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On the History of Cattle Genetic Resources

Mauritsstraat 167, Rotterdam 3012CH, The Netherlands
Graaf Janlaan 6, 3708GM Zeist, The Netherlands
North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND, USA
Descartes Center for the History and Philosophy of the Sciences, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 80.010, 3508 TA Utrecht, The Netherlands
IRAS, Yalelaan 104, 3584CM Utrecht, The Netherlands
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Diversity 2014, 6(4), 705-750;
Received: 5 September 2014 / Revised: 23 October 2014 / Accepted: 27 October 2014 / Published: 12 November 2014
PDF [20751 KB, uploaded 13 November 2014]


Cattle are our most important livestock species because of their production and role in human culture. Many breeds that differ in appearance, performance and environmental adaptation are kept on all inhabited continents, but the historic origin of the diverse phenotypes is not always clear. We give an account of the history of cattle by integrating archaeological record and pictorial or written sources, scarce until 300 years ago, with the recent contributions of DNA analysis. We describe the domestication of their wild ancestor, migrations to eventually all inhabited continents, the developments during prehistory, the antiquity and the Middle Ages, the relatively recent breed formation, the industrial cattle husbandry in the Old and New World and the current efforts to preserve the cattle genetic resources. Surveying the available information, we propose three main and overlapping phases during the development of the present genetic diversity: (i) domestication and subsequent wild introgression; (ii) natural adaptation to a diverse agricultural habitat; and (iii) breed development. View Full-Text
Keywords: cattle; history; domestication; diversity; genetic resources; conservation cattle; history; domestication; diversity; genetic resources; conservation

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Felius, M.; Beerling, M.-L.; Buchanan, D.S.; Theunissen, B.; Koolmees, P.A.; Lenstra, J.A. On the History of Cattle Genetic Resources. Diversity 2014, 6, 705-750.

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