GENETIC AND MORPHOLOGICAL DIVERSITY IN ALGERIAN SHEEP BREEDS
Sheep genetic resources are playing a very important role in developing countries, especially throughout the Near East and North Africa (NENA) regions where most of the local breeds have not been sufficiently characterized while their share expressed in animal units represents 15% of the world small ruminants (Galal, 2010) particularly in Algeria. Two mountain ranges divide Algeria into three ecosystems: the Tellien system, consisting of a succession of mountains, the coastal and sublitoral ranges and their plains; the high plains steppe; and the Sahara, with the massif of the Ahaggar. Algeria has three main production systems: extensive, semiintensive and intensive. Algeria has one local cattle breed, known as the Atlas, which has a population of about 1,4 million head. This breed has several subpopulations that are different phenotypically. The imported breeds present in the country are the Holstein, Montbeliarde and Brune des Alpes. Algeria has about 18 million head of sheep, grouped into three main breeds that are well adapted to the often-precarious production conditions: the Ouled Djellal, representing 60 percent of the national flock; the Rembi; and the Hamra breeds. The Hamra had a population of more than 3 million head at the time of independence, but nowadays the population is no more than 50 000 head. There are six secondary sheep breeds, which can be found in their regions of origin: the Berber, the Barbarine, the D'men, the Sidahou, the Tadmit and the Tazegzawt. The Tazegzawt sheep population, which is not mentioned in the list of Algerian sheep breeds in Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (DAD-IS)2, can be found in the mountains of northern Algeria. Algeria's local goat breeds include Arbia, Mekatia, M'zab, the dwarf race of Kabylia and Tergui. The local goat population is estimated at 2,5 million head. It is concentrated in difficult and underprivileged areas such as steppes, mountains and oases. There are also exotic breeds (Saanen, Alpine, Murcia and Chami) and their crosses with local breeds. The country has two types of camel population, the Chaâmbi and the Tuareg, which has several subtypes: Reguibi, Sahraoui, Mahri, Marouki and Ouled Nail. Inventory and characterization activities have been conducted on the Kabylian Dwarf goat breed and on Tazegzwet and Tadmit sheep breeds. The results show the great potential of these sheep breeds for mutton production, which allows them to compete with other local populations. In addition, there are ongoing projects studying genetic diversity (polymorphism) in the Ouled Djellal sheep breed and in Arbia, Mekatia, Dwarf Kabylie and Mzab goat breeds. In the case of horses, characterization work has focused on the Arab-Barb breed, the Barb and Thoroughbred.