Vechur, the world’s smallest breed of cow. Credit: Wirestock, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

Genome sequences of four Indian cow breeds – including that of Vechur, the world’s smallest breed – may reveal how these domestic cattle evolved, diverged and adapted to India’s hot and humid conditions1.

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Bhopal detected specific marker gene sequences in cow breeds with better milk quality and disease resistance.

They say their findings will help to identify cattle species and breeds. Previous genome studies focused on a few traits, such as heat tolerance, stature and milk quality.

The researchers sequenced the genomes of four Bos indicus breeds – Ongole, Kasargod Dwarf, Kasargod Kapila and Vechur. They then compared these gene sequences with those of Bos Taurus breeds. The Kasargod breeds and the Vechur are found in Kerala and the Ongole in Andhra Pradesh.

The team, led by Vineet K. Sharma, found 26 genes in B. indicus breeds that were less identical to the B. Taurus genes. They compared 15 key genes associated with milk quality, metabolism and immune response in B. indicus breeds with those of B. taurus genes. Variations in the number of protein-coding and non-coding sequences were found in eight genes.

Genes relating to milk quality and production showed a lesser number of coding and non-coding sequences in Ongole compared with those of B. taurus. Four of the five genes related to metabolism and immune response also showed similar features.