European Regional Focal Point for Animal Genetic Resources

Regional platform for the support of management, conservation and sustainable use of animal genetic resources


Nuno Carolino

Instituto Nacional de Investigação Agrária e Veterinária, I.P.
Unidade Estratégica de Investigação e Serviços de Biotecnologia e Recursos Genéticos
Polo de Investigação da Quinta da Fonte Boa
Fonte Boa, 2005-048 Vale de Santarém

(+351) 243767313; (+351) 963092508
(+351) 243767307

List of experts

  • Pedro Vieira, member of the WG In situ conservation and Doc&Info
  • Rosa Pereira, member of the WG on Ex situ conservation
  • The Mertolenga beef cattle breed

The Mertolenga beef cattle is a regional breed with about 8,000 purebred females (2020). It is the largest of the fifteen Portuguese native breeds and can be found mainly in the southern area of Portugal, but it is also bred in other regions of the country, including the Azores Islands. One of its distinctive feature is that it has three quite different coat types (red, roan and red spotted). This medium size breed is reared extensively and its main features are typical of hardy breeds such as longevity, high fertility rate, easy calving and good maternal traits. When complying with the PDO rules, its meat can be sold as Carne Mertolenga Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)

In the paste, this population was under serious threat of extinction caused by drastic changes in the livestock sector in Portugal and unplanned crossbreeding with exotic breeds. However, with the Mertolenga Herd Book establishment (1978) the population grew/increased in the following decades. Currently, Mertolenga’s status is not alarming, but measures should be taken to avoid further losses in genetic variability, include in situ and ex situ conservation actions.