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Landrace refers to domesticated animals or plants adapted to the natural and cultural environment in which they live (or originated) and, in some cases, work. They often develop naturally with minimal assistance or guidance from humans using traditional breeding methods. Landraces differ somewhat from what is commonly termed a breed, and usually possess more diverse phenotypes and genotypes. They often form the basis of more highly-bred formalised breeds. Sometimes a formalised breed retains the "landrace" name, despite no longer being a true landrace.



Several definitions of the term landrace have been used in botanical application.

"Landrace populations are often highly variable in appearance, but they are each identifiable morphologically and have a certain genetic integrity. Farmers usually give them local names. A landrace has particular properties or characteristics. Some are considered early maturing and some late. Each has a reputation for adaptation to particular soil types according to the traditional peasant soil classifications, e.g. heavy or light, warm or cold, dry or wet, strong or weak. They also may be classified according to expected usage; among cereals, different landraces are used for flour, for porridge, for 'bulgur', and for malt to make beer, etc. All components of the population are adapted to local climatic conditions, cultural practices, and disease and pests."[1] But most important, they are genetically diverse (emphasis added). They are balanced populations – variable, in equilibrium with both environment and pathogens and genetically dynamic’.[2]

The term Landraces has additionally been defined as

"An autochthonous landrace is a variety with a high capacity to tolerate biotic and abiotic stress, resulting in a high yield stability and an intermediate yield level under a low input agricultural system."[3]

Evolutionary process

Landraces are grown from seeds which have not been systematically selected and marketed by seed companies or developed by plant breeders. Landraces will refer to all those cultigens that are highly heterogeneous, but with enough characteristics in common to permit their recognition as a group. This will include all cultigens cultivated without any specific nomenclature and value. A landrace identified with a unique feature and selected for uniformity over a period of time for maintenance of the characteristic features of the population can evolve into a farmers’ variety or even a modern cultivar as in many crops; for example,Maruti in case of pigeon peas. [4]

Conversely,a modern cultivar grown over a time by the farmers and not maintained as per the principles of maintenance breeding can ‘evolve’ into a landrace. [5]

A significant proportion of the world’s farmers grow landraces. Data collected for a study of the spread of cereal agriculture into Europe showed that landraces have largely fallen out of use in Europe. European cereal landraces were mainly grown by our ancestors before plantbreeders started to improve the varieties in the 20th century.

But some landraces have survived in Europe having been handed on from one generation of farmers to the next. Elsewhere, landraces and traditional varieties have been revived by enthusiasts who seek to preserve our agricultural and food heritage. Landraces and traditional varieties are valued as the source of ingredients in traditional food and traditional drinks or as raw materials for thatching.[6]

There have been systematic efforts to preserve European cereal landraces either in germplasm collections or in situ. The activities of these collections are coordinated by the Biodiversity International. This organisation coordinates information on conservation activities, including a searchable online database of germplasm collections.

The terms ‘landrace’ and ‘traditional variety’ are sometimes used interchangeably.


Animal landraces occur in many species of domestic animals. A landrace does not imply so much a breed as a type of animal. Examples include the Norwegian Forest Cat, Shetland sheep, and Welsh Mountain sheep. Often, from within a landrace a small number of animals have been selected to found a formal pedigree breed, usually of the same name as the landrace. "Landrace" pigs (such as Danish Landrace) are breeds derived from landraces. When people select animals to create a highly consistent purebred breed, they often select for a consistent appearance rather than behavior or adaptability to a given environment. When this happens, defining characteristics of the landrace may be lost.


Dog landraces and dog breeds derived from them vary greatly, depending on their origins and purpose. Two examples are the Border Collie and Saluki. The Border Collie landrace native to Scotland and northern England traditionally varied in appearance: ears pricked upright prick to nearly dropped, varied fullnesses of coat, and so on. However, they were recognized as Border Collies by their general appearance and most of all by their unique manner of herding sheep. In contrast to the landrace, in the Border Collie breed show-quality individuals very closely match a "breed standard" appearance but might not be particularly good at herding sheep and might not have a coat suitable for outdoor life in the Scottish borderlands. Similarly, the Saluki landrace of the Middle East excels in running down game across open tracts of hot desert, but show-quality individuals of the breed might not be able to chase and catch hares in the desert. The now extinct St. John's Water Dog landrace was native to the island of Newfoundland. It was the foundational breed for a number of purpose-bred dogs, such as the Labrador Retriever. The Tibetan Mastiff originated in the cold high mountains of Tibet


Although the term "landrace" is rarely used in modern horse breeding, numerous landraces of horses do exist. Some of these are predominantly feral types, but the majority are fully domesticated working animals. Notable landraces from which pedigreed breeds have been formed include the New Forest pony and Exmoor pony. The New Forest mares living semi-wild on the New Forest are largely non-pedigreed landrace animals, while the stallions, and those kept as fully domesticated animals and bred for showing are a formal breed. Aficionados of some horse breeds claim them to be "pure" and virtually unchanged from their original wild prototype or landrace. Such breeds include the Arabian horse and the Andalusian horse, and a number of feral breeds (such as the Banker horse) that are restricted to islands. Also see Mountain Pleasure Horse.


Examples of landrace cattle include Pineywoods, Florida cracker and Randall cattle.[7]


  • Mulefoot Hogs
  • Gulf Coast Native sheep
  • Syfan Spanish goats (in the American South)

(See [8])

External links

See also


  1. ^ Harlan, J.R., Crops and Man, American Society of Agronomy and Crop Science Society of America, Madison, Wisconsin, 1975
  2. ^ Harlan, J. R., Science, 1975, 174, 468–474.
  3. ^ Zeven, A.C. (1998). "Landraces: A review of definitions and classifications". Euphytica 104 (2): 127–139. doi:10.1023/A:1018683119237. 
  4. ^ Ramanandan, P., Pigeonpea: Genetic Resources,In The Pigeonpea (eds Nene, Y.L.), CAB International, Wallingford, UK,1997, pp. 89–116.
  5. ^ Friis-Hansen, E. and Sthapit, B., Participatory Approaches to the Conservation and use of Plant Genetic Resources, International Plant Genetic Resources Institute,Rome, Italy, 2000, p. 199.
  6. ^
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