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What's Love Got to Do With It? The Interplay of Sex and Gender in the Commercial Breeding of Welsh Cobs

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The lack of importance traditionally ascribed to human-nonhuman animal relationships in the social sciences has meant that while commercial sex in the human realm has been well documented, very few socio-cultural studies of commercial sex involving nonhuman animals have been undertaken to date. However, the growing recognition that nonhuman, as well as human, animals are “actors” means that their role in the sex trade, (commercial breeding) becomes problematic and eminently worthy of academic attention. This article considers a very particular instance of commercial animal sex—that practiced on stud farms in West Wales, where the breeding of autochthonous Welsh cobs (hardy, stocky native ponies) is of immense political, social, economic, and cultural significance. This study found that in this context Welsh cobs are expected to embody specific gender ideals in what is an inherently inter-subjective relationship. Through their animals' performances, human caregivers (owners) are able to negotiate their own ideas about gender roles, and these in turn determine those individual animals used for breeding and those not.

Affiliations: 1: Lecturer in Social Anthropology, Department of Archaeology & Anthropology, University of Wales, Lampeter, College Street, Lampeter, Ceredigion, Wales SA48 7SJ, UK;, Email:


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