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


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.

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Correspondence to Juha Kantanen.

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Kantanen, J., Olsaker, I., Brusgaard, K. et al. Frequencies of genes for coat colour and horns in Nordic cattle breeds. Genet Sel Evol 32, 561 (2000).

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  • cattle
  • coat colour
  • horns