You may, or may not have seen an image of an Arabian “designer” horse doing the rounds on the Internet. If you hadn’t, we’re really sorry, because now it’s going to haunt you for the rest of your days.
The breeding of domestic animals to make them look a certain way is not new, humans have been doing it for thousands of years. Just look at pugs. But at what point is it too much? By the looks of the backlash against the so-called designer horse, El Rey Magnum, considered “close to perfection” by his breeders, we’re not far off.
The image at the top of this article is not El Rey, as his breeders, Orrion Farms in Washington State, are refusing permission for the press to publish photos of him (you can see the photos and a really creepy video here), perhaps due to the backlash, or because of an editorial in the journal Veterinary Record, where prominent vets have expressed their horror at his bizarre appearance.
“I wondered at first whether this was a ‘photoshop’ joke,” said UK equine expert Tim Greet in the article, “but clearly it is intended to be deadly serious – which of course is what it is – truly horrific!”
“Where will it end? Is it really so bad for a horse to look like a horse and not a cartoon character?" added Veterinary Record Editor, Adele Waters, while Jonathan Pycock, president of the British Equine Veterinary Association, explained that the dipped shape of the nose "served no functional purpose and could put the horse at risk of breathing problems.”
They are right to be outraged. But is it any different to the current love of squashed-faced dogs like pugs or bulldogs? How about the even more on-trend sausage dog?
Pugs, bulldogs, and other brachycephalic dogs have been bred to the point where their skulls look squashed and their eye sockets are shallow, meaning their eyes protrude. They have problems breathing, skin conditions due to excess folds, and digestive disorders. Dachshunds, or as they're affectionately known, sausage dogs, are at risk of paralysis due to their stretched backs.
It's thought the demand for these small dogs is on the rise due to keeping animals as companions rather than working animals, and the rise of city living in smaller spaces.
Haven't we all at some point watched Crufts with a mixture of fascination and horror? Do you know anyone that doesn't love a sausage dog? But dogs aren't the only animals humans have messed around with. As you can see here, sheep, chicken, pigs, and cats have all had the same treatment. There's selective breeding and then there's just being cruel. When will we know when to stop?