The book ‘Cattle Breeds – An Encyclopedia‘ is a very great work in the field of agriculture, particularly in animal genetics. It includes detailed information of almost all cattle breeds in the world, which provide us our daily consumption of meat and milk, leather for coats and shoes, as well as the labour power for the farmers in some regions. It is a interdisciplinary study in agriculture, humanity, art, archaeology and history and has costed several years to accomplish. It has been extensively cited by other scientists for maybe tens of thousands of times.
The book gives the most comprehensive breed classification of cattle breeds, which is mostly based on geographical, morphological, and historical data, as well as on production records. However, so far no study has investigated if and how the breed classfication is consistent with their genetic origins. In addition, of the three or four factors used for the classfication, which of them plays the most important role?
In a study by Menghua Li and Juha Kantanen in a collaboration with the members of the North European Cattle Genetic Diversity Consortium (more than 10 researchers from different countries), we studied this for the first time using as many as 48 Eurasian Bos taurus cattle breeds using microsaellites recommended by FAO.
Our study revealed that the genetic classification is basically consistent with the subgroups defined in the book, with a few exceptions stemming from intercrossing in their breeding history. In addition, for the five breeds which have not yet classfied into any subgroups in any literature, we provide a preliminary classification according to the genetic clustering results. However, in the further analysis, we found that despite some correspondence between geographical proximity and genetic similarity, the breed classification appears to be a good indicator of genetic structure in the Eurasian cattle breeds.
Li M.-H. and J. Kantanen (2009) Genetic structure of Eurasian cattle (Bos taurus) based on microsatellites: clarification for their breed classification. Animal Genetics (In Press)