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IF our nursing staff at the surgery believed in reincarnation, which they might, then I think they would suggest that, in my past life, I was a bear with a sore head.

I have recently, however, come up with strong evidence to suggest that I was, in fact, a horse.

I reached this conclusion from research carried out by a student called Jack Murphy at The University of Limerick.

Jack carried out a thesis entitled: "Gender differences on equine learning skills and visuo- spatial ability".

He conducted his own study using 62 horses (34 male and 28 female), having designed and built apparatus to measure and assess performance in six different trials.

His results showed that male horses were 14 per cent quicker at carrying out all the tasks and that the female horses had higher error rates throughout the tests.

This means they made more mistakes. Sorry, girls!

I have yet to discover if all theses presented at The University of Limerick have to be in rhyme.

Of course, veterinary research does throw up some strange findings.

For example, a new product, which will help in the treatment of kidney disease in dogs and cats, has recently been introduced.

It is made from the shells of crabs and lobsters. Substances called chitosan and calcium carbonate are extracted from the shells and these act, in the digestive tract, to reduce the absorption of uric acid and phosphates, both of which can be harmful to the kidneys.

It may sound odd to use these crustacean shells to manufacture chemicals for the medical field but, in fact, it is very common for medicines to be associated with natural sources.

Aspirin, for example, is refined from willow bark.

Digitalis, a powerful heart medication, was first discovered in foxgloves.

Most commonly used local anaesthetics are safe preparations derived from the coca plant, Erythroxylon coca, with which we normally associate cocaine.

The inspissated juice of the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum, is used to make morphine and codeine; both are powerful painkillers. And we all know that penicillin originated from mould growing on bread.

It is little wonder, therefore that there has been a huge growth in those who see "natural medicines" as safer alternatives to conventional medicine.

All over the country people and their pets are gulping down vast quantities of herbs and plant extracts.

Some may be fine, but most are not regulated or controlled.

One thing that all our plant-derived drugs have in common is that they are safer and have fewer side effects when they have been extracted from the plant and purified.

To merely presume that natural is safe is as daft as thinking that chewing or smoking pure tobacco leaves will be safer than using a refined form of its active ingredient, nicotine, as a patch or a gum.

Remember also that turpentine originates from conifer resins and many species of cherry tree are capable of producing cyanide when decayed.

In the meantime, I'm off for a gallop.


FEBRUARY 22: Irvine and District Canine Club's open show in Irvine. Schedules from Mrs J. Burns, Laigh Armsheugh Cottage, Doura, by Irvine, Ayrshire KA11 2AU. Phone: 01294 850364. Entries close January 20.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 16, 2003
Next Article:Horse Racing: IT'S A QUICK; 1-2 FOR ALTAY; Delight for Fahey but punters lose out once again.

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