Monday, 10 January 2022

The MAOA gene found to play a role in the aggressive behaviour of Lidia cattle

The monoamine oxidase A gene (MAOA gene) produces the enzyme monoamine oxidase A, which has an important function in the endocrinological metabolism in the brain of mammals. Mutations on this gene cause aggressive behaviour in humans (the Brunner syndrome) and in laboratory mice. These mutations lead to a deficiency of monoamine oxidase A production, causing an excess of serotonin, dopamine and noradrenalin in the brain, which has an impact on behaviour. 


A recent study examined the MAOA gene in in cattle. The study tested the MAOA gene in Spanish fighting cattle (Lidia), which is selected for aggression (“fighting spirit”), and breeds that are not selected for aggression and do not display excessively aggressive behaviour (Asturiana de los Valles, Morenas Gallega, Retinta, Rubia Gallega, Avilena, Limousine and Charolaise). They found considerable variation in sequences of the promotor region of the gene between Lidia and the non-aggressive breeds, indicating a possible influence of the gene on the behaviour of the cattle [1]. 

The million-dollar question now is, what were the sequences of the MAOA gene of the aurochs? Was it more like that of Lidia, or even identical as in Lidia, or more like that of the non-aggressive breed or even identical? As the full genome of the aurochs is resolved, it would be very interesting if someone would examine the MAOA gene of the aurochs. It could tell us if this was one of the many key genes that mutated during the domestication of cattle, and what the behaviour of the aurochs might have been like in terms of aggression, although the MAOA gene is probably not the only gene that is involved in aggressive behaviour. 




[1] Eusebi et al.: Aggressive behaviour in cattle is associated with a polymorphism in the MAOA gene promoter. 2019. 





  1. In addition to the aurochs genome. It would be of interest to determine the nature of the gene in other wild Bos

  2. I tend to think that Lidia aggression is more like the Aurochs. It would make more sense when considering that upto about 15k years ago the Aurochs lived together with wolves, cave lions, cave hyenas, cave bears, cave leopards and tigers (in the near east, around Caspian Sea) and these predators which were upto 20% bigger than their current day subspecies.
    At those times it also had to hold its own between Wooly rhinoceroses, Irish elks, Wisents and according to some, wooly mammoths which might have still walked around.
    Nature wasn't exactly a petting zoo before agriculture was adopted in Europe. The aurochs could've had a similar ecological niche to the African Buffalo in Africa. Running around in a European savanna and dry flood plains while fighting off large predators.

  3. Reginald Winkler17 January 2022 at 06:41

    Thank you for the exciting contribution! It would be interesting to know how aggressive behaviour is to be defined for cattle. And not only in the arena, where there is a specific situation, or when the escape distance is not reached, but under natural conditions in the herd. Which influencing factors trigger which aggressive - or at least perceived as aggressive - behaviour? It is remarkable, for example, that in the Dutch grazing project in Drents-Friese-Wold (Sayaguesas) several bulls are kept together with the herd, because they then occupy themselves with each other instead of being "interested" in walkers. (