Phenotypic variability and population structure analysis of Tanzanian free-range local chickens

James R. Mushi, Gaspar H. Chiwanga, Esinam N. Amuzu-Aweh, Muhammed Walugembe, Robert A. Max, Susan J. Lamont, Terra R. Kelly, Esther L. Mollel, Peter L. Msoffe, Jack Dekkers, Rodrigo Gallardo, Huaijun Zhou, Amandus P. Muhairwa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Free-range local chickens (FRLC) farming is an important activity in Tanzania, however, they have not been well-characterized. This study aimed to phenotypically characterize three Tanzanian FRLCs and to determine their population structure. A total of 389 mature breeder chickens (324 females and 65 males) from three popular Tanzanian FRLC ecotypes (Kuchi, Morogoro-medium and Ching'wekwe) were used for the phenotypic characterization. Progenies of these chickens were utilized to assess population structure. The ecotypes were collected from four geographical zones across Tanzania: Lake, Central, Northern and Coastal zones. Body weights and linear measurements were obtained from the mature breeders, including body, neck, shanks, wingspan, chest girth, and shank girth. Descriptive statistics were utilized to characterize the chickens. Correlations between the linear measurements and differences among the means of measured linear traits between ecotypes and between sexes were assessed. A total of 1399 progeny chicks were genotyped using a chicken 600 K high density single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) panel for determination of population structure. Results: The means for most traits were significantly higher in Kuchi relative to Ching'wekwe and Morogoro-medium. However, shank length and shank girth were similar between Kuchi and Morogoro-medium females. All traits were correlated with the exception of shank girth in Morogoro-medium. Admixture analyses revealed that Morogoro-medium and Ching'wekwe clustered together as one population, separate from Kuchi. Conclusions: Phenotypic traits could be used to characterize FRLCs, however, there were variations in traits among individuals within ecotypes; therefore, complementary genomic methods should be considered to improve the characterization for selective breeding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number360
JournalBMC veterinary research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 29 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Free-range local chickens
  • Genetic diversity
  • Phenotypic diversity
  • Population structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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