely. Yes, stallions are kept separate from mares and other stallions. And why would anyone pay (owner of the broodmare) or pass up (owner of the stud) a hundred thousand dollar fee to fake the parentage?

>>>>>There seems to be no evidence that stallions commanding large stud fees are underutilized because of the stud fee structure.<<<<<

>>>I would say that for the most expensive stud stallions, with fees ranging into 6 figures and going as high as $½ million, the combination of the high fees and the high risk probably does result in underutilization of the studs.<<<

You assert this based solely on the amount of fees and risk, without any facts to back your position up. As our nameless friend asserted, there is a finite amount of times a given stallion can cover per year, and it varies by individual stud. (Note: in my earlier analysis, I was considering the theoretical effect of Larry's proposal, deliberately leaving out the physical restrictions of reproduction). So what we need to establish is how many times per year an individual stud can cover, and whether the high fees tend to reduce that number.

Every Thoroughbred is registered and has publicly available statistics on breeding and earnings. For studs, one of the primary statistics is number of named foals per crop (breeding year), or alternatively, number of crops and foals of racing age. Other statistics, such as winnings of offspring, sale price of offspring, and winnings of the stud
are also included (list not exhaustive). Unfortunately, numer of covers per year is not included, but the number of foals should be roughly proportional to the number of covers.

I went to a number of stud farm websites looking for studs that had already filled their books for the 2006 breeding season. When a stud's book has been filled, that means the maximum number of times that stud can cover that season has been scheduled. I then looked at the breeding statistics of those studs, especially those that had year-by-year statistics. The number of foals per year in all cases followed a pattern. The first few crops were small, then quickly rose to a steady-state value. The value varied per horse, but was fairly consistent year to year for individual studs. Typical steady-state values ranged from 60 to 90 foals per year. For a control group, I also looked at middle-range and low-end studs (interms of stud fees), though thee had not filled their books yet. These studs tended to produce significantly fewer foals per year, in the 20s or even single digits for the low-end studs and didn't exhibit steady tate numbers, though some of the mid-range studs did reach steady-state numbers around 60.

So it appears that the number of foals a stud can produce in a year is finite and range between 60 and 90, depending on the horse. I then looked at the top studs, those with stud fees in the hundreds of thousand of dollars. They all followed the same pattern as those studs that filled their books. In fact, Storm Cat, who commands a whopping half million dollars per cover, averaged in the mid-eighties for 4 of his last 5 crops (the fifth came after a two-year lay-off, so he might have had a shortened breeding season that year).

So it would seem that Larry's assertation that high fees = underutilization of studs is not born out in fact. In fact, I found the higher the fee, the more likely the foals per year were above 60. Simple supply-demand economics. A restricted supply (number of foals per year that can be sired) leads to a higher price (stud fee).

Another thing to note. Every site I visited, the stud fees were listed with a live foal guarantee. In other words, no fee is paid until a live foal is born (generally meaning a foal that can stand and nurse unassisted). This included Storm Cat. So much of the risk has already een accounted for.

Larry makes a fatal error. He believes that the value of a Thoroughbred lies in its winnings at the racetrack. In reality, the money is in breeding. Take Storm Cat.

Storm Cat ran in 8 races and won a total of $570,610. He earns nearly that much every time he mounts a mare - to the tune of $40+ million dollars per year!

Oh, and guess who the broodmare-sire (maternal grandfather) of Storm Cat, the most prolific sire of the current generation of Thoroughbreds, is? Why, none other than Secretariat!

Thursday, May 25, 2006 11:34:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Salvelinus said ( 5/25/2006 11:07:31 PM ) --

>>>>>Larry, you still haven't demonstrated any understanding of the founder effect. You said you could look it up, but clearly haven't.<<<<<

I did look it up. And I said that the deleterious effects of the founder effect could be minimized by genetic counseling in horsebreeding.

The point you missed was my question of how a species could be improved through natural forces in the wild if that species cannot be improved through scientific breeding.

>>>>> A 10th grader is likely to understand evolution better than you. <<<<

And I also have a very low opinion of people who cannot discuss something without putting someone down.

Friday, May 26, 2006 2:47:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Reply to W. Kevin Vicklund { Thursday, May 25, 2006 11:34:09 PM ) --
Kevin, I am still madder at you than a hornet because of the past and present hard times you have been giving me on other blogs, but unfortunately I cannot delete you because of my no-censorship policy and I am therefore obliged to answer your comments. You are really taking advantage.

>>>>>No, horses are not allowed to roam freely. Yes, stallions are kept separate from mares and other stallions. And why would anyone pay (owner of the broodmare) or pass up (owner of the stud) a hundred thousand dollar fee to fake the parentage?<<<<<

Are there inspectors who go around to different farms to make sure that none of the rules of horsebreeding are broken? And yes, there is a huge financial incentive to falsify a horse's parentage or pedigree. The Jockey Club is now using DNA testing and blood-typing to verify parentage -- but horses born before such testing was available or practiced are likely to be of doubtful parentage.

>>>>>So it appears that the number of foals a stud can produce in a year is finite and range between 60 and 90, depending on the horse....... I found the higher the fee, the more likely the foals per year were above 60.<<<<<

The limit of 90 foals per year per stud is the result of the Jockey Club's requirement of natural breeding. But why should horsebreeders arbitrarily restrict themselves to natural breeding? Why can't they use artificial breeding methods ( artificial insemination, sperm banks, in vitro fertilization, and even cloning)? My idea of a low stud fee plus a share of future winnings is not necessarily bad just because the Jockey Club has this arbitrary restriction.

>>>>>Simple supply-demand economics. A restricted supply (number of foals per year that can be sired) leads to a higher price (stud fee).<<<<<

Wrong. It is the other way around -- a higher price leads to lower demand. I saw the following definition of "shortage" in a dictionary of economics: "A shortage exists when the demand for a commodity at a given price exceeds the supply. The solution to end the shortage is to raise the price." LOL Anyway, my proposal to offer stud services for free or a nominal charge in exchange for a share of future winnings would end the supply-demand problem in artificial reproduction, where the maximum potential number of offspring far exceeds 90.

>>>>Every site I visited, the stud fees were listed with a live foal guarantee. In other words, no fee is paid until a live foal is born (generally meaning a foal that can stand and nurse unassisted). This included Storm Cat. So much of the risk has already been accounted for.<<<<<

Wrong. The risk is still enormous. There is no guarantee that the foal will ever earn a single dime. The foal could be a filly, and fillies rarely win the biggest races (only 3 winners in the history of the Kentucky Derby). In the case of Storm Cat, the foal would have to win well over $½ million just to break even ! I checked the total winnings of some recent Kentucky Derby entrants and most were under $1 million and some were well under $½ million, and these are supposed to be the fastest horses in America if not the world! Anyway, to justify the high risk of investments in high stud fees, the payoffs to the owners of winning horses must be huge, and these huge payoffs to the horse owners reduce the funds available for payoffs to the bettors. As you know, the odds are greatly stacked against horserace bettors, and this could be a big reason for the decline in the popularity of horsebetting.

Also, I wonder why Storm Cat gets such high stud fees -- there must be lots of other horses that were sired by or are descended from Secretariat, so that is not much of a distinction.

Anyway, I wonder why the horses that win these races are often so young -- maybe under three years. I wonder why older horses don't do better, and I think that older horses would be less prone to injury -- these young racehorses are fragile, as the recent injury to Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro illustrates.

Also, Kevin, you said that you were going to answer my criticisms of the Dover decision, but so far you have just been doing your research and commentary on other subjects.

Friday, May 26, 2006 4:58:00 PM  

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