The domestication of taurine cattle initiated ~10 000 years ago in the Near East from a wild aurochs (Bos primigenius) population followed by their dispersal through migration of agriculturalists to Europe. Although gene flow from wild aurochs still present at the time of this early dispersion is still debated, some of the extant primitive cattle populations are believed to possess the aurochs-like primitive features. In this study, we use genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphisms to assess relationship, admixture patterns and demographic history of an ancient aurochs sample and European cattle populations, several of which have primitive features and are suitable for extensive management. The principal component analysis, the model-based clustering and a distance-based network analysis support previous works suggesting different histories for north-western and southern European cattle. Population admixture analysis indicates a zebu gene flow in the Balkan and Italian Podolic cattle populations. Our analysis supports the previous report of gene flow between British and Irish primitive cattle populations and local aurochs. In addition, we show evidence of aurochs gene flow in the Iberian cattle populations indicating wide geographical distribution of the aurochs. Runs of homozygosity (ROH) reveal that demographic processes like genetic isolation and breed formation have contributed to genomic variations of European cattle populations. The ROH also indicate recent inbreeding in southern European cattle populations. We conclude that in addition to factors such as ancient human migrations, isolation by distance and cross-breeding, gene flow between domestic and wild-cattle populations also has shaped genomic composition of European cattle populations.Heredity advance online publication, 28 September 2016; doi:10.1038/hdy.2016.79.
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