Identification of descendants of an extinct bovine population from the Algarve region of Portugal using numerical taxonomy analysis of morphological traits


A. Cravador, Universidade do Algarve, FERN, Campus de Gambelas, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal. E-mail:


The morphology of a sample of four bulls and 43 cows, presumed to be descendants of the extinct cattle breed ‘Algarvia’ (AG), was used to assign their relationship with animals from other Portuguese autochthonous breeds – Arouquesa (AR), Barrosã (BA), Cachena (CA), Marinhoa (MA), Maronesa (MO), Minhota (MN), Mirandesa (MI), (only bulls), Alentejana (AL), Garvonesa (GA), Mertolenga (ME) and Preta (PR). Standard numerical taxonomic methods were applied to a set of 183 (cows) and 170 (bulls) traits, to derive average pairwise taxonomic distances among the sample of 257 cows and 76 bulls. Distance coefficients (morphological index of distance) ranged from 0.22 to 2.62 (cows) and from 0.49 to 2.13 (bulls). Unweighted pair group method using arithmetic averages (UPGMA)-based phenograms and a principal coordinate analysis showed that bulls were highly clustered and cows showed a tendency to cluster according to their geographical and breed origin. The AG population grouped together with GA, AL, ME and MN breeds in the Red Convex group. The average taxonomic distance among breeds was 1.02, the highest being 1.39 (ME versus BA) and the lowest being 0.64 (MA versus AR). The approach allowed for the identification of a phenotypically differentiated set of animals, comprising 19 cows and four bulls representative of the AG breed, and which can be targeted in further studies aiming at the recovery of this extinct breed.