GWAS for horsies

If we do the proper genetic studies on horses, lots of them ( > 10^6) we will eventually be able to find variants that predict how large or how fast individual horses are, and ( dare I say it) we will eventually be able to tell if certain breeds of horses are genetically big or small, fast or slow. People have always wondered if Percherons are really larger than Shetland ponies – or if that’s just a stereotype.  Some say that Thoroughbreds are faster than Clydesdales – wouldn’t it  be nice to actually know for sure?  Of course there are deep philosophical questions about what ‘ genetically different ‘ really means – and we wouldn’t really know that two breeds were different unless we also understood the mechanism of each and every common variant that boosted or reduced size or speed. Since quantitative selection boosts any variant that favors the trait under selection,  and those variants work through many different biological pathways, we have some work  to do. But we still won’t really know that my Prince (a Shetland) was inherently*  slower than Secretariat unless we understand every one of those mechanisms.  And their interactions.  And their little dog, too! We also need to understand the historical reasons for any differences – what selective pressures drove those differences, how those pressures varied over  space and time – or we don’t really know anything.

Admixture studies might be useful, but they’re icky.


And we need to motorize those fences at Wrigley Field.


* Maybe Prince was deprived due to my cousins shooting him with their BB guns. He caught one of them later, kneeled on her, and broke her collarbone.  Depraved on account of being deprived?


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45 Responses to GWAS for horsies

  1. Jerome says:

    The genetic variation within breeds is much larger than the genetic variation between breeds.

  2. Don’t mention Eclipse. He screwed around.

  3. Hesse Kassel says:

    Some horse breeds display epic quickness.

    This is nothing to do with quickness though.

    It’s all about epiquickness.


  4. Anuseed says:

    One can imagine an egalitarian going to a race track and saying to the first person he
    meets, “You know, all those horses would be equally as fast if they had just had the same
    quality of food and training.” Blank stare. “I think some of the horses lose because people think
    they can’t win and the horses believe it,” he adds. Another blank stare. His last statement is,
    “Horse racing is really just plain wrong because it makes the horses that lose feel bad about
    themselves.” Yet, when he makes the same points about people, hundreds of billions of dollars
    chase his every word.

  5. John says:

    There is no such thing as horse breeds,
    under the skin and fur, horses are all pink,
    Speed is a social construct. A horse is so much more than this one measurement.
    Size is a social construct. A horse is so much more than this one measurement.

  6. Ziel says:


  7. Jim says:

    Hilarious. Of course as long as we don’t know exactly what happened in the Planck epoch it is obviously futile to consider any other questions.

  8. Jim says:

    When people argue on the basis of philosophical skepticism it is because they have lost the argument on a rational basis. Philosophical skepticism is an intellectual last ditch.

  9. Steve Sailer says:

    But when we’ve done all the GWAS on horses and have predictive scores for speed, we can go back and dig up famous dead horses from the past and see how fast they were from their DNA.

  10. Dave Pinsen says:

  11. Rosenmops says:

    My chihuahua self identifies as a 120 lb Rottie. He say size is a social construct and he can be any size he wants.

  12. moscanarius says:

    “Speed is not a single thing; in fact, multiple studies have proved that there are Multiple Speeds, but of course you breedists only talk about the one form of speed that makes your Thoroughbreds look superior to other horses”.

  13. Ryan Baldini says:

    Yes, it’s pretty annoying to talk to people who think like this. I recall a fellow anthro grad student posting on Facebook that there was “no evidence” for innate differences in intelligence between races. Of course, what she really meant was “it is not incontrovertibly proven via the preferred methods that genes play a role.” Meanwhile most grad students have pet theories that are much more poorly supported than genetic racial IQ differences, yet their papers begin with “evidence suggests…”
    I got into a bit of an argument with her. My modest goal was simply to get her to publicly say that it is not totally impossible that genes play a role. It took some time but it finally happened – not without epigenetics and maternal effects coming up first, of course.

    • jb says:

      I think it is very often useful to do what you did here: instead of arguing that racial IQ differences are genetic, argue that it is possible that they are genetic — i.e., that the question is open, and that we simply do not yet know for sure.

      The beauty of this is that, for true believers, to acknowledge even that much would be a grave sin! But arguing that the genetic explanation had been definitively disproven — to the point where only an evil person or a fool would even consider it — is much more difficult than merely arguing that the evidence for the environmental explanation is better.

      So why allow your opponent the easier argument? If I were in a public debate, my initial goal would not be to prove that the genetic explanation was correct, it would be to demonstrate that my opponent was so closed minded that he was unwilling to acknowledge even the possibility that he might be wrong. I’m perfectly willing to acknowledge the possibility that I might be wrong myself, and if my opponent refused to do the same I would bore in on that, and do my best to make it clear to everyone that his mind was closed, and that for him this was essentially a matter of religious faith.

      I’ve actually used this tactic in internet forums and personal discussion, and it has worked rather well. I haven’t converted anybody (how often does that happen when you are arguing religion?), but being forced to explicitly argue for their own infallibility has caused noticeable discomfort in some of my opponents, which is further than one usually gets with this sort of thing.

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        yes – don’t try to win the argument in one go just put a pebble in their shoe and let the cognitive dissonance it causes gradually grind them down

  14. mapman says:

    Funny. I suppose this is partly in response to Turkheimer attempting to invent a definition that would make a conclusion that human group differences are genetic more or less impossible. Here it is, in all of its ridiculousness:

    When is a Group Difference Genetic?
    OK, here is a definition. A group difference is genetic when there is a causal mechanism (not a heritability or a polygenic risk score) linking a gene or genes to a phenotypic outcome across a known, wide domain of contexts, and the causal gene or genes is distributed unequally across the groups.

    • albatross says:

      Scott Alexander’s term for this is an “isolated demand for rigor.”

      Basically, when I’m arguing for your desired conclusion, very weak evidence is acceptable –there was this one study of black children of GIs in Germany, and this one intensive educational intervention that closed part of the gap for a couple years, therefore the black/white IQ differences is environmental. When I’m arguing against your desired conclusion, nothing but the most absolutely solid, completely-nailed-down evidence is sufficient. And even then, probably it needs more replication and deliberation before it’s decent to discuss in public.

      Turkheimer is a smart guy. But I think he’s mindkilled himself on this subject–he knows there’s only one morally acceptable answer, so he’s determined to make sure he gets that answer, facts be damned.

  15. dearieme says:

    It was a horse that taught me to back-somersault. I, young and foolish, walked around its stern and it planted two hooves briskly on my kisser.

    After that I rode ponies and donkeys but not the full-size, aggressive, equine terrorists. Donkeys are best on the beach, ponies in the mountains. Those are my stereotypes and I’m sticking to them.

  16. dave chamberlin says:

    I spent a hot day yesterday shelling out a thousand bucks on grandkids at Disney world. All fine and dandy. They were too young for the rides and I was too jaded on cutsey Disney crap all decked to the nines and stacked ten stories high in bright plastic colors. I looked at the people.

    All they want is fantasies. Reality to them is troubling. Reality isn’t amusing, reality doesn’t sell.
    There will be good blogs and partisan hack blogs all selling a slice of what holds peoples attention. Here is Cochran trying his best to explain the complex truth to people don’t want to look at.

    He’s doing a good job, but he can’t change the numbers. Let’s separate the people. 1 for Cochran, 99 for Disney, 1 for Cochran, 99 for Disney, 1 for Cochran and ….awwww fuck it.

    Anyway I guess we have our own little reality show channel.

    • Henry Scrope says:

      The late Mister Disney himself would have agreed with Doctor Cochran.

    • John says:

      Yes, I don’t see it getting better in the future. If you take a look at the demographics in a few short decades, you can surmise that going forward, there will be more state control that keep people from talking about this subject, what ever amount of evidence to the contrary. Cochran (or someone like him) may not be able to blog like this in the year 2050 without serious repercussions to his safety and quality of life.

      • Frau Katze says:

        Agree. Some people are wildly optimistic. They’re wrong. It’s getting worse not better.

        • Jim says:

          Extrapolating present trends is not generally a reliable way of predicting the future. To be sure there probably isn’t any reliable way of predicting the future.

          • John says:

            I am not talking about some wild prediction that may or may not come true. Just look at the cohort that were born in the year 2017. In thirty years, they will represent the demographics of the 30 year old and probably close to the demographics for the nation as a whole. Tell me what you see.

          • Frau Katze says:

            OK, I’m assuming that political climate remains as is.

            Clearly if that changed a lot, all bets are off.

            I also don’t see the political climate changing in the near future. The democratic capitalist system we have set up is remarkably capable of absorbing blows.

            One of the main things is that power is extremely distributed. There are federal powers (not all agree with each other), there’s state/provincial power, there’s city and municipal power.

            Then there are the corporations. And the universities.

            If you read a history of say, Stalin’s Russia, it’s the exact opposite.

            • Rosenmops says:

              And the party in power in Canada is importing more Liberal voters as fast as they can to create a permanent Liberal majority.

              • Immigrants are less, no more liberal.

              • Frau Katze says:

                But are those immigrants going to be reliable Liberal voters if they’re, say, well off Chinese or aspiring to it? I agree with José M. Guevara, they won’t necessarily support the Liberals. They want a business-friendly environment.

                Have you noticed that Vancouver and BC in general are not like California? There were a lot of similarities in the hippie era. Left coast, etc. There are still a few aging hippies around, that’s all that’s left.

                Judging by elections, BC is more to the right than it was in the 1970s.

                Check the list of federal MPs belonging to the Conservative Party. One odd thing is that there aren’t many Chinese period in any party. They don’t seem to be very enthused about politics at all. But there are a number of Indians (dot not feather).

                Maybe it’s because the new Chinese have zero experience in a democratic system at all. India does have elections, the concept is familiar,

        • Difference Maker says:

          Aye. The technology is there for both Big Brother and Brave New World

    • Ursiform says:

      While not a Disney park fan myself, some of the people at Disney parks are just taking a break from reality, not rejecting it.

    • albatross says:

      Fantasies are more fun, but reality is better when you’re trying to make correct predictions of the future, or get stuff to work.

  17. gwood says:

    Nature never picks a fight, and nature never loses one.

  18. Mike Byrne says:

    Cesare Lombroso, in his book The Man of Genius, says that geniuses are generally shorter in height than normal folks. So Prince may not run as fast as Secretariat, but Prince is probably more intelligent.

  19. I understand if you hang around tall people you get taller.

    As for who is winning the argument in the cultural sense, remember that the Chinese are very big on finding genetic differences and putting that into play. They don’t care much if other people call them racist, so long as they call them “boss.” In a generation there will be some preliminary but real effects to that. American elites will want their children to succeed.

    Still, they might keep up the game for a long time. Jews get very uncomfortable around discussions of Ashkenazi IQ. It has been suggested that they do “get it” but fear the consequences of widespread knowledge. The assortive-mating American elites may now be doing something similar. They might get it but dislike the consequences of that truth. Best to grasp at any other explanation. For now.

    • Frau Katze says:

      I’m not sure that the Chinese are going to succeed at any ambitious genetic project.

      They permitted a highly undesirable development: abortion of females, resulting in numerous men who will never have a wife.

      Of course, if the government is authoritarian, they know they can keep the peace anyway.

      In fact, how would it benefit the authoritarian leaders to have a increasingly intelligent class of people who are above all, meant to be subservient?

    • Frau Katze says:

      Is there any evidence that Japanese, without an authoritarian government, are active in finding genes for intelligence?

  20. peterike says:

    Prince just needed 10,000 hours of practice and then he’d be just as fast as Secretariat.

  21. Nikolas Persson says:

    (this is from a real life conversation I’ve had)

    leans in, growls through clenched teeth
    “Have you heard about epigenetics!?”

  22. Pingback: GWAS for 'horsies'

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