The aim of this study was to explore the extent of inter-regional genetic diversity present in the cattle of Costa Rica. 1498 DNA samples were collected (year 2013) from eight different regions within the country. Allelic frequencies and major population genetic parameters were determined for eighteen microsatellite markers. An analysis of molecular variance was also carried out and genetic distances were calculated between cattle from different regions. At the national level, a high allelic diversity was found, with an average of 14.6±1.01 observed alleles and 5.6+0.37 effective alleles per marker. Observed (Ho) and expected (He) heterozygosities were 0.76±0.01 and 0.81±01, respectively. Polymorphic Information Content (PIC) and Coefficient of Inbreeding (FIS) were 0.79±0.06 and 0.06±0.004, respectively. At the regional level, Ho ranged between 0.73±0.02 in the South Central region to 0.78±0.01 in the North Huetar region. The dendrogram showed three clearly distinct groups, Metropolitan Central and West Central regions in one group, Caribbean Huetar, South Central, Central Pacific and Chorotega regions in a second group; and North Huetar and Brunca regions in a third intermediate group. Estimates of genetic differentiation (RST) were significant between regions from different groups and non-significant for regions within the same group. Genetic differences between regions are related to differential proliferation of breed groups based on their adaptability to the agro-ecological conditions and production systems prevailing in each region.

Keywords: allelic frequencies, genetic distance, microsatellite marker.