The effectiveness of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for the assignment of cattle to their source breeds was investigated by analysing a panel of 90 SNPs assayed on 24 European breeds. Breed assignment was performed by comparing the Bayesian and frequentist methods implemented in the structure 2.2 and geneclass 2 software programs. The use of SNPs for the reallocation of known individuals to their breeds of origin and the assignment of unknown individuals was tested. In the reallocation tests, the methods implemented in structure 2.2 performed better than those in geneclass 2, with 96% vs. 85% correct assignments respectively. In contrast, the methods implemented in geneclass 2 showed a greater correct assignment rate in allocating animals treated as unknowns to a reference dataset (62% vs. 51% and 80% vs. 65% in field tests 1 and 2 respectively). These results demonstrate that SNPs are suitable for the assignment of individuals to reference breeds. The results also indicate that structure 2.2 and geneclass 2 can be complementary tools to assess breed integrity and assignment. Our findings also stress the importance of a high-quality reference dataset in allocation studies.