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‘Godfather’ of equine reproduction dies aged 80


  • William “Twink” Allen, a leading expert in equine reproduction, died on 6 June following a short illness, aged 80.

    Through his often ground-breaking endeavours, Professor Allen made significant contributions to the field of equine reproduction, including work on embryo transfers and the development of ultrasonography in thoroughbred breeding.

    Tessa Clarke, breeding consultant and former West Kington Stud manager, told H&H Professor Twink was the “most extraordinary” man and said she had her whole career to thank him for.

    “Through his help and guidance artificial insemination in this country, and possibly around the world, got going. He changed the face of horse breeding, and many other species – he did a lot of work with camels and elephants, but horses were really his forte,” she said.

    “Twink was always kind and helpful and there to offer advice. He had an incredible character; he liked to be controversial and get a debate going. At a breeding conference over a decade ago cloning was being discussed, which then was still a fairly taboo subject, and Twink said one day a gelding will win Badminton Horse Trials and you’ll all want to breed from him. That’s exactly what happened, Tamarillo won under William Fox-Pitt, and subsequently they produced a cloned foal from him.

    “That was the kind of controversial yet wonderful person Twink was, he came out with sometimes what you thought were crazy ideas, but he was right.”

    AI expert Martin Boyle MRCVS told H&H a worldwide network of scientists, former students, veterinary surgeons, breeders and friends will be saddened to learn of Professor Allen’s death.

    “Apart from being a great scientist involved in research, he was a great ‘doer’ making sure that experimental results translated into practical results for breeders,” he said.

    “Over the past 50 years he had been involved in many of the developments from producing identical twins to those that lead to vastly improved improvements in fertility, especially in the thoroughbred”.

    Born in New Zealand, Professor Allen graduated in veterinary medicine from the University of Sydney.

    In 1966 he studied a PhD on equine reproduction at the University of Cambridge, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the Animal Research Station in Cambridge from 1970 to 1972. He gained fellowship of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons by thesis, and in 2002 was appointed CBE.

    He later became director of the Thoroughbred Breeders Association equine fertility unit in Newmarket from 1988 to 2007.

    Professor Allen was appointed Jim Joel professor of equine reproduction at the University of Cambridge in 1996, a role he held until he retired in 2007. He became the honorary director of the Paul Mellon Laboratory of Equine Reproduction at Newmarket from 2008 to 2015, and in 2015 became director of the equine reproduction laboratory at the Sharjah Equine Hospital, United Arab Emirates.

    Continued below…


    Green light for horse cloning

    The Home Office has given Professor Twink Allen of the Equine Fertility Unit permission to clone horses for scientific research


    The Equine Veterinarians Australia (EVA) group, part of the Australian Veterinary Association, described Professor Allen as a “godfather” of equine reproduction.

    “So many of our routine procedures in horse breeding are with thanks to Twink. He has left a great legacy,” said an EVA spokesman.

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