Domestic Pigs in Africa

Marcel Amills, Oscar Ramírez, Ofelia Galman-Omitogun, Alex Clop

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The history of African pig breeds is still controversial due to the relative scarcity of archaeological and genetic data clarifying their origins. While these breeds might descend from Near Eastern pigs entering the continent via Egypt during the Neolithic, Africa may be a primary domestication locus for pigs, as indicated for other species such as cattle and donkeys. In this regard, characterisation of the mitochondrial gene pool of African pig breeds has revealed a very low frequency of Near Eastern alleles, suggesting that, if Fertile Crescent pigs played a part in the foundation of African breeds, their genetic signature has been substantially erased. Interestingly, genetic analysis of western and eastern African pig breeds has revealed a strong phylogeographic pattern, with the latter harbouring Far Eastern alleles at high frequencies. This finding is consistent with data obtained for chickens and confirms that livestock was transported in ancient times, from the Far East to Africa as a consequence of the Indian Ocean trade. European colonisation of Africa also involved the introduction of exotic swine breeds such as Iberian pigs. The confluence of the highly divergent European and Far Eastern Sus scrofa gene pools contributed to significantly enrich the genetic reservoir of African swine breeds, favouring their adaptation to environmental conditions that are often harsh. Conservation of this genetic legacy will be of utmost importance to ensure the prosperity of current resource-based subsistence farming systems in Africa. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-82
JournalAfrican Archaeological Review
Volume30
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013

Keywords

  • Africa
  • Breed
  • Domestication
  • Pig
  • Wild boar

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