LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- A Texas family in Las Vegas for the National Finals Rodeo is in the business of cloning horses.
“She’s my heart horse, she's my best friend,” Lexie Russell said about Crash. “I was there when she was born.”
Crash is the child of a cloned stallion.
“We’ve cloned now thousands of livestock -- cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, deer,” Blake Russell said.
Russell is the president of ViaGen Pets & Equine. The company has cloned more than 500 horses.
“All of the horses that I ride or train are by a cloned stallion or have cloning somewhere in the process of making that possible,” Lexie said.
After more than 20 years in the business, Russell said they’ve got the process down pat.
“If you think about it, it's just an identical twin, separated in time,” Russell said.
He explained it starts with a biopsy.
“In that, we're able to culture and grow millions of cells,” he said. “Each one of those cells has all of the DNA necessary.”
That DNA is put into an empty unfertilized egg, grown in an incubator then moved to a surrogate animal of the same species.
“In the horse world, what we’re after was that unique combination of athleticism and temperament, and desire, all the things that make a champion,” Russell said.
Most of that, he added, starts with DNA.
“In the horse business, there are only a few truly elite animals,” he said. “As a fourth-generation horse breeder, our family has sought out those animals for a very, very long time. They come along very rarely so when you have the chance to use the technology like cloning to leverage that one in a million, this technology gives us the chance to build many more terrific horses.”
For the Russells, it’s not just about creating the perfect horse.
“This technology has a performance and economic impact on our ranch, but it also has a huge sentimental piece, in that we are allowed to work with the very best genetics from even my father's generation,” Russell said.
Someday, Lexie wants to join her dad’s business. She wants to make sure Crash, or at least a copy of Crash, is at her side.
“She’s a part of me,” she said. “I can't imagine doing it without her.”
In competitions, Russell said it’s not necessary to disclose, using a cloned horse.
ViaGen Pets & Equine also clones people’s pets, including cats and dogs.