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Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in growth hormone 1 (GH1), insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) and leptin (LEP), all candidates for production traits in cattle, were characterized in North Eurasian cattle breeds. Allele frequencies of IGF1 exhibited significant (P < 0.05) deviation from neutral expectation and therefore, might be associated with divergence in North Eurasian cattle because of genetic selection. Allele frequencies and lower heterozygosity of LEP may indicate a recent introduction of an alternative allele in this geographic region. Locus FST estimates were highest for IGF1 (0.151, σ = 0.042) and lowest for GH (0.062, σ = 0.020). Our results suggest a slightly higher population differentiation across the candidate genes (FST = 0.108) than across microsatellites (FST = 0.095), possibly because of selection and stochastic effects.