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Genetics Selection Evolution

Open Access

Frequencies of genes for coat colour and horns in Nordic cattle breeds

  • Juha Kantanen1, 8Email author,
  • Ingrid Olsaker2, 8,
  • Klaus Brusgaard3, 8,
  • Emma Eythorsdottir4, 8,
  • Lars-Erik Holm3, 8,
  • Sigbjørn Lien5, 8,
  • Birgitta Danell6, 8 and
  • Stefan Adalsteinsson7, 8
Genetics Selection Evolution200032:561

Received: 10 February 2000

Accepted: 26 September 2000

Published: 15 November 2000


Gene frequencies of coat colour and horn types were assessed in 22 Nordic cattle breeds in a project aimed at establishing genetic profiles of the breeds under study. The coat colour loci yielding information on genetic variation were: extension, agouti, spotting, brindle, dun dilution and colour sided. The polled locus was assessed for two alleles. A profound variation between breeds was observed in the frequencies of both colour and horn alleles, with the older breeds generally showing greater variation in observed colour, horn types and segregating alleles than the modern breeds. The correspondence between the present genetic distance matrix and previous molecular marker distance matrices was low (r = 0.08 – 0.12). The branching pattern of a neighbour-joining tree disagreed to some extent with the molecular data structure. The current data indicates that 70% of the total genetic variation could be explained by differences between the breeds, suggesting a much greater breed differentiation than typically found at protein and microsatellite loci. The marked differentiation of the cattle breeds and observed disagreements with the results from the previous molecular data in the topology of the phylogenetic trees are most likely a result of selection on phenotypic characters analysed in this study.


cattlecoat colourhorns

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Authors’ Affiliations

Animal Production Research, Agricultural Research Centre of Finland (MTT), Jokioinen, Finland
Department of Morphology, Genetics and Aquatic Biology, The Norwegian College of Veterinary Science, Oslo, Norway
Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics, Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Tjele, Denmark
Agricultural Research Institute, Reykjavik, Iceland
Department of Animal Science, Agricultural University of Norway, Ås, Norway
Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden
The Nordic Gene Bank for Farm Animals, Department of Animal Science, Agricultural University of Norway, Ås, Norway
, Reykjavik, Iceland


© INRA, EDP Sciences 2000