Blood samples of 561 Lipizzan horses from subpopulations (studs) of seven European countries representing a large fraction of the breed"s population were used to examine the genetic diversity, population subdivision and gene flow in the breed. DNA analysis based on 18 microsatellite loci revealed that genetic diversity (observed heterozygosity = 0.663, gene diversity = 0.675 and the mean number of alleles = 7.056) in the Lipizzan horse is similar to other horse breeds as well as to other domestic animal species. The genetic differentiation between Lipizzan horses from different studs, although moderate, was apparent (pairwise F(ST) coefficients ranged from 0.021 to 0.080). Complementary findings explaining the genetic relationship among studs were revealed by genetic distance and principal component analysis. One genetic cluster consisted of the subpopulations of Austria, Italy and Slovenia, which represent the classical pool of Lipizzan horse breeding. A second cluster was formed by the Croatian, Hungarian and Slovakian subpopulations. The Romanian subpopulation formed a separate unit. The largest genetic differentiation was found between the Romanian and Italian subpopulation. Genetic results are consistent with the known breeding history of the Lipizzan horse. Correct stud assignment was obtained for 80.9% and 92.1% of Lipizzan horses depending on the inclusion or exclusion of migrant horses, respectively. The results of the present study will be useful for the development of breeding strategies, which consider classical horse breeding as well as recent achievements of population and conservation genetics.
Animals Cluster Analysis Europe Evolution, Molecular Gene Frequency Genetic Variation* Genetics, Population* Horses/genetics* Microsatellite Repeats/genetics Principal Component Analysis Species Specificity