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Fowl glioma-inducing virus (FGV), which belongs to avian leukosis virus (ALV) subgroup A, induces fowl glioma. This disease is characterized by multiple nodular gliomatous growths of astrocytes and has been previously reported in Europe, South Africa, Australia, the United States and Japan. FGV and FGV variants have spread to ornamental Japanese fowl, including Japanese bantams (Gallus gallus domesticus), in Japan. However, it is unclear how and where FGV emerged and whether FGV is related to the past fowl glioma in European countries. In this study, the prevalence of FGV in European, Asian and Japanese native chickens was examined. FGV could not be isolated from any chickens in Germany and Asian countries other than Japan. Eighty (26%) out of 307 chickens reared in Japan were positive by FGV-screening nested polymerase chain reaction and 11 FGV variants with an FGV-specific sequence in their 3' untranslated region were isolated. In addition, four other ALVs lacking the FGV-specific sequence were isolated from Japanese bantams with fowl glioma and/or cerebellar hypoplasia. These isolates were considered to be distinct recombinant viruses between FGV variants and endogenous/exogenous avian retroviruses. These results suggest that the variants as well as distinct recombinant ALVs are prevalent among Japanese native chickens in Japan and that FGV may have emerged by recombination among avian retroviruses in the chickens of this country.