Phenotypic characterization is used to identify and document diversity within and between distinct breeds, based on their observable attributes. Study to assess the body characteristics and variability of 204 Djallonké (West African dwarf) ewes was conducted in three agro-ecological zones (central, western and northern) of Côte d’Ivoire, from November 2016 to April 2017. Animals were described using visual appreciation of the body hair coat (colour type and pattern), hair length, ear orientation, tail type and the facial (head) profile. The linear body measurements, such as ear and tail length, muzzle length and width, height at wither, chest depth, and chest girth were also described. The data collected were subjected to principal component (PCA) and discriminant analysis. Results showed that the most common Djallonké ewes had erected ear (87.25%), thin tail and straight face. The dominant colour pattern of the body hair coat was patchy (64.22%) followed by plain (32.84%) and spotted (2.94%). The agro-ecological zone had a significant (p˂0.01) effect on some linear body measurements (muzzle length, ear length and height wither). Based on PCA performed with all the above morphological variabilities, we were able to segregate the Djallonké ewes’ into three clusters (I, II and III). Discriminant analysis revealed that 76.27% sheep of cluster I, 92.80% sheep of cluster II and 90% sheep of cluster III were correctly classified in their original cluster. This result indicated that Ivorian Djallonké sheep population comprises of three well characterized morphological types of animals. This information could constitute a basis for further characterization and development of conservation strategies for Djallonké sheep breeding in Côte d’Ivoire.
Key words: Local, sheep, breed, morphological, variability, West Africa.
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