'Cartoon' horse raises selective breeding concerns

El Rey Magnum.
El Rey Magnum. Photo credit: Orrion Farms

A young colt bred to have a dramatic, cartoonish face has drawn concerns from veterinarians who are worried about potential health risks.

Nine-month-old El Rey Magnum is a purebred Arabian horse, bred by US-based Orrion Farms.

Photos of him shared on the farm's website show he has an exceedingly long neck, as well as a sharply, elongated nose, wide flared nostrils and widely spaced eyes that stick out from his head.

Orrion's breeding advisor, Doug Leadley, says he is a "stepping stone to getting close to perfection", but others disagree.

Vets warn it could be the beginning of extreme breeding, which has caused severe health issues in cats and dogs, who tend to be bred to favour flat faces.

El Rey Magnum.
El Rey Magnum. Photo credit: Orrion Farms

In the Veterinary Record, editor Adele Waters says she first thought the photos of El Rey were computer generated.

"But the truth is this is a real horse and it has been bred to meet the demands of a particular market that likes a particular appearance.

"Where will it end? Is it really so bad for a horse to look like a horse and not a cartoon character?"

Equine expert Tim Greet warns the result of this selective breeding is even worse for a horse than it is for flat-faced pets like pugs and French bulldogs, calling it "ridiculous".

"Dogs, like man, can mouth-breathe, but horses can only breathe through their nose. I suspect exercise would definitely be limited for this horse."

Orrion Farms' website says it is "truly committed to breeding the finest Arabian horses in the world".