Physiological and haematological indices suggest superior heat tolerance of white-coloured West African Dwarf sheep in the hot humid tropics
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- Fadare, A.O., Peters, S.O., Yakubu, A. et al. Trop Anim Health Prod (2012) 45: 157. doi:10.1007/s11250-012-0187-0
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Coat colour contributes to physiological adaptation in mammals and mediates response to thermal stress. Twenty-four adult West African Dwarf sheep of both sexes and with different coat colour types were used in this study. We measured rectal temperature (RT), respiratory rate (RR) and pulse rate (PR) before sunrise and sunset during the late dry season (January–March) and early rainy season (April–June) as well as packed cell volume (PCV), red blood cell (RBC) count, white blood cell (WBC) count, plasma sodium (Na+) and potassium (K+). Animals with black coat colour had the highest (P < 0.05) mean values of 38.92 ± 0.03 °C, 65.09 ± 1.06 breaths/min, 81.35 ± 0.78 beats/min, 1.70 ± 0.01 for RT, RR, PR and heat stress index (HSI), respectively, followed by brown mouflon and brown with extensive white, while the Badger Face coloured sheep had the least mean values. There were significant (P < 0.05) differences between male and female sheep for RT, RR, PR and HSI. Season had a significant (P < 0.05) effect on RT, RR, PR and HSI. Coat colour and sex also significantly (P < 0.01) affected RBC, WBC, Na+ and K+. Seasonal variation (P < 0.05) in all the blood parameters was observed, with the exception of PCV. Interaction effect of coat colour and sex was significant (P < 0.05) on RT and HSI. Correlation coefficients among the measured traits ranged from positive to negative values. These results indicate that selection of white-coloured sheep to attenuate heat stress is desirable in the hot humid tropics.