Hindgut microbes, fermentation and their seasonal variations in Hokkaido native horses compared to light horses
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Fecal bacteria and protozoa of Hokkaido native horses and light horses were enumerated to compare seasonal variation in hindgut microbes and fermentation between the two breeds. Fecal samples were collected in winter and summer from eight horses (four for each breed) that had been reared together under the same conditions after birth (on woodland pasture in winter and on grassland pasture for the rest of the year). Total fecal bacteria counts for both breeds showed temporal variation, with the highest levels occurring in summer (P<0.05). For both breeds, Gram-negative rods were the major constituents (58–69%) and showed higher counts in winter (P<0.05) than in summer. Total protozoa counts in both breeds were lower in winter than in summer (P<0.05). The proportion of large cellulolytic protozoa such as Cochliatoxum periachtum was increased (P<0.05) in winter, and this tended to be more pronounced in native horses. Although total volatile fatty acids (VFA) in feces were lower in winter (P<0.05), the reduction was smaller in native horses (P<0.05). Fecal VFA pattern showed a shift toward more acetate and less propionate production in winter regardless of the horse breed. Evaluation of digestive tract organs in 12 animals showed that the relative weight of the colon in body weight or total digestive tract weight is larger in native horses than in light horses (P<0.05). The present results suggest that hindgut microbial adaptation to winter diets occurs to a greater extent in native horses, as partly characterized by advantages in anatomy.
KeywordsHokkaido native horse Hindgut microbes Seasonal change Cellulolytic protozoa Colon
This study was supported in part by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (no. 12460116) from the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture, Sports and Technology of Japan.
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