African Indigenous Cattle: Unique Genetic Resources in a Rapidly Changing World

  • Published : 2015.07.01


At least 150 indigenous African cattle breeds have been named, but the majority of African cattle populations remain largely uncharacterized. As cattle breeds and populations in Africa adapted to various local environmental conditions, they acquired unique features. We know now that the history of African cattle was particularly complex and while several of its episodes remain debated, there is no doubt that African cattle population evolved dramatically over time. Today, we find a mosaic of genetically diverse population from the purest Bos taurus to the nearly pure Bos indicus. African cattle are now found all across the continent, with the exception of the Sahara and the river Congo basin. They are found on the rift valley highlands as well as below sea level in the Afar depression. These unique livestock genetic resources are in danger to disappear rapidly following uncontrolled crossbreeding and breed replacements with exotic breeds. Breeding improvement programs of African indigenous livestock remain too few while paradoxically the demand of livestock products is continually increasing. Many African indigenous breeds are endangered now, and their unique adaptive traits may be lost forever. This paper reviews the unique known characteristics of indigenous African cattle populations while describing the opportunities, the necessity and urgency to understand and utilize these resources to respond to the needs of the people of the continent and to the benefit of African farmers.


Supported by : Rural Development Administration


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