A single racehorse from 300 years ago is responsible for the "speed gene" in modern racehorses.

Scientists at the University College Dublin were able to trace this magical speed gene after studying DNA from hundreds of horses including skeletal remains of 12 thoroughbred stallions born from 1764 to 1930. In addition 330 modern thoroughbreds, 40 donkeys and even a couple of zebras were analyzed, according to Fox News.

Researchers traced all modern variants of the original "speed gene" (C Type) to the legendary Nearctic (1954–1973), and credit the larger expansion to Northern Dancer (1961–1990), the son of Nearctic, and one of the most influential stallions in modern times.

"The findings point to a British mare as the most likely single founder of the original 'speed gene' because one of the lines of evidence from the research demonstrated that the prize stallions of the 17th and 18th centuries had two copies of the T type speed gene variant (T:T) which is linked to greater stamina," Dr. Mim Bower from the University of Cambridge said.

Scientists determined the Shetland breed as having the highest percentage of the so-called speed gene. The Shetland were popular race horses in Britain many years ago.

"The results show that the 'speed gene' entered the Thoroughbred from a single founder, which was most likely a British mare about 300 years ago when local British horse types were the preeminent racing horses, prior to the formal foundation of the Thoroughbred racehorse," said Dr. Emmeline Hill from University College Dublin said.

Results of the study were published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

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