Eight humpless cattle breeds from the Near East, three from Europe, one from West Africa and two zebu breeds from India were screened with 20 microsatellite loci. Breeds from the Near East revealed considerable levels of introgression from zebu cattle, which was apparent most in populations from the East and which declined in populations further West. This nonrandom pattern is suggestive of the introduction of zebu cattle from the East. Notwithstanding the overlay of zebu alleles, it was possible to demonstrate that Near Eastern cattle exhibited significantly higher levels of allelic diversity than breeds from other regions, which is consistent with the view that this region represents a primary domestication centre for Bos taurus cattle. The hypothesis that B. taurus and B. indicus cattle have separate domestic origins is also supported by the survey, a large genetic divergence being apparent between the nonhybrid taurine and zebu groups.