Millennia of strategic breeding, including a hook-up with an Asian cousin centuries ago, have made African cattle resilient to drought, heat waves and disease, according to a genetic analysis released Monday.
Their ability to withstand extreme weather and sickness will be put to the test in coming decades as climate change exacerbates the continent’s extreme weather, researchers reported in the journal Nature Genetics.
Genome sequencing of specimens from 16 breeds of African cattle revealed an “evolutionary jolt” some 900 years ago when indigenous breeds were crossed with a South Asian species, known as Zebu, said Olivier Hanotte, principal scientist at the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and senior author of the study.
The local cattle, called Taurine, had already adapted to endure humid climes plagued by vector-borne diseases such as trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness.
The humped Zebu added traits that allow cattle to survive in hot, dry climates typical