A research group from the Universities of Texas and Missouri has traced the origins of the Texas longhorn back to two extinct wild beasts in India and Europe.
University of Texas-Austin biology professor David Hillis, Ph.D. candidate Emily Jane McTavish and researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia analyzed thousands of genetic markers to find the global ancestry of the animal. McTavish told the Daily Texan the researchers found the cattle were brought to the New World by Spanish colonists in the 1400s.
A lot of time was spent tracing the livestock through its genetics. The group considered 50,000 genetic markers for 1,500 individuals. The analysis shows 85 percent of the longhorns genome is a descendant of wild aurochs, originating from the Middle East up to 10,000 years ago. The remaining 15 percent of the genomes show longhorns also descended from aurochs domesticated in India.
NBC News says the cows brought to the New World by Spanish colonists were from both Indian and European lineages. The cows have changed over the years as they have adapted to frequent droughts and changing feed supplies.
McTavish says findings may be useful to breeders facing climate change.
Findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Watch a video explaining the migration of the longhorn.