Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hermaphrodite Horses

Recent headlines regarding the gender ambiguity of women's 800M world champion Caster Semenya have brought gender issues to the forefront not only in track and field, but also in horse racing.

While horse racing is often a mixed-gender affair, there are mare-only events as well. As with human competitors, the female horses are also tested for performance enhancing drugs.

Australian horse Tuscan Abbe was tested following a convincing win, and her testosterone levels were "through the roof," not from doping, it turns out, but because she has internal testicles producing abnormal quantities of testosterone for a mare.  American horse Martha Maxine has been reclassified as a genetic male, unsuitable for breeding purposes. Australian horse What Am I and American horse Arizona Helen have similar issues.

For horses inter-gender detection can be more difficult because unlike most mammals, a male horse has no teats. This means that seeing teats on a horse induces a strong assumption that the horse is, in fact, female, which is not, in fact, always entirely accurate.

It is not clear whether the inter-gender status of racehorses is a recent phenomenon or if it is only more commonly detected now due to improved laboratory tests and veterinary technology.

Associated Press
Yahoo News Canada (photo)
Harness Racing
Standard Bred Canada

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