We analysed macro- and microscopic features of dorsal guard hairs in 105 specimens of 10 wild and five domestic ungulates from southern Europe to work out a dichotomous key with a photographic reference system of diagnostic hair features. We integrated and extended the available data on hair morphology of wild ungulates and provide a first comparative analysis of hair structure of domestic forms. To develop the key, we used clearly recognisable qualitative characters of cuticle and medulla. The techniques used in this study can be easily, quickly and economically applied in routine investigations, keeping the time required to identify a sample at a minimum. The accuracy of the key was assessed through a blind test carried out by four trained observers. We describe the effects of age and season on the microscopic structure of hair, which have not yet been described in European literature. A review of all the available data on hair morphology of wild ungulates is presented and the relevant differences between domestic forms and their relative wild ancestors that have arisen during the domestication process are described. A hair identification key has a wide range of practical applications in biology, such as the study of carnivore feeding habits through scat analysis.
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