Bred for the Race: Thoroughbred Breeding and Geographies of Racial Science, 1700-00

Bryan Tyrrell
UC Santa Barbara

Bred first in England in the eighteenth century, Thoroughbreds contain genes from both Arabian horses and native British horses. By the nineteenth century thoroughbred horses raced at tracks all over the world from their origin in England, to the United States and Argentina. For breeders, bodies of thoroughbreds served as living libraries of hereditary information. The grantee’s dissertation examined how elites from different nations used the genetic information stored within Thoroughbreds to advance their political interests and how these strategies changed as thoroughbred populations spread throughout the world. The grantee argued that elites used Thoroughbreds in two important ways. First, Thoroughbreds served as useful heuristics for understanding genetic inheritance, and, second, elites used the popularity of horseracing to justify regimes of inherited power and racial privilege. The research suggested a relationship between different political economic regimes and scientific theories of inheritance over time.