Population structure of five native sheep breeds of Sweden estimated with high density SNP genotypes

Christina Marie Rochus, Elisabeth Jonas, Anna M. Johansson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Native Swedish sheep breeds are part of the North European short-tailed sheep group; characterized in part by their genetic uniqueness. Our objective was to study the population structure of native Swedish sheep. Five breeds were genotyped using the 600 K SNP array. Dalapäls and Klövsjö sheep are from the middle of Sweden; Gotland and Gute sheep from Gotland, an island in the Baltic Sea; and Fjällnäs sheep from northern Sweden. We studied population structure by: principal component analysis (PCA), cluster-based analysis of admixture, and an estimated population tree. Results: The analyses of the five Swedish breeds revealed that these breeds are five distinct breeds, while Gute and Gotland are more closely related to each other as seen in all analyses. All breeds had long branch lengths in the population tree indicating they've been subjected to drift. We repeated our analyses using 39 K SNP and including 50 K SNP genotypes from other European and southwestern Asian breeds from the Sheep HapMap project and 600 K SNP genotypes from a dataset of French sheep. Results arranged breeds into five groups: south-west Asia, south-west Europe, central Europe, north Europe and north European short-tailed sheep. Within this last group, Norwegian and Icelandic breeds, Finn and Romanov sheep, Scottish breeds, and Gute and Gotland sheep were more closely related while the remaining Swedish breeds and Ouessant sheep were distinct from all breeds and had longer branches in the population tree. Conclusions: We showed population structure of five Swedish breeds and their structure within European and southwestern Asian breeds. Swedish breeds are unique, distinct breeds that have been subjected to drift but group with other north European short-tailed sheep.

Original languageEnglish
Article number27
JournalBMC Genetics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2020


  • North European short-tailed sheep
  • Population structure
  • Sheep
  • SNP

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