In vitro production of cattle × buffalo hybrid embryos using cattle oocytes and African buffalo (Syncerus caffer caffer) epididymal sperm

Article Authors: O.D. Owiny, D.M. Barry, M. Agaba, R.A. Godke


Interspecies hybridization of bovids occurs between domestic cattle and at least three other species; American bison (Bison bison), yak (Bos grunniens) and banteng (Bos banteng). Birth of a cattle × buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) hybrid has reportedly occurred in Russia and in China, but these reports were not authenticated. Such hybrids could be important in improving livestock production and management of diseases that impede production in tropical Africa. This study investigated hybridization between cattle and its closest African wild bovid relative, the African buffalo (Syncerus caffer caffer). In an attempt to produce cattle × buffalo hybrid embryos in vitro, matured cattle oocytes were subjected to a standard in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure with either homologous cattle (n = 1166 oocytes) or heterologous African buffalo (n = 1202 oocytes) frozen-thawed epididymal sperm. After IVF, 67.2% of the oocytes inseminated with the homologous cattle sperm cleaved. In contrast, fertilization with buffalo sperm resulted in only a 4.6% cleavage rate. The cleavage intervals were also slower in hybrid embryos than in the IVF-derived cattle embryos. Of the cleaved homologous cattle embryos 52.2% progressed to the morula stage compared with 12.7% for the buffalo hybrid embryos. No hybrid embryos developed beyond the early morula stage, while 40.1% of the cleaved cattle × cattle embryos developed to the blastocyst stage. Transfer of buffalo hybrid IVF embryos to domestic cattle surrogates resulted in no pregnancies at 60 days post-transfer. This study indicates that interspecies fertilization of cattle oocytes with African buffalo epididymal sperm can occur in vitro, and that a barrier to hybridization occurs in the early stages of embryonic development. Chromosomal disparity is likely the cause of the fertilization abnormalities, abnormal development and subsequent arrest impairing the formation of hybrid embryos beyond the early morula stage. Transfer of the buffalo hybrid embryos did not rescue the embryos from development arrest.

Bibliographical metadata

Volume 71
Issue No. 6
Pages 884-894
Related Faculties/Schools