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The work of Biosciences researchers to be featured on BBC Countryfile

6 January 2015

White Park cattle at Dinefwr
White Park cattle at Dinefwr

The work of researchers from Cardiff University will be featured in an episode of the BBC Countryfile to be aired on Sunday 18 January. 

White Park cattle at Dinefwr, near the town of Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire have been recorded on the site for approximately 1,000 years. Local legend says they were brought to Britain by the Romans, sometime after the conquest of Britannia, and kept by Welsh princes as a trophy.

The programme will see Dr. Pablo Orozco-terWengel and Prof. Michael Bruford from the School of Biosciences address this question with the aim of demonstrating evidence of the alleged Roman ancestry or dismissing the hypothesis completely. 

Over 700,000 genetic markers in White Park cattle were studied and compared with similar data obtained by colleagues from Italy from the feral Chillingham cattle from Northumbria, and two Italian breeds with similar characteristics (e.g. large white animals). The genetic results indicate that the Welsh White Park cattle are more closely related to the Chillingham animals as is expected given that both are British breeds and that Chillingham has been sometimes considered a variety of White Park (along with Vaynol).  Similarly, the two Italian breeds (Chianina and Romagnola) are more related to each other than to the British animals.

Whilst this data clearly shows that White Park are more similar to the British feral Chillingham than to the Italian animals analysed, a relationship between these breeds dating to the Roman times cannot be ruled out. Ongoing work at Cardiff University will aim to address this question in a wider context including the genetic data of many other breeds across Europe. 

Speaking about his research, Pablo said: "Research on local livestock breeds such as White Park cattle is important to help identify the genetic resource that should be targeted in conservation efforts, e.g. the genetic variation that is involved in adaptation to the local habitat."

The programme will be broadcast on Sunday 18 January.

Wales Online: The famous white cattle of Camarthenshire's Dinefwr Park to star on the BBC's Countryfile

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