Contrary to highly selected commercial breeds, indigenous domestic breeds are composed of semi-wild or feral populations subjected to reduced levels of artificial selection. As a consequence, many of these breeds have become locally adapted to a wide range of environments, showing high levels of phenotypic variability and increased fitness under natural conditions. Genetic analyses of three loci associated with milk production (alpha(S1)-casein, kappa-casein and prolactin) and the locus BoLA-DRB3 of the major histocompatibility complex indicated that the Argentinean Creole cattle (ACC), an indigenous breed from South America, maintains high levels of genetic diversity and population structure. In contrast to the commercial Holstein breed, the ACC showed considerable variation in heterozygosity (H(e)) and allelic diversity (A) across populations. As expected, bi-allelic markers showed extensive variation in He whereas the highly polymorphic BoLA-DRB3 showed substantial variation in A, with individual populations having 39-74% of the total number of alleles characterized for the breed. An analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) of nine populations throughout the distribution range of the ACC revealed that 91.9-94.7% of the total observed variance was explained by differences within populations whereas 5.3-8.1% was the result of differences among populations. In addition, the ACC breed consistently showed higher levels of genetic differentiation among populations than Holstein. Results from this study emphasize the importance of population genetic structure within domestic breeds as an essential component of genetic diversity and suggest that indigenous breeds may be considered important reservoirs of genetic diversity for commercial domestic species.