At present the Croatian Turopolje pig population comprises about 157 breeding animals. In Austria, 324 Turopolje pigs originating from six Croatian founder animals are registered. Multiple bottlenecks have occurred in this population, one major one rather recently and several more older and moderate ones. In addition, it has been subdivided into three subpopulations, one in Austria and two in Croatia, with restricted gene flow. These specificities explain the delicate situation of this endangered Croatian lard-type pig breed.
In order to identify candidate breeding animals or gene pools for future conservation breeding programs, we studied the genetic diversity and population structure of this breed using microsatellite data from 197 individuals belonging to five different breeds.
The genetic diversity of the Turopolje pig is dramatically low with observed heterozygosities values ranging from 0.38 to 0.57. Split into three populations since 1994, two genetic clusters could be identified: one highly conserved Croatian gene pool in Turopoljski Lug and the"Posavina" gene pool mainly present in the Austrian population. The second Croatian subpopulation in Lonjsko Polje in the Posavina region shows a constant gene flow from the Turopoljski Lug animals.
One practical conclusion is that it is necessary to develop a "Posavina" boar line to preserve the "Posavina" gene pool and constitute a corresponding population in Croatia. Animals of the highly inbred herd in Turopoljski Lug should not be crossed with animals of other populations since they represent a specific phenotype-genotype combination. However to increase the genetic diversity of this herd, a program to optimize its sex ratio should be carried out, as was done in the Austrian population where the level of heterozygosity has remained moderate despite its heavy bottleneck in 1994.