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Domestication of livestock species and a long history of migrations, selection and adaptation have created an enormous variety of breeds. Conservation of these genetic resources relies on demographic characterization, recording of production environments and effective data management. In addition, molecular genetic studies allow a comparison of genetic diversity within and across breeds and a reconstruction of the history of breeds and ancestral populations. This has been summarized for cattle, yak, water buffalo, sheep, goats, camelids, pigs, horses, and chickens. Further progress is expected to benefit from advances in molecular technology.