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Genetics of fibre production and fleece characteristics in small ruminants, Angora rabbit and South American camelids

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 February 2010

D. Allain*
INRA, UR 631, Amélioration Génétique des Animaux, 31320 Castanet Tolosan, France
C. Renieri
Department of Environmental Science, University of Camerino, Via Circonvallazione 95, 62024 Matelica, Italy
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This paper reviews genetics of fibre production and fleece characteristics in small ruminants, Angora rabbit and South American camelids with a special distinction between single-coated (SC) and double-coated (DC) species. Considering the biology of fibre production, there are variations in coat composition and structure, fibre growth pattern and fibre structure and quality between these two main kinds of fibre-producing animals. In SC species, all fibres are nearly similar in dimensions and are produced from individual follicles that have a very long period, essentially permanent, of active growth without a synchronous phase of rest between follicles. In contrast, in DC species the fleece comprises a coarse outer coat and a fine inner coat with variations of coat composition and structure, and fibre growth pattern according to the season with a well-defined duration of fibre growth. Genetic basis of hair growth pattern, coat composition and fibre structure are different between species. In small ruminants, these coat characters are additive and because of several genes whereas in rabbit, several autosomal recessive genes determine fibre growth, coat composition and structure. In alpaca, the fleece type (Suri or Huacaya) is determined by a single dominant gene. This paper also reviews genetic parameters of fibre production traits in Angora goat, Angora rabbit and alpaca in which many aspects of the genetic basis of fibre production are analogous. There are many traits controlling both fibre quality and fibre quantity, and most of these traits tend to be moderately to strongly inherited so that a rapid genetic progress in any traits is possible and indeed has been achieved. However, there are differences in breeding programmes. In DC Angora rabbit, selection for one single trait, the easy measurable total fleece weight has general beneficial effects on fleece quality. However, because of antagonistic relations between qualitative and quantitative traits in SC species, achieving this goal requires a multi-trait selection index approach. Gene mapping studies have recently identified several putative quantitative trait loci and major genes affecting fibre and fleece characteristics in sheep, goat and rabbit are reviewed. The whole genome sequence of sheep and rabbit will be available in the near future and the use of high-density single nucleotide polymorphism chip will allow fine mapping and dissection of the genetic basis of many production traits including fibre production and fleece characteristics. The application of these techniques will thus contribute to improving the efficiency, profitability and sustainability of small ruminant and rabbit fibre production.

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animal , Volume 4 , Issue 9 , September 2010 , pp. 1472 - 1481
Copyright © The Animal Consortium 2010

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