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Seasonal influences on quantitative changes in sweat-associated anatomy in native and thoroughbred horses


Dr Jennifer C. Sneddon, School of Biological and Earth Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Byrom St., Liverpool L3 3AF, UK. E-mail:


Stereological techniques were used to assess seasonal influences on morphometric characteristics of hair follicles, sweat and sebaceous glands in abattoir pelts of ponies (PN), thoroughbred (TB) and non-thoroughbred (NTB) horses. Volume density of sweat glands increased significantly from winter (0.061) to summer (0.098) in TB, and showed no change in NTB and a positive tendency in PN. There might be a body surface area : volume effect for sweat gland parameters as PN had smaller values than either TB or NTB, probably attributable to control of heat loss in winter. In summer, the skin remained thick and the volume density of sebaceous glands was increased in NTB, in contrast to TB where both were decreased. It is possible that in summer, sebum has a particular importance in NTB to enhance wicking of sweat through the pelt. TB showed significantly higher volume measurements of sebaceous glands than NTB and PN for winter: sebum has probably a special importance for water-proofing in TB in winter. PN showed no significant seasonal changes in sebaceous glands, but had a thinner summer skin. Winter values for hair follicle volume density between equine groups were similar (TB, NTB 0.066; PN 0.059), as was skin thickness (1.14–1.19 mm). The volume density lowered significantly in summer in TB and NTB. The volume of hair follicles under a unit area of skin surface decreased significantly in TB and nonsignificantly in NTB and PN. The seasonal adaptations of the skin shown here were most pronounced in TB and differed between breeds.

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