March 10, 2008

This raises interesting questions about the artistry of the bullfight, as well as the spectre of a bullfight turning into a Matrix-style thing where identical bulls pour out to swamp the bullfighters.

Bullfighting Breeders Turn to Cloning

Fernandez is so bullish on cloning he envisions a future in which an afternoon at the arena — usually three matadors taking on two bulls each — might involve six genetically identical twins created from the same beast.

"What I am looking for is a path toward innovation in bullfighting," Fernandez said from Mexico City. "We are trying to give the show greater quality."


But questions abound. It's one thing to pass on a carbon copy of a fighting or stud bull's DNA, quite another to expect the new animal to mimic its template.

Only as much as 40 percent of an animal's behavior is attributable to its genes, said Javier Canon, a geneticist at Madrid's Complutense University who specializes in fighting bulls. External factors account for the rest.

And even if the sons of a great fighting bull were always great fighting bulls themselves there are much cheaper and more effective ways to harvest those valuable genes, such as using the father's semen for artificial insemination.

"If you ask me about this project from a technical point of view, in terms of genetic progress, it serves no purpose whatsoever," Canon said.

Even in its traditional mode, bull breeding is a slow, hit-or-miss business. Studs are crossed with cows carefully selected for feistiness through simulated fights in the ring, albeit without bloodshed. Then the rancher has to wait a few years for the resulting bull to grow up, and see if it has the right stuff.

"Theoretically, two plus two are four. In this, when the time comes, it might not be four, but rather minus three. The results are very elastic," Miura said from his ranch outside Seville. "Time will tell if Victoriano is right."

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