African Archaeological Review

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 73–82 | Cite as

Domestic Pigs in Africa

  • Marcel Amills
  • Oscar Ramírez
  • Ofelia Galman-Omitogun
  • Alex Clop
Review Article


The history of African pig breeds is still controversial due to the relative scarcity of archaeological and genetic data clarifying their origins. While these breeds might descend from Near Eastern pigs entering the continent via Egypt during the Neolithic, Africa may be a primary domestication locus for pigs, as indicated for other species such as cattle and donkeys. In this regard, characterisation of the mitochondrial gene pool of African pig breeds has revealed a very low frequency of Near Eastern alleles, suggesting that, if Fertile Crescent pigs played a part in the foundation of African breeds, their genetic signature has been substantially erased. Interestingly, genetic analysis of western and eastern African pig breeds has revealed a strong phylogeographic pattern, with the latter harbouring Far Eastern alleles at high frequencies. This finding is consistent with data obtained for chickens and confirms that livestock was transported in ancient times, from the Far East to Africa as a consequence of the Indian Ocean trade. European colonisation of Africa also involved the introduction of exotic swine breeds such as Iberian pigs. The confluence of the highly divergent European and Far Eastern Sus scrofa gene pools contributed to significantly enrich the genetic reservoir of African swine breeds, favouring their adaptation to environmental conditions that are often harsh. Conservation of this genetic legacy will be of utmost importance to ensure the prosperity of current resource-based subsistence farming systems in Africa.


Pig Africa Wild boar Domestication Breed 


L'histoire des races porcines africaines reste controversée à cause de la relative rareté des données archéologiques et génétiques pour clarifier leurs origines. Bien que ces races puissent être originaires du Proche-Orient par l’intermédiaire de l'Egypte durant la période Néolithique, il est possible que l'Afrique soit le premier lieu de la domestication du porc, comme il est le cas pour d'autres espèces comme les bovins et les ânes. À cet égard, la caractérisation d’un pool de gène mitochondrial des races porcines africaines a révélé une très faible fréquence des allèles Proche-Orientaux, suggérant ainsi, que si les porcs du Croissant fertile ont joué un rôle dans la fondation des races africaines, leur signature génétique a été sensiblement effacée. Il est intéressant de souligner que l'analyse génétique des races porcines en Afrique du l’Ouest et de l’Est a prouvé une forte structure phylogéographique, et ces derniers présentent des allèles d'Extrême-Orient à des fréquences élevées. Ce résultat est cohérent avec les données obtenues pour les volailles, et confirme que le cheptel animal a été transporté dans le passé lointain de l'Extrême-Orient à l'Afrique dans le cadre des échanges commerciaux avec l’Océan Indien. La colonisation européenne de l'Afrique a participé également à l'introduction de races exotiques porcine comme le porc ibérique. La confluence de gènes très divergeants associés au Sus scrofa de l’Europe et de l’Extrême-Orient a contribué à enrichir d’une manière significative le réservoir génétique des races porcines africaines, en favorisant leur adaptation aux conditions environnementales souvent difficiles. La conservation de cet héritage génétique sera d'une importance capitale pour assurer la prospérité des systèmes agricoles de subsistance en Afrique.



Many thanks to Dr. Roger Blench, Dr. Diane-Gifford Gonzalez and two anonymous reviewers for their critical reading of the manuscript and useful suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marcel Amills
    • 1
  • Oscar Ramírez
    • 2
  • Ofelia Galman-Omitogun
    • 3
  • Alex Clop
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Animal Genetics, Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CSIC-IRTA-UAB-UB)Universitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterraSpain
  2. 2.Institut de Biologia Evolutiva (UPF-CSIC)CEXS-UPF-PRBBBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Department of Animal Science, Faculty of AgricultureObafemi Awolowo UniversityIle-IfeNigeria
  4. 4.Molecular and Medical Genetics DepartmentKing’s College LondonLondonUK

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