BACKGROUND : Understanding the history of cattle breeds is important because it provides the basis for developing
appropriate selection and breed improvement programs. In this study, patterns of ancestry and admixture in Afrikaner,
Nguni, Drakensberger and Bonsmara cattle of South Africa were investigated. We used 50 K single nucleotide
polymorphism genotypes that were previously generated for the Afrikaner (n = 36), Nguni (n = 50), Drakensberger
(n = 47) and Bonsmara (n = 44) breeds, and for 394 reference animals representing European taurine, African taurine,
African zebu and Bos indicus.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION : Our findings support previous conclusions that Sanga cattle breeds are composites
between African taurine and Bos indicus. Among these breeds, the Afrikaner breed has significantly diverged from its
ancestral forebears, probably due to genetic drift and selection to meet breeding objectives of the breed society that
enable registration. The Nguni, Drakensberger and Bonsmara breeds are admixed, perhaps unintentionally in the case
of Nguni and Drakensberger, but certainly by design in the case of Bonsmara, which was developed through crossbreeding
between the Afrikaner, Hereford and Shorthorn breeds.
CONCLUSIONS : We established patterns of admixture and ancestry for South African Sanga cattle breeds, which provide
a basis for developing appropriate strategies for their genetic improvement.