Throughout the United States there are several universities and private companies that offer DNA testing for horses. These tests typically require only a small hair sample and can tell you a number of different things about your horse.
In this article, we hope to answer some of the most commonly asked questions.
How to Get Your Horse DNA Tested
In order to get your horse DNA tested you will first need to write down what you want to test your horse for. This will vary from horse to horse and breed to breed.
Are you more interested in color? The tests you need in that case will depend on what color your horse is. If your horse is grulla, for example, you don’t need to test for Agouti (because your horse is aa) but you may want to test for black and dun to find out if she is homozygous for either.
If your horse is an Arabian or appears to be of Arabian decent, you may want to have the Arabian disease panel done. Conversely, if your unregistered horse looks a lot like a quarter horse, you may want to have the 5 panel done or even the APHA panel which adds in OLWS.
Are you confused with what all these terms mean? It can be daunting. Talk with your vet if you are worried about a medical issue. If you are trying to figure out what color tests to run, call the lab and ask or send them a picture of your horse and see what they say. Also, post to Facebook. Horse people LOVE genetic testing and you are sure to get lots of feedback to help you make a decision!
How to Pull Hair for a Horse DNA Test
Once you have found the lab, you will need to pull hair to submit a sample. UC Davis did a great video on this:
How much does a horse DNA Test cost?
The costs for horse DNA tests depend on how many tests are being run. Most horse DNA testing centers offer group discounts for some types of tests. For example, UC Davis offers individual coat color tests for $25 but you can get a package of 8 coat colors tested for $100, a considerable savings!
What is the 5 Panel Test for Horses?
The 5-Panel test in horses tests for the most common genetic disorders to affect stock breeds. These are:
- Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency (GBED)
- Hereditary Equine Regional Dermal Asthenia (HERDA)
- Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis (HYPP)
- Malignant Hyperthermia (MH)
- Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM)
Each of these diseases has their own issues. Some, like HERDA, only affect the animal in the homozygous state (when they have two copies of the gene). Knowing whether your horse has or carries any one of these diseases is very important.
Carrier status means that you need to carefully consider any potential mate for your horse should you decide to breed him/her. Most stallions will advertise that they are 5-panel negative.
Where can you get a 5-panel test for horses and how much does it cost?
There are a variety of equine genetics labs that offer 5-panel testing.
- AnimalGenetics – $95.00
- UC Davis – AQHA Members pay $100.
- UC Davis – APHA Members Pay $125 except the test INCLUDES OLWS
- Etalon Diagnostics – $99 all inclusive Panel
There are various labs that are able to test a horse for 5-panel diseases. It is important that, if your horse is registered or you intend to register him, that you double check with the registry as far as which vendors they will accept results from. I did verify with the AQHA, for example, they only accept results from UC Davis.
AQHA Members can get it done through their partner lab, UC Davis, for $100. AnimalGenetics offers the 5 panel test for $95. I’ve used both labs and find them equally easy to deal with but prefer AnimalGenetics to UC Davis. Their pricing tends to be more reasonable and the ordering / results delivery process is easy. APHA Members seem to have the option to choose between UC Davis and Etalon Diagnostics.
How much does HYPP Testing Cost?
The HYPP test can be run for as little as $30 through Animal Genetics Inc. This pricing is as of February 2019 for just the one test. Many genetics labs offer package deals. Most commonly, HYPP is run as part of the 5-panel test package.
If your horse is registered, be sure the lab you select for HYPP testing is approved with them.
Can you DNA Test a horse for breed?
There is no DNA test that can 100% determine a horse’s breed. But think about it, horse breeds have evolved over several thousand years. Some breeds are offshoots of others. The American Quarter Horse and American Paint Horse for example. So many of those horses interbreed leaving most of the difference just to color. If we look at where they originated from, it was rancher stock back in the days before registries.
Not too long ago in american history, ranchers turned loose their unwanted horses or let a good stallion out to cross with other wild horses, mustangs if you will, and then rounded them up when it was time to select saddle horses. When the registries were formed in the United States, they selected and inspected individuals who fit the desired type for both color and conformation.
That is just one example of how a breed may have been formed but there are many others as we look at warmbloods, cross-breeds like the Azteca and even purebreds that are basically identical (like the Lusitano and Andalusian).
What a DNA test can do is determine the best match for our horse. Most of these tests produce the top 3 closest breed matches for your horse.
Where Can You Get Your Horse Tested for Breed?
Texas A&M University offers horse ancestry testing for $45 per sample. The submission form as well as a detailed article on the topic can be downloaded from there website here: Horse Genotyping and Breed Testing.
If you get your horse tested and are willing to share pictures and test results, we’d LOVE to use them in an upcoming post! Just email us or comment below and we’ll be in touch!
Horse Tests & Equine Coat Color Labs
Following is a list of labs that offer equine genetic testing including diseases and coat colors. Not all labs offer the same tests and many have pricing differences. There may be other labs that offer genetic services, if you know of one you don’t see mentioned here, leave us a comment!
This is my favorite. I’ve used them a lot in the past for several reasons. They tend to have the best pricing and have great service. I love that you can view all your genetic result history online. In fact I last used them in 2013 and I was able to log in today (02/02/2019) and view test results dating back to 2010.
That’s not to say that any of the other vendors below don’t offer similar login screens. I haven’t done any DNA testing and back in the day, UC Davis didn’t offer this. If they do now, let me know so I can update this article!! Here is what the Animal Genetics screen looks like when I login.
UC Davis used to be the standard in DNA testing, at least back in 2010 when I first became interested in it. They are still the vendor of choice used by the AQHA. I’ve run several tests through them over the years and never had any issues with their service or speed of service.
I logged onto the UC Davis site recently and found they have improved it to offer an online ordering system. That is a great addition! While I am not sure if their reports have changed any in recent years, here is one I had gotten back in the day. Particularly helpful is the way they break down the details of what each result means.
I’ve never used this company but did do some basic research that all seemed very positive. If I do decide to have my mare tested I’d be sure to give them a try and compare them with results from Animal Genetics. Their mini-panel test is a really good deal.
If you had the budget I’d honestly probably just run their $99 mini-panel to start. It offers so much cool stuff that you wouldn’t need to know much more for the average horse. This vendor is also listed on the APHA site so they must be doing something right!
Texas A&M is, I believe, the only lab offering Equine ancestry. They also offer coat color testing but, their prices are higher than the vendors above. I have never used their services but have friends that have who were happy with them and the reports they provide!
I hope this article has been able to give you some insight into genetic tests available for horses. If equine genetics are something that interests you, check out our quiz!