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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


GABI : Génétique Animale et Biologie IntégrativeUnité Mixte de Recherche INRA - AgroParisTech

Characterization of the gene responsible for the absence of horns in cattle

Two alleles for the Polled locus responsible for the absence of horns in cattle were recently discovered. The first mutation has been identified but four other candidates are possible for the second allele. The study describes a complementary phenotype on several rows of eyelashes associated with the absence of horns. Expression studies suggest that lincRNA is probably responsible for the polled phenotype. Finally, the OLIG2, FOXL2 and XFP2 genes are involved in the differentiation of the horn bud, indicating for the first time a link between horn determinism in sheep, cattle and goats.

Context and Stakes

The polled locus, a dominant locus responsible for the absence of horns, is present in several breeds. It is a genetic alternative to dehorning, a generalized practice that is criticized for the sufferance it causes animals. The locus was located in the 1990s on chromosome 1 of cattle and since then has been the object of much research. The locus remained unlocated for a long time since it is found in an area of 400 kbases not known for any particular role.


In 2013 a German article described candidate mutations. In our article and in partnership with this team, we indicate that the results provide additional data and functional arguments. Thus we confirm the presence of two distinct alleles named "celtiques" (for the Angus breed) and "frisons". The first has been identified with certainty whereas 4 candidate mutations are listed for the second. A particular complementary phenotype of several rows of eylashes is described as being associated with the absence of horns. Expression studies suggest that lincRNA, which has an unknown function elsewhere, is probably responsible for the absence of the development of a horn bud and therefore of the polled phenotype. Finally, we showed that the OLIG2, FOXL2 and XFP2 genes are implicated in the differentiation of the horn bud, indicating for the first time an association of horn determinism in sheep, cattle and goats.


The AKELOS project provides the following perspectives:

  • Understanding the role of this long non-coding RNA.
  • Decrypting other phenotypes associated with horning, in particular for the type I scurs syndrome; understanding the causes of different "hornless" phenotypes identified in order to study the associated risks. Indeed, it is known that the polled gene appears as an exception since in many cases, the hornless phenotype is associated with very deleterious effects.
  • Integrating the absence of horns in the objectives of selection programs for populations that have made the choice.

The AKELOS project is one of the subjects treated by the ICSA Carnot Institute.


An article in Plos One (Allais-Bonnet et al) follows up on two articles in the same journal describing two other genes implicated in horning,  TWIST1 and ZEB2.

The mutations are subjected to tests to confirm the presence of the Polled gene and to distinguish between homozygotes and heterozygotes.


Allais-Bonnet A, Grohs C, Medugorac I, Krebs S, Djari A, et al. (2013) Novel Insights into the Bovine Polled Phenotype and Horn Ontogenesis in Bovidae. PLoS ONE 8(5): e63512.