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Power of phenotypes in discriminating Awassi sheep to pure strains and from other breeds

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The phenotypic description is the oldest method for animal taxonomic studies. In this study, we report phenotypic traits of discriminant power to assign sheep individuals into Awassi breed or other exotic breeds found in Jordan. Twenty-two and 19 phenotype traits for ewes and rams, respectively, were utilized using multivariate and discriminant analyses. Seven traits, out of them, for ewes and five for rams were qualitative traits: body color, nose shape, horn presence, ear shape, wattles presence, udder shape, and teat placement. The other 15 traits were quantitative traits: body weight, head width, head length, chest depth, chest girth, shoulder width, withers height, foreleg height, shin circumference, body length, rump width, rump length, rump height, rear leg height, and udder height. The traits were taken on 1697 and 652 adult ewes and rams of different breeds, respectively. The breeds were predefined as Awassi and three exotic breeds: Chios, Assaf, and improved Awassi sheep. The results indicated a significant relationship of the 21 and 16 studied traits in assigning and discriminating individual’s sheep into their correct breed. The analysis revealed the clustering of the three strains of Awassi sheep in Jordan as the Baladi, the Naemi, and the Saqri. The genetic distances have also confirmed the findings. However, the potential of gene flow between Awassi strains and the exotic breed was reported. The phenotypic traits with discriminant power would be utilized in a guideline for sheep taxonomy in general and for Awassi sheep in particular.

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The authors are thankful to the Jordanian Ministry of Agriculture and its directorates for providing the technical team staff, the facilities, and logistic support. We are very thankful to all members of the SIGHT project management unit for providing the workplace to perform the study and supporting all activities of financial and technical requirements. We also would like to specifically thank the National Agriculture Research Center (NARC) for the help and collaboration. Sheep owners and shepherds are mostly thankful for allowing sheep sampling and providing information and help during the fieldwork. We finally thank the joint fund of this project provided by the Jordan Ministry of Agriculture and International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD).


This study was financially supported by the Ministry of Agriculture, Jordan (Project No.: 2000001478).

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Authors and Affiliations



Raed M. Al-Atiyat designed and performed the experiment, analyzed the preliminary data, performed the main statistical and bioinformatics analysis, and then prepared a final version of the manuscript. Mohammad J. Tabbaa conceived, designed, and performed the experiment; collected, handled, and approved the data; performed the preliminary statistical analysis; and then wrote the first draft of the manuscript. Faisal S. Barakeh conceived and designed the experiment, contributed to managing and providing funds, and contributed to shaping the last draft of the manuscript. Faisal T. Awawdeh participated in preparing the study design and reviewed the results and the manuscript draft. Savinaz H Baghdadi supervised the fieldwork, provided logistic support, and managed the work of technical teams in the field. All authors have agreed on the contents of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Raed M. Al-Atiyat.

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The experimental procedure was approved by the Ethics Committee of animal welfare, regulation 2010, Ministry of Agriculture, Jordan (Project No.: 2000001478).

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Al-Atiyat, R.M., Tabbaa, M.J., Barakeh, F.S. et al. Power of phenotypes in discriminating Awassi sheep to pure strains and from other breeds. Trop Anim Health Prod 53, 139 (2021).

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