The pedigree of the current Austrian Noriker draught horse population comprising 2808 horses was traced back to the animals considered as founders of this breed. In total, the number of founders was 1991, the maximum pedigree length was 31 generations, with an average of 12.3 complete generations. Population structure in this autochthonous Austrian draught horse breed is defined by seven breeding regions (Carinthia, Lower Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Upper Austria and Vorarlberg) or through six coat colour groups (Bay, Black, Chestnut, Roan, Leopard, Tobiano). Average inbreeding coefficients within the breeding regions ranged from 4.5% to 5.5%; for the colour groups, the coefficients varied from 3.5% to 5.9%. Other measures of genetic variability like the effective number of founders, ancestors and founder genomes revealed a slightly different genetic background of the subpopulations. Average coancestries between and within breeding areas showed that the Salzburg population may be considered as the nucleus or original stock whereas all other subpopulations showed high relationship to horses from Salzburg. The target of draught horse breeding in the 21st century does not meet the breeding concept of maximizing genetic gains any more. Stabilizing selection takes place. In this study, we show that demographic factors as well as structure given by different coat colours helped to maintain genetic diversity in this endangered horse breed
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