Know more

Our use of cookies

Cookies are a set of data stored on a user’s device when the user browses a web site. The data is in a file containing an ID number, the name of the server which deposited it and, in some cases, an expiry date. We use cookies to record information about your visit, language of preference, and other parameters on the site in order to optimise your next visit and make the site even more useful to you.

To improve your experience, we use cookies to store certain browsing information and provide secure navigation, and to collect statistics with a view to improve the site’s features. For a complete list of the cookies we use, download “Ghostery”, a free plug-in for browsers which can detect, and, in some cases, block cookies.

Ghostery is available here for free: https://www.ghostery.com/fr/products/

You can also visit the CNIL web site for instructions on how to configure your browser to manage cookie storage on your device.

In the case of third-party advertising cookies, you can also visit the following site: http://www.youronlinechoices.com/fr/controler-ses-cookies/, offered by digital advertising professionals within the European Digital Advertising Alliance (EDAA). From the site, you can deny or accept the cookies used by advertising professionals who are members.

It is also possible to block certain third-party cookies directly via publishers:

Cookie type

Means of blocking

Analytical and performance cookies

Realytics
Google Analytics
Spoteffects
Optimizely

Targeted advertising cookies

DoubleClick
Mediarithmics

The following types of cookies may be used on our websites:

Mandatory cookies

Functional cookies

Social media and advertising cookies

These cookies are needed to ensure the proper functioning of the site and cannot be disabled. They help ensure a secure connection and the basic availability of our website.

These cookies allow us to analyse site use in order to measure and optimise performance. They allow us to store your sign-in information and display the different components of our website in a more coherent way.

These cookies are used by advertising agencies such as Google and by social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Among other things, they allow pages to be shared on social media, the posting of comments, and the publication (on our site or elsewhere) of ads that reflect your centres of interest.

Our EZPublish content management system (CMS) uses CAS and PHP session cookies and the New Relic cookie for monitoring purposes (IP, response times).

These cookies are deleted at the end of the browsing session (when you log off or close your browser window)

Our EZPublish content management system (CMS) uses the XiTi cookie to measure traffic. Our service provider is AT Internet. This company stores data (IPs, date and time of access, length of the visit and pages viewed) for six months.

Our EZPublish content management system (CMS) does not use this type of cookie.

For more information about the cookies we use, contact INRA’s Data Protection Officer by email at cil-dpo@inra.fr or by post at:

INRA
24, chemin de Borde Rouge –Auzeville – CS52627
31326 Castanet Tolosan CEDEX - France

Dernière mise à jour : Mai 2018

Menu Logo Principal AgroParisTech Université Paris-Saclay UVSQ ANSES CNRS ENVA

Home page

Mystery of four-horned goats and sheep finally solved

Chèvre provençale. M. Capitan
In meadows, we can sometimes see sheep and goats with four horns instead of two. Some breeds, like the Manx Loaghtan from the Isle of Man, are famous for their unusual headgear. A team of researchers from INRAE, the University of Geneva, the Polytechnic School of Lausanne, the French National Union of Cooperatives for Animal Insemination (ALLICE), as well as from several museums and breeding associations, has been investigating the genetic causes of this curious morphological phenomenon. Published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution on 16 February 2021, their results show that all the polycerate animals studied carried a mutation in the same gene: HOXD1.

Some members of the Bovidae family1 have additional horns. In fact, a few local breeds of sheep, which have been selected by many generations of breeders, are known for their multiple horns. Some goats may spontaneously develop an extra pair of horns as well, particularly in the Alps. Evidence of the existence of these animals, known as polycerate, goes back several centuries, for example, the transfer of a four-horned goat, from the town of Bulle in Switzerland to the Queen's farm in Versailles in 1786—requested by Queen Marie-Antoinette—is duly recorded. However, the genetic causes of this morphological anomaly remained unknown, until now.
By studying the genome of more than 2000 goats and sheep, researchers were able to solve the mystery. Their results reveal that polycerate individuals all carry a mutation affecting the same gene:
HOXD1. This is a homeotic gene, which means that it is involved in the organisation of the body plan during the development of embryos. Although the mutation observed in sheep and goats is different, in both cases, it leads to a reduction in the amount of the HOXD1 protein produced by the gene of the same name.
Researchers were able to determine that the function of the HOXD1 gene is to delimit the region where horns can grow on either side of the animal’s head. When a gene mutation occurs, the surface expands, resulting in the splitting of the horn buds during embryonic development and, as a result, the growth of supernumerary horns. This is a new and unexpected function for a homeotic gene, a function that probably evolved specifically with the appearance of bovids, and which makes it possible to determine the precise area where these distinctive organs will emerge, as well as their number.
 
1 A family of cloven-hoofed ruminant mammals including cows, sheep and goats.

Animal Genetics and Integrative Biology (GABI) Joint Research Unit (Université Paris-Saclay, INRAE, AgroParisTech)

See also

Reference :

Allais-Bonnet A., Hintermann A., Deloche M.C., Cornette R., Bardou P., Naval-Sanchez M., Pinton A., Haruda A., Grohs C., Zakany J., Bigi D., Medugorac I., Putelat O., Greyvenstein O., Hadfield T., Ben Jemaa S., Bunevski G., Menzi F., Hirter N., Paris J.M., Hedges J., Palhiere I., Rupp R., Lenstra J.A., Gidney L., Lesur J., Schafberg R., Stache M., Wandhammer M.D., Arbogast R.M., Guintard C., Blin A., Boukadiri A., Rivière J., Esquerré D., Donnadieu C., Danchin-Burge C., Reich C.M., Riley D.G., van Marle-Koster E., Cockett N., Hayes B.J., Drögemüller C., Kijas J., Pailhoux E., Tosser-Klopp G., Duboule D., Capitan A. 2021. Analysis of Polycerate Mutants Reveals the Evolutionary Co-option of HOXD1 for Horn Patterning in Bovidae. Molecular Biology and Evolution, msab021.

https://doi.org/10.1093/molbev/msab021