How Do We Know Whorls Work? HorseWhorls

Why would looking at whorls on a horses head or body be able to give us any information about the horse?

It seems silly doesn’t it. Why do we bother looking at whorls and think they will tell us anything? Believing a bunch of old wives tales is ridiculous.

Although the stories have been around forever, we are finding new, scientifically based, reasons for their existence all the time. Just because the science wasn’t there before to tell us why whorls work doesn’t mean they didn’t work until we found out why. All the recent studies do is confirm what we already knew.

The skin/hair layer develops in the womb very early on, while the fetus is still so tiny that everything is touching and connected. As it grows any pressure from the inner layers onto the outer layers causes changes in the way the outer layers develop. It can be physical pressure or extra blood flow. As the fetus grows those changes stay in the skin to affect the hair growth.

It makes sense that some of these changes are ones that are passed genetically, temperament and conformation are passed from parents to foal so matching whorls would be expected. In a recent study scientists were able to isolate the genomic regions associated with hair whorl traits in horses.

Genomic regions associated with hair whorl traits in horses were successfully identified, they reported. In these regions, many genes related to hair follicle growth were investigated, with evidence indicating they influenced whorl-related traits, “some of these genes also have known neurological and behavioral functions.”

That part is accepted and generally without question. The evidence shows that there is good reason to believe whorls and temperament are related.

That leaves us to figure out just how they are connected. While there have been some very nicely scientific studies done on this, most of it is hearsay and personal experience. If we find two horses of the same whorl who display a certain behavior the next thing to do is to look for a third and fourth horse with the same whorl to compare behavior. With common whorls finding many horses who match is easy. Other times there are whorls that are so rare it is hard to find enough to compare. Other times the behavior is obscure enough that it is hard to isolate and relate to one whorl or whorl pattern.

The study of whorls is only just begun. There is so much out there left to learn. It’s going to continue to be a fun and fascinating journey!


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