Ovulation rate and distribution in the thoroughbred mare, as determined by ultrasonic scanning: The effect of age

Mina Clare Gwynne Davies-Morel, J. A. M. O’Sullivan

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Ovarian activity was monitored in 2181 oestrous cycles from 1136 thoroughbred brood mares to accurately determine overall ovulation rate, the relative distribution of ovulations between left and right ovary, whether mare age had an effect on these parameters and whether ovulation pattern in one cycle affected the pattern within the next. Ultrasonic scanning was used in preference to rectal palpation and slaughterhouse material due to its greater accuracy. Mare’s ages ranged from 3 to 22 years. The results obtained indicated a similar incidence of ovulation occurring on the right (49.5% of all ovulations) or left ovary (50.5%). Multiple ovulations (MO) occurred in 22.4% of oestrous cycles. Significantly (P<0.01), more double ovulations (DO) were bilateral (57.2%) than unilateral (42.8%); 20.7% were unilateral right and 22.1% were unilateral left. There were 828 mares grouped into six age groups: A (3–5 years), B (6–8 years), C (9–11 years), D (12–14 years), E (15–18 years), F (18–22 years). The distribution of ovulation between the left and right ovary was not affected by age group, but significant association (P<0.01) was evident between age and MO. Group A had 15% of cycles resulting in MO compared to 19.4, 24.6, 25.8, 28.6 and 35.1% in groups B–F, respectively. A significant (P<0.01) association between MO in successive cycles was also demonstrated, with a greater chance (P<0.05) of successive single ovulations (SO) being on alternate ovaries. There was no significant repeatability of the classification of DO in one cycle compared to the next. We conclude that: (i) the mare is a symmetrical ovulator; (ii) 22.4% of cycles yield MO (ovulation rate 1.23); (iii) this MO incidence increased (P<0.01) with age; (iv) the exhibition of MO in one cycle was linked to an increased probability (P<0.01) of a MO occurring at the next one and (v) SO in one ovary was more likely (P<0.05) to be followed by a SO on the alternate ovary during the next cycle.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-70
Number of pages12
JournalAnimal Reproduction Science
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2001


  • horse
  • ovulation rate
  • age influcne
  • ovulation distribution
  • ovarian activity


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