History of Artificial Insemination
Much of the early work on artificial breeding was first carried out in horses. An interesting fact
took place in 1322, when an Arab sheikh stole some semen from a rival’s stallion to breed one of
his mares. There is no evidence, however, to indicate that he performed artificial insemination
(AI) in any appreciable degree.
At the end if the 18 th century, an Italian priest turned physiologist
named Lazzaro Spallanzani, placed some dog semen in snow and found that, while it became
immotile, motility was restored for several hours when the sample was warmed up to room
This laid the foundation for the development of artificial insemination and the use of cooled
semen in animal reproduction!
The real push to develop artificial insemination came from Russia, the first country that
investigated about this technique in the late 19 th century. Nowadays, the countries considered
to be on the cutting edge of AI technology development in horses include France, Germany,
Denmark and Holland.
Pros and cons of artificial insemination
If we compare artificial insemination to natural covering, the artificial technique often ends up
more expensive than natural covering as it requires a high degree of technical input and skills.
Artificial insemination implies a gynecological follow-up by ultrasound ultrasonography
performed by a vet to determine the appropriate time of deposition of semen into the
reproductive tract of the mare.
Pregnancy rates per heat are not different from natural covering (55%) if the method chosen is
AI with recently collected semen or chilled and transported the same day, 55% and 50%
respectively. Furthermore, breeding by AI with chilled transported semen overnight or frozen
semen makes the pregnancy rate per heat lower, 35-50% and 45% respectively. Three factors
must be considered in order to achieve acceptable fertility results when inseminating mares
with cooled shipped semen: the inherent fertility of the mare, the quality or fertility of the
semen that is received, and the reproductive management of the mare before and after
Nevertheless, artificial insemination has many advantages !!
It allows importing semen from any stud standing for AI collection in the world without having
to either ship the mares to the stallion or the stallion to the mares. Not only does this cut down
on the cost but it also provides more safety, as there is less transportation and stress on the
In addition to just preventing possible injuries in transportation, AI also prevents possible injury
during the natural breeding process. AI can allow mares to become pregnant without exposing
either the mare or the stallion to each other.
Diseases such as equine herpes virus, equine metritis, and other contact type of bacterial and
viral infections that can be passed from the mare to the stallion or vice versa during natural
mating are completely eliminated using the artificial insemination process.
The AI system of semen collection allows for each individual collection to test for quality and
viability of sperm. The ejaculate obtained is divided so than multiple mares can be bred all
within their fertility timeframe.
Since older stallions have a lower sperm count than younger stallions, AI allows technicians to
formulate the sperm that is to be deposited in the mare and ensure that the correct number of
viable sperm are available to fertilize the egg.
To conclude, remember that proper artificial insemination in horses involves the deposition of
an adequate number of sperm into the reproductive tract of the mare at the appropriate time.
Equine Reproduction, 2nd Edition. Angus O. McKinnon, Edward L. Squires, Wendy E.
Vaala, Dickson D. Varner, Wiley-Blackwell. 2011
ifCE-Haras Nationaux, France.