Historical demographic profiles and genetic variation of the East African Butana and Kenana indigenous dairy zebu cattle

Bashir Salim*, Khalid M. Taha, Olivier Hanotte, Joram M. Mwacharo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Butana and Kenana breeds from Sudan are part of the East African zebu Bos indicus type of cattle. Unlike other indigenous zebu cattle in Africa, they are unique due to their reputation for high milk production and are regarded as dairy cattle, the only ones of their kind on the African continent. In this study, we sequenced the complete mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) D-loop of 70 animals to understand the maternal genetic variation, demographic profiles and history of the two breeds in relation to the history of cattle pastoralism on the African continent. Only taurine mtDNA sequences were identified. We found very high mtDNA diversity but low level of maternal genetic structure within and between the two breeds. Bayesian coalescent-based analysis revealed different historical and demographic profiles for the two breeds, with an earlier population expansion in the Butana vis a vis the Kenana. The maternal ancestral populations of the two breeds may have diverged prior to their introduction into the African continent, with first the arrival of the ancestral Butana population. We also reveal distinct demographic history between the two breeds with the Butana showing a decline in its effective population size (Ne) in the recent past ~590 years. Our results provide new insights on the early history of cattle pastoralism in Sudan indicative of a large ancient effective population size.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)782-790
Number of pages9
JournalAnimal Genetics
Issue number6
Early online date13 Oct 2014
Publication statusPrint publication - 1 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Bayesian skyline plots
  • effective population size
  • mitochondrial DNA
  • population expansion


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