Intensive Artificial Selection Jeopardizes Animals, Well-Being: A Short Review

Document Type : Review Articles


Department of Animal Science,ShirazUniversity, Shiraz, Iran


Domestication of animals has had some important effects on physiology, morphology, behavior and well-being of domesticated animals. Conscious or goal directed selections on animals for increasing their productions has accelerated the rate of the changes, leading to some well-being defections. This paper notes some aspects of animal domestication in context of genetic science. Then explains how domestication may happen, and how does artificial selection alter morphology, physiology and behavior of animals in both useful and harmful ways, with an emphasis on the harmful part. Also correlated responses of selection on domesticated animals are reviewed and some probable solutions to avoid unintended selection are discussed.


AdamsN.R. and Briegel J.R. (2005). Multiple effects of an additional growth hormone gene in adult sheep.J. Anim. Sci.83,1868-1874.
Barillet F. (2007). Genetic improvement for dairy production in sheep and goats. Small Rumin. Res. 70, 60-75.
Beilharz R.G., Luxford B.G. and Wilkinson J.L. (1993). Quantitative genetics and evolution: Is our understanding of genetics sufficient to explain evolution? In:Mignon-Grasteau S., Boissy A., Bouix J., Faure J., Fisher A.D., Hinch G.N., Jensen P., Neindre P., Mormede P., Prunet P., Vandeputte M. and Beaumont C. 2005. Genetics of adaptation and domestication in livestock. Livest. Prod. Sci.93,3-14.
Belyaev D.K. (1979). Destabilizing selection as a factor in domestication. J. Hered. 70, 301-308.
Belyaev D. and Trut L.N. (1975). Some genetic and endocrine effects of selection for domestication in silver foxes. In: Dobney K. and Larson G. 2006. Genetics and animal domestication: new windows on an elusive process. J. Zool. 269, 261-271.
Bernardi S.F., Brogliatti G. and Oyarzabal M.I. (2009). Ovarian structure in mice lines selected for weight. Anatomia Histologia Embryologia. 38, 200-203.
Bourdon R.M. 1997. Understanding Animal Breeding. 1st Ed., Prentice Hall.Pages 259.
Buch L.H. and Norberg E. (2008). Genetic analysis of protein yield, udder health, and female fertility in first-parity Danish Holstein cows. Acta Agr. Scandinavica Sect. A-Anim. Sci. 58, 5-9.
Burkhart C.A., Cherry J.A., Van Krey H.P. and Siegel P.B. (1983). Genetic selection for growth rate alters hypothalamic satiety mechanisms in chickens. In:Rauw W.M., Kanis E., Noordhuizen-Stassen E.N. and Grommers F. J. (1998). Undesirable side-effects of selection for high production efficiency in farm animals: A review. Livest. Prod. Sci.56, 15–33.
Castellini C., Dal Bosco A., Mugnai C. and Bernardini, M. (2002). Performance and behaviour of chickens with different growing rate reared according to the organic system. Ital. J. Anim. Sci.1, 45-54.
Casu S., Marie-Etancelin C., Robert-Grani´e C., Barillet F. and Carta A. (2008). Evolution during the productive life and individual variability of milk emission at machine milking in Sardinian×Lacaune back-cross ewes. Small Rumin. Res. 75, 7-16.
Cheema M.A., Qureshi M.A. and Havenstein G.B. (2003). A comparison of the immune response of a 2001 commercial broiler with a 1957 randombred broiler strain when fed representative 1957 and 2001 broiler diets. Poult. Sci. 82, 1519–1529.
Christensen L.G. (1998). Future market and consumer-orientated breeding goals. Acta Agr. Scandinavica Sect. A-Anim. Sci.28,45-53.
Crockford S.J. (2002). Animal domestication and heterochronic speciation: The role of thyroid hormone. In: Dobney K. and Larson G. (2006). Genetics and animal domestication: new windows on an elusive process. J. Zool. 269, 261-271.
DarwinC. (1859). The Origin of Species. Published in 1858 by Metor, New York.
DarwinC. (1868). The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication. Vols. 1 and 2. John Murray, London.
Deeb N., Shlosberg A. and Cahaner A. (2002). Genotype-by-environment interaction with broiler genotypes differing in growth rate. 4. association between responses to heat stress and to cold-induced ascites. Poult. Sci. 81, 1454-1462.
Dobney K. and Larson G. (2006). Genetics and animal domestication: New windows on an elusive process. J. Zool. 269, 261-271.
Fan B., Onteru S.K., Nikkilä M.T., Stalder K.J. and Rothschild M.F. (2009). Identification of genetic markers associated with fatness and leg weakness traits in the pig. Anim. Genet. 40, 967-970.
Fulkerson W.J., Davison T.M., Garcia S.C., Hough G., Goddard M.E., Dobos R. and Blockey M. (2008). Holstein-Friesian dairy cows under a predominantly grazing system: Interaction between genotype and environment. J. Dairy Sci. 91, 826-839.
Fulkerson W.J., Wilkins J., Dobos R.C., Hough G.M., Goddard M.E. and Davison T. (2001). Reproductive performance in Holstein-Friesian cows in relation to genetic merit and level of feeding when grazing pasture. Anim. Sci. 73, 397-406.
Gaya L.G., Costa A.M.M.A., Ferraz J.B.S., Rezende F.M., Mattos E.C., Eler J.P., Filho T.M., Mourão G.B. and Figueiredo L.G.G. (2007). Genetic trends of absolute and relative heart weight in a male broiler line.Genet. Mol. Res.6(4), 1091-1096.
Greger M. (2010). Trait selection and welfare of genetically engineered animals in agriculture. J. Anim. Sci.88,811-814.
Hale E.B. (1969). Domestication and the evolution of behavior. In: Price E.O. Behavioral development in animals undergoing domestication. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci.65,245-247.
Harlizius B., van Wijk R. and Merks J.W.M. (2004). Genomics for food safety and sustainable animal production. J. Biotech. 113, 33-42.
Isler B.J., Freking B.A., Thallman R.M., Heaton M.P. and Leymaster K.A. (2006). Evaluation of associations between prion haplotypes and growth, carcass, and meat quality traits in a Dorset × Romanov sheep population. J. Anim. Sci. 84, 783-788.
Jensen P. (2006). Domestication – From behaviour to genes and back again. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 97, 3-15.
Jensen P., Buitenhuis B., Kjaer J., Zanella A., Mormède P. and Pizzari T. (2008). Genetics and genomics of animal behaviour and welfare - challenges and possibilities. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci.113, 383-403.
Kjaer J.B. and Sørensen P. (1997). Feather pecking behaviour in wwhite leghorns: A genetic study. Br. Poult. Sci. 38, 333-341.
Kolstad K., Thorland I., Refstie T. and Gjerde B. (2006). Body weight, sexual maturity, and spinal deformity in strains and families of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) at two years of age at different locations along the Norwegian coast. ICES Mar. Sci. 63, 246-252.
Lerner I.M. 1954. Genetic homeostasis. In: Price E.O. (1999). Behavioral development in animals undergoing domestication. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 65, 245-247.
Li Z., Nestor K.E., Saif Y.M., Anderson J.W. and Patterson R. A. (2001). Effect of selection for increased body weight in turkey on lymphoid organ weights, phagocytosis, and antibody responses to fowl cholera and Newcastledisease-inactivated vaccines. Poult. Sci. 80, 689-694.
Lindqvist C., Lind J. and Jensen P. (2009). Effects of domestication on fooddeprivation-induced behaviour in red junglefowl, Gallus, and White Leghorn layers. Anim. Behav. 77, 893-899.
Lindqvist C. and Jensen P. (2009). Domestication and stress effects on contrafreeloading and spatial learning performance in red jungle fowl (Gallus gallus) and White Leghorn layers. Behav. Process. 81, 80-84.
Mambrini M., Médale F., Sanchez M.P., Recalde B., Chevassus B., Labbé L., Quillet E. and Boujard T. (2004). Selection for growth in brown trout increases feed intake capacity without affecting maintenance and growth requirements. J. Anim. Sci. 82, 2865-2875.
Mignon-Grasteau S., Boissy A., Bouix J., Faure J., Fisher A.D., Hinch G.N., Jensen P., Neindre P., Mormede P., Prunet P., Vandeputte M. and Beaumont C. (2005). Genetics of adaptation and domestication in livestock. Livest. Prod. Sci. 93,3-14.
Miller L.L., Spiegel P.B. and Dunnington E.A. (1992). Inheritance of antibody response to sheep erythrocytes in lines of chickens divergently selected for 56-day body weight and their crosses. Poult. Sci. 71, 47-52.
Morris C.A., Clarke J.N., Watson T.G., Wrigglesworth A.L. and Dobbie J.L.(1996). Faecal egg count and food intake comparisons of Romney single-trait selection and control lines. New Zeal. J. Agr. Res. 39, 371-378.
Muir F.V. and Jaap R.G. (1967). A negative genetic correlation between bursa weight at hatching and post hatching body growth of chickens. Poult. Sci. 46, 1483-1488.
Nestor E., Anderson J.W. and Patterson R.A. (2000). Genetics of growth and reproduction in the turkey. 14. Changes in genetic parameters over thirty generations of selection for increased body weight. Poult. Sci. 79, 445-452.
Nestor K.E., Noble D.O., Zhu J. and Moritsu Y. (1996). Direct and correlated responses to long-term selection for increased body weight and egg production in turkeys. Poult. Sci. 75, 1180-1191.
Newman S. (1994). Quantitative and molecular genetic effects on animal well-being: Adaptive mechanisms. J. Anim Sci. 72, 1641-1653.
Norberg E., Madsen P. and Pedersen J. (2009). A multi-trait genetic analysis of protein yield, udder health, and fertility in first lactation Danish Holstein, Danish Red, and Danish Jersey using an animal model. Acta Agr. Scandinavica Sect. A-Anim. Sci. 59, 197-203.
Olsson I.A.S., Gamborg C. and Sandøe P. (2006). Taking ethics into account in farm animal breeding: What can the breeding companies achieve? J. Agr. Environ. Ethic. 19, 37–46.
Pajor E.A., Busse S., Torrey S., Shea-Moore M. and Stewart T. (2000). The Effect of Selection for Lean Growth on Swine Behavior and Welfare. Purdue University 2000 Swine Day Report. Available at Accessed on September 12, 2010.
Pethick D.W., Fergusson D.M., Gardner G.E., Hocquette J.F., Thompson J.M. and Warner R. (2005). Muscle metabolism in relation to genotypic and environmental influences on consumer defined quality of red meat. In: Hocquette J.F. and Gigli S. (2005). Indicators of Milk and Beef Quality. EAAP Publication No. 112, (95-150). Academic Publishers: Wagenigen, Netherlands.
Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. (2008). Putting meat on the table: Industrial farm animal production in America..PCT,.Washington,.DC.
Pollott G.E. and Greeff J.C. (2004). Genotype × environment interactions and genetic parameters for fecal egg count and production traits of Merino sheep. J. Anim. Sci. 82, 2840-2851.
Price E.O. (1984). Behavioral aspects of animal domestication. Q. Rev. Biol. 59(1), 1-32.
Price E.O. (1999). Behavioral development in animals undergoing domestication. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci.65, 245-247.
Price E.O. and King J.A. (1968). Domestication and Adaptation. Pages 34–45 in Hafez E.S.E. (ed.). Adaptation of Domestic Animals. Lea and Febiger, Philadelphia.
Pryce J.E., Coffey M.P. and Simm G. (2001). The relationship between body condition score and reproductive performance. J. Dairy Sci. 84, 1508-1515.
Pryce J.E., Coffey M.P., Brotherstone S.H. and Woolliams J.A. (2002). Genetic relationships between calving interval and body condition score conditional on milk yield. J. Dairy Sci. 85, 1590-1595.
Rauw W.M., Kanis E., Noordhuizen-Stassen E.N. and Grommers F.J. (1998). Undesirable side-effects of selection for high production efficiency in farm animals: A review. Livest. Prod. Sci. 56, 15-33.
Rauw W.M., Knap P.W., Verstegen M.W.A. and Luiting P. (2001). Food resource allocation patterns in lactating females in a long-term selection experiment for litter size in mice. Genet. Sel. Evol. 34, 83-104.
Rodenburg T.B., Komen H., Ellen E.D., Uitdehaag K.A. and van Arendonk J.A.M. (2008). Selection method and early-life history affect behavioral development, feather pecking and cannibalism in laying hens: A review. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 110, 217-228.
Roxström A., Strandberg E., Berglund B., Emanuelson U. and Philipsson J. (2001). Genetic and environmental correlations among female fertility traits and milk production in different parities of Swedish red and white dairy cattle. Acta Agr. Scandinavica Sect. A-Anim. Sci.51,7-14.
Sather A.P. (1987). A note on the changes in leg weakness in pigs after being transferred from confinement housing to pasture lots. Anim. Prod.44, 450-453.
Schütz K.E., Forkman B. and Jensen P. (2001). Domestication effects on foraging strategy, social behaviour and different fear responses: A comparison between the red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) and a modern layer strain. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 74, 1-14.
Schütz K.E. and Jensen P. (2001). Effects of resource allocation on behavioural strategies: A comparison of red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) and two domesticated breeds of poultry. Ethol. 107, 753-765.
Schütz K.E., Kerje S., Jacobsson L., Forkman B., Carlborg Ö., Andersson L. and Jensen P. (2004). Major growth QTLs in fowl are related to fearful behavior: Possible genetic links between fear responses and production traits in a Red Junglefowl × White Leghorn intercross. Behav. Genet. 34 (1), 121-130.
Setchell B.P. (1992). Domestication and reproduction. Anim. Reprod. Sci. 28, 195-202.
Shea-Moore M.M. (1998). The effect of genotype on behavior in segregated early-weaned pigs tested in an open field. J. Anim Sci. 76 (Suppl.1), 100.
Siegel P.B. (1989). The genetic-behavior interface and well-being of poultry. Br. Poult. Sci. 30, 3-13.
Simianer H., Solbu H. and Schaeffer L.R. (1991). Estimated genetic correlations between disease and yield traits in dairy cattle. J. Dairy Sci. 74, 4358-4365.
Siwek M., Cornelissen S.J.B., Buitenhuis A.J., Nieuwland M.G.B., Bovenhuis H., Crooijmans R.P.M.A., Groenen M.A.M., Parmentier H.K. and van der Poel J.J. (2004). Quantitative trait loci for body weight in layers differ from quantitative trait loci specific for antibody responses to sheep red blood cells. Poult. Sci. 83, 853-859.
Snowder G.D., Van Vleck L.D., Cundiff L.V., Bennett G.L., Koohmaraie M. and Dikeman M. E. (2007). Bovine respiratory disease in feedlot cattle: Phenotypic, environmental, and genetic correlations with growth, carcass, and longissimus muscle palatability traits. J. Anim. Sci. 85, 1885-1892.
Star L., Ellen E.D., Uitdehaag K. and Brom F.W.A. (2008). A plea to implement robustness into a breeding goal: Poultry as an example. J. Agr. Environ. Ethic. 21, 109-125.
Van der Waaij E.H. (2004). A resource allocation model describing consequences of artificial selection under metabolic stress. J. Anim. Sci. 82, 973-981.
Van Dorp T.E., Dekkers J.C.M., Martin S.W. and Noordhuizen J.P.T.M. (1998). Genetic parameters of health disorders and relationships with 305-day milk yield and conformation traits of registered Holsteincows. J. Dairy Sci. 81, 2264-2270.
Veerkamp R.F., Beerda B. and van der Lende T. (2003). Effects of genetic selection for milk yield on energy balance, levels of hormones, and metabolites in lactating cattle, and possible links to reduced fertility. Livest Prod Sci. 83, 257-275.
Windig J.J., Beerda B. and Veerkamp R.F. (2008). Relationship between milk progesterone profiles and genetic merit for milk production, milking frequency, and feeding regimen in dairy cattle. J. Dairy Sci. 91, 2874-2884.