Evidence of a major gene influencing hair length and heat tolerance in Bos taurus cattle

J Anim Sci. 2003 Jan;81(1):80-90. doi: 10.2527/2003.81180x.


Evidence was found that supports the existence of a major gene (designated as the slick hair gene), dominant in mode of inheritance, that is responsible for producing a very short, sleek hair coat. Cattle with slick hair were observed to maintain lower rectal temperatures (RT). The gene is found in Senepol cattle and criollo (Spanish origin) breeds in Central and South America. This gene is also found in a Venezuelan composite breed, the Carora, formed from the Brown Swiss and a Venezuelan criollo breed. Two sets of backcross matings of normal-haired sire breeds to Senepol crossbred dams assumed to be heterozygous for the slick hair gene resulted in ratios of slick to normal-haired progeny that did not significantly differ from 1:1. Data from Carora x Holstein crossbred cows in Venezuela also support the concept of a major gene that is responsible for the slick hair coat of the Carora breed. Cows that were 75% Holstein: 25% Carora in breed composition segregated with a ratio that did not differ from 1:1, as would be expected from a backcross matinginvolving a dominant gene. The effect of the slick hair gene on RT depended on the degree of heat stress and appeared to be affected by age and/or lactation status. The decreased RT observed for slick-haired crossbred calves compared to normal-haired contemporaries ranged from 0.18 to 0.4 degrees C. An even larger decrease in RT (0.61 degrees C; P < 0.01) was observed in lactating Carora x Holstein F1 crossbred cows, even though it did not appear that these cows were under severe heat stress. The improved thermotolerance of crossbred calves due to their slick hair coats did not result in increased weaning weights, possibly because both the slick and normal-haired calves were being nursed by slick-haired dams. There were indications that the slick-haired calves grew faster immediately following weaning and that their growth during the cooler months of the year was not compromised significantly by their reduced quantity of hair. In the Carora x Holstein crossbred cows there was a positive effect of slick hair on milk yield under dry, tropical conditions.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Body Temperature Regulation / genetics
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Cattle / genetics*
  • Cattle / growth & development
  • Cattle / physiology
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Female
  • Hair* / growth & development
  • Hair* / physiology
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Lactation / genetics
  • Lactation / physiology
  • Male
  • Seasons
  • Weaning
  • Weight Gain / genetics