Turkey's 10.6 million head of cattle comprise a rich array of native breeds and types but these are being increasingly eroded by the often indiscriminate use of exotic genotypes. The structure of agriculture is such that most farms are predominantly subsistence oriented, of small size, keep few animals and provide only minimal inputs. Native breeds have evolved to meet these conditions and are generally well adapted to the natural environment, inadequate and unbalanced nutrition and disease stress. In the last 80 years, there has been much modification of the natural gene pool and many distinct breed types are in danger of or have already suffered extinction. This paper describes some of the major remaining cattle genetic resources and their conservation status. Government is now aware of the danger of the impoverishment or loss of this important aspect of biodiversity and has established programmes for conservation and preservation of several native breeds. Government, research institutions and producers should work together to ensure that the local gene pool is preserved and can thus continue to contribute to biodiversity and sustainable livestock production.