Genetic analysis of wild and domestic Large White pigs from Europe and Asia suggests that early nineteenth century farmers imported Chinese pigs into Europe to improve the quality of their own breeds. The work, reported in Nature Communications, reveals the genetic changes that occurred as a result of pig farmers selecting desired commercial traits.
It is well known that Asian pigs, characterised by their superior meat quality, disease resistance and increased litter size, were imported into Europe at the onset of the industrial revolution, in order to increase the productivity of local pig breeds.
Mirte Bosse and colleagues sequenced the genomes of 70 diverse pig breeds from across Europe and Asia. They identify several Asian-derived genes associated with increased meat quality, development and fertility, and suggest that these genes were bred into European pigs and artificially selected for by farmers. They also identified Asian-derived mutations in the AHR gene that are linked to larger litter sizes in modern-day European commercial breeds.
This study highlights the genetic patterns that resulted from the breeding of Asian and European pigs and provides insight into the priorities of farmers during the domestication of modern European pigs.