Franklin Rodeo Company welcomed the cloned foal from their legendary saddle bronc/bareback horse “Airwolf,” as the latest addition to their bucking string, on August 4, 2008.
Canadian-based Franklin contracted ViaGen, Inc. of Austin, Texas, to clone the gelding and give it the opportunity to utilize the horse’s genetics, which otherwise would have been retired with him in 2003.
“In 40 years, we’ve only had one horse like that and now we have the opportunity to bring that potential right back in our breeding program,” Shane Franklin said.
Franklin now has the ability to go back 20 years and reverse a decision that Shane and his father made to geld the horse. Airwolf’s “offspring” that otherwise would have never existed will now be able to compete.
Gelding horses at a young age is commonplace, but unfortunately most horses don’t show their potential until they’re older.
“It’s like trying to pick out Tiger Woods in third grade,” Kelly Armstrong, Franklin Rodeo Co., said. “All the kids look like they have the potential then.”
Airwolf undoubtedly made an impression on the bucking horse industry that few have ever matched. The grey gelding was a notorious outlaw in the arena and secured his spot in rodeo history in 1996 when he tied the all-time leading saddle bronc riding score of 95 points with Glenn O’Neill aboard in Innisfail, Alberta. Interestingly, the other 95-point score was posted by Doug Vold in 1979 aboard another Franklin horse named Transport at Meadow Lake, Saskatchenwan. Airwolf further proved his notoriety in 2006 when he was inducted into the Canadian Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.
“Airwolf compared to a human would be William H. Bonney,” Armstrong said. “He was a gangster on four legs.”
Franklin has been breeding bucking stock for more than four decades and has never been shy about being a groundbreaker in the business. The addition of Airwolf’s genetic twin as a stallion in its breeding program will no doubt deliver some exciting advances in the bucking chute.
Airwolf’s clone is not ViaGen’s first foray into the world of rodeo. They are the company that two years ago developed the clone of Charmayne James’ famous barrel racing horse Scamper.