Demand of equines throughout the world has decreased during the
last few decades mainly due to their lesser work utility. In India also,
population of horse and pony breeds has also decreased continuously
from 1.50 million to 6.10 million during the last five decade (Livestock
Census 2007) which has placed all the four registered pony breeds,
namely Zanskari, Spiti, Manipuri and Bhutia into endangered breed
category . Animals of each breed are available in small number in
different pockets throughout their home tracts. Manipuri pony is
believed to be the oldest pony breed in world to be used as “Polo Pony”
and at present, its total population in its home tract is around 400 to
1218 only. Exact population of true to breed animals of this breed is
not yet clear due to lack of proper breed recording system. Same is the
fate of other pony breeds namely Zanskari, Bhutia and Spiti In their
home tracts. These pony breeds have acquired some unique
characteristics which have enabled them to adopt themselves in the
harsh climate and difficult terrains in their home tracts. These ponies
are known for their sturdiness, stamina, speed on hilly and difficult
terrains, high disease resistance, surefooted animals, and used mainly
for riding and as pack animals in cold hilly regions. Zanskari pony is
considered the hardiest amongst all the pony breeds and can work in
the extremes of altitude and temperature. In view of their unique
characteristics, it is an important issue for conservation biologists to
conserve these breeds as future requirements of these breeds is not
It is well established that populations that have reduced in their
demographic sizes, commonly show decreased genetic diversity among
them [2-6]. Maintenance of adequate genetic diversity among animals
of individual breed or species is quite important for the existence of
that breed or species. Further continuous decline in populations can
lead to demographic bottlenecks which may promote inbreeding
depression [7,8] and hinder a population’s ability to adapt to
environmental charges [9,10]. All such conditions are expected to
increase a population’s risk of extinction [11,12].
Demographically all the four Indian pony breeds has decreased
appreciably but high genetic diversity in terms of allelic richness and
heterozygosity, has been observed in them [13-16] which is contrary to
the common observations [2-8]. Maintenance of high genetic diversity
in these pony breeds could possibly be either due to segregation of
small animal clusters of individual breed in different pockets in their
home tracts or due to selective breeding strategies adopted by local
breeders in the recent past [17,18]. Though Spiti and Zanskari resemble closely to each other but animals of both the breeds have high
genetic diversity among them also  which seems to be good
enough for adapting suitable breeding policies for conservation of all
the endangered pony breeds. Question of maintaining this genetic diversity in future is also quite important as further decline in overall
population of each breed can lead to complete loss of these breeds. It is
pertinent that if timely suitable conservation strategies are not
implemented than these breeds may become an extinct breeds in near
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- Vrijenhoek RC (1994) Genetic diversity and fitness in small populations. In: Conservation Genetics. Loeschcke V, Tomiuk J, Jain SK (eds) BirkhauserVerlag, Baselpp: 37-54.
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- Gupta AK, Chauhan M, Tandon SN,Sonia (2005) Genetic diversity and bottleneck studies in the Marwari horse breed. J Genet 84: 295-301.
- Gupta AK, Tandon SN, Pal Y, Bhardwaj A, Chauhan M (2012) Phenotypic characterization of Indian horse breeds - A comparative study. AGRI 50: 49-58.
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- Gupta AK, Chauhan M, Bhardwaj A, Gupta N, Gupta SC, et al. (2014) Comparative Genetic Diversity Analysis among Six Indian Breeds and English Thoroughbred Horses. LivestSci 163: 1-11.
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