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Coat Color in Cattle

Miniature-Cattle.com breeding miniature cattle Coat Color (CC) in Cattle -- the Basics of Bovine MC1R Black & Red
see also Genetics of Coat Color (CC) in Cattle pg 2 ~ the Color Genetics of Galloway (representative of many breeds)
see also the unique Dexter Dun
see also DNA Tests for Cattle ~ Trait Tests, Coat Color Tests, Breed Specific Tests
see also Genetic Mutations: 10 interesting facts
see also Biosecurity ~ Quarantine, Closed Herds
see also Herd Health ~ Communicable Diseases, Health Tests, Vaccination Programs
see also Bull Testing ~ DNA & Health Checks Needed Before Collecting a Bull
see also Chondrodysplasia ~ Dwarfism in Miniature Cattle
see also Breeds of Miniature Cattle ~ Pure Breeds and Percentage Breeds in North America
see also Breeds of Cattle for the Small Homestead ~ More Small Frame & Heritage Breeds
see also 10 Things to Consider When Choosing a Breed

open full-size chart in separate window

click on chart to open full size version in separate window

Extension (Red/Black) or E locus (MC1R gene): determines the bovine's base coat color...

  • ED (black)
  • E+ (wild type red)
  • e (recessive red)

Black and red coat color is determined by the Melanocortin 1 Receptor (MC1R) gene, also called Extension, which controls the production of black (eumelanin) and red (phaeomelanin) pigments. The infographic above shows the genetic probability of the color results when breeding black and red cattle together (click to open full-size in separate window). The MC1R [DNA] test identifies the 3 common alleles of the MC1R gene that affect the coat color of cattle. Black (ED) is dominant. The Wild type (E+) is second in dominance, and produces cattle with reddish brown to brownish black coloration, often with a tan muzzle ring. Wild red is usually homozygous in the colored dairy breeds (Jersey, Guernsey, etc.). True red (e) is recessive and is only expressed when two copies are present.


Holsteins have 2 unique red genes

Holsteins have two unique variants that further affect black and red coat color expression:

  • the Holstein FriesianEBR - 'Black/Red' (or "Telstar"): Along with the three extension alleles listed above in cattle, there is a 4th allele in Holsteins only. On the MC1R gene, recessive to ED, dominant over E+, the Telstar variant results in a Holstein calf born red and white that changes to black and white its first year. The test for Black/Red color is based on a linked marker associated with the phenotype. Research is ongoing to find the causative mutation for Black/Red.
  • DR 'Variant Red': A Dominant Red that is dominant over MC1R black. The Dominant Red gene is independent from MC1R. The DNA test for MC1R does not detect for the Dominant Variant Red allele. A Holstein carrying this variant will be red and white.

Related Resource: UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory Cattle Tests
Related Article: Genetics of Coat Color in Cattle, a brief review of what is currently known about the genes controlling cattle coat colors and patterns. By Sheila M. Schmutz, Ph.D., Professor Department of Animal Science College of Agriculture and Bioresources University of Saskatchewan Saskatoon, Canada. This is a major source of information on the internet about bovine coat color.
Related Article: “Color Patterns in Crossbred Beef Cattle,” Megan Rolf, Oklahoma State University
Related Article: White Park Colour Pattern Research paper presented to the White Galloway conference in Germany in 2014.
Related Article: Red Genetics. Color Genetics explained in all breeds of cattle - featuring the Redliner (red Lowliner)
Related Article: Cattle Colour Genetics A blog studying spotting and hereford marking genetics, by a rancher in Saskatchewan.
Related Article: Genetics of Highland Coat Color. In this article I will attempt to explain what is known about the genetics behind coat colour in Highlands and some thoughts we have on what is as yet unproven. By Glen Hastie, Bairnsley Scottish Highland Cattle, Victoria, Australia. This article also references most major sources of information about cattle color genetics on the internet.
Related Resource: Bovine Genome.org The Bovine Genome Database project is to support the efforts of bovine genomics researchers by providing data mining, genome navigation and annotation tools for the bovine reference genome. Based on the Hereford cow, L1 Dominette 01449.

go home little cow
go home little cow

publisher: Vintage Press
published online: December 2018
author: Donna Grace