Breeds of Cattle

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Manual Zebu Cattle of India and Pakistan (1953) describes our breeds of cattle. According to this, the breeds of cattle are grouped into 6 categories.

Categories of Indian Cattle Breeds

1. First group – lyre-horned grey cattle

First group - lyre-horned grey cattle

The first group includes lyre-horned grey cattle with white foreheads, prominent orbital arches, and faces with flat or dished profiles.

The breeds under this category are the Kankrej, Malvi, Kherigarh, and Tharparkar.

2. Second group – White, or light grey with coffin-shaped skulls

Second group - White, or light grey with coffin-shaped skulls

In the second group are included breeds which are short-horned, white, or light grey with coffin-shaped skulls and orbital arches and faces that are slightly convex in profile.

The breeds in this group are Hariana, Ongole, Mewati, Nagori, Rath, and Gaolao, so also the Krishna Valley.

3. Third group – Heavy built, curly horns and pendulous dewlaps

Third group – Heavy built, curly horns and pendulous dewlaps

The breeds in the third group are more ponderous in the body built and have pendulous dewlaps and sheaths, prominent foreheads, and lateral and even-curled heads.

They are usually spotted either red or white or are of various shades of red and white or solid red dun or brown.

The most important breed of this group is Gir besides Red Sindhi and Sahiwal. The other breeds classified under this group are Deoni, Nimari, and Dangi.

4. Fourth group – Mysore breed with Prominent forehead and long horns

Fourth group – Mysore breed with Prominent forehead and long horns

The breeds under the fourth group are medium-sized compact animals, having powerful quarters and tight sheaths.

The most striking characteristic is the formation of the head and horns. The forehead is prominent and the horns emerge from the top of the poll fairly close together in an upward and backward direction.

The breeds of this group are also referred to as Mysore type cattle.

The breeds under this group are Amritmahal, Hallikar, Kangayam, Khillari, Alambadi, and Bargur.

5. Fifth group – Heterogenous mixture

The cattle classified in the fifth group are of a heterogeneous mixture. They are small, black, red or dun cattle often with large patches and white markings.

They are active animals with small sheaths; they are either short-homed or slightly lyre-homed.

The prominent breeds of this group are Ponwar and Siri. These breeds are mostly found in the Himalayan region and rugged terrains.

6. Sixth group

The sixth group comprises animals that cannot fit in any of the above groups.

The prominent breed among these is the Dhanni breed presently found only in Pakistan.

The breeds of cattle are mostly evolved out of generations of adaptability to the local environment. Often many of them resemble each other with slight morphological changes but because of constant inbreeding in the locality where they are now found these have been evolved as independent breeds.

There are 28 breeds of cattle and 10 breeds of buffaloes which could be classified as distinct breeds. In general, the cattle from the drier regions are well built and those from the heavy rainfall areas, coastal regions, and hilly regions are smaller inbuilt.

Better breeds are found in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, parts of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. Gujarat can boast of some of the excellent breeds of cattle such’ as Kankrej and Gir.

Breeds of Cattle

First group: lyre-horned grey cattle

1. Kankrej cattle: The home tract of this breed is south-east of Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, from the south-west comer of Tharparkar district (now in Pakistan) to Ahmedabad and from Dessa in the cast to Radhanpur in the west.


They are fast, powerful draft cattle.

Cows are average milkers and yield about 1400 kg in farms and less in villages.

Traditionally in the country nomadic breeders, viz. Rabaris and Barwars, maintain these cattle.

This is an important breed and has been exported abroad widely. Today excellent herds of this breed are found in Brazil. This breed is known as Cuzerat in that country. They have been introduced in some other Latin American countries and southern states of the USA. Many local beef breeds in these countries have some inheritance of the Kankrej breed.

The age at first calving in the breed varies from 45 to 47 months and the inter calving period varies from 480 to 510 days.

There is scope for improvement in milk production. Heritability of 13 percent for this unit has been reported.

Read more on Kankrej

2. Kanwariya cattle: This breed is also known as Kenkatha. The animals are found along the banks of River Ken in the hilly areas of Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh.

They are small, sturdy, and powerful animals. The color is grey on the barrel and dark grey on the rest of the body.

3. Kherigarh cattle: These are found in the Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh.

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Animals of this type though they resemble Malvi breed, are much lighter in general appearance.

They are very active and good animals for light draft and for Hotting. They are generally white or grey with a small and narrow face. The hump is well developed in bulls.

Read more on Kherigarh

4. Malvi cattle: These are found in the Gwalior region of Madhya Pradesh and also in Andhra Pradesh.

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They are of massive built and in some respects resemble the Kankrej. They are mainly draft animals.

The milk yield recorded in cows is 450 to 650 kg, the age at first calving is over 50 months and the calving interval is 480 to 600 days in the farmers’ herds.

Read more on Malvi

5. Tharparkar cattle: The origin of this breed is from the district of that name in the Province of Sind (now in Pakistan).

The animals are also known as Thari. Tharparkar breed is also found in the adjoining tracts of Rajasthan state, especially around Jodhpur and Jaisalmer where excellent milch specimens are found.

This is a medium-sized and compact breed. The males are also good draft animals.

The milk yield in cows ranges from 1,800 to 2,600 kg. The heritability for this trait is 0.2S to 0.3S.

The age at first calving ranges from 38 to 42 months and the inter calving period from 430 to 460 days.

Second group: White, or light grey with coffin-shaped skulls

1. Bachaur cattle: This breed is found in Sitamarhi district of Bihar. It has a very close similarity to the Hariana breed.

The males are well known for the draft capacity and the ability to thrive under poor conditions of feeding. The cows of this breed are not good milkers.

2. Gaolao cattle: This breed closely resembles the Ongole breed. The animal site found in the states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

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They are white and of light built with medium height and long coffin-shaped skulls. The face is slightly convex in profile. The animals are essentially draft animals.

Milk yield in cows is moderate. Some of the good specimens may yield up to 1,000 kg milk in lactation of about 400 days.

The calving interval is about 16 months. Presently, this breed is restricted to a very small area where it is still popular with the farmers.

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3. Hariana cattle: The main tract of this breed is the Haryana state. The center of origin is around Rohtak, Hisar and Gurgaon districts.

This is the most popular dual-purpose breed of the Indo-Gangetic plains and is widely spread in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and also in parts of Madhya Pradesh.

They are powerful work animals. Good specimens of cows yield up to 1,500 kg of milk per lactation. The average yield is between 600 and 800 kg.

The heritability of this trait is 0.15 to 0.30.

The age at first calving is 40 to 60 months, depending on management. The inter calving period is of 480 to 630 days.

4. Krishna Valley cattle: The home tract of this breed is the black cotton soil along with the River Krishna and the adjoining areas of Ghaiaprabha and Malaprabha in Karnataka.

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The breed is also found in the districts of Satara, Miraj, and Kolhapur of Maharashtra state, and Belgaum, Dharwad and Bijapur districts of Karnataka state.

They are also found in certain parts of Andhra Pradesh. The bullocks are massive and powerful and good for the draft in heavy soils.

They are fairly good milkers. These animals have also been exported to Brazil and parts of the USA, though they have not retained their independent identity in those countries.

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5. Mewati cattle: This breed is found in west Alwar and Bharatpur districts of Rajasthan.

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They are powerful but docile animals suitable for heavy plowing and carting. They are similar to Hariana breed with traces of Gir inheritance. This breed shows admixture of Gir, Rath, and Nagauri cattle.

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6. Nagauri cattle: This breed is famous for trotting and as a draft animal. The bullocks are prized for their fast road work.

They are prevalent in the district of Jodhpur in Rajasthan. This breed is supposed to have been evolved from Hariana and Kankrej breeds.

In the Barmer district of Rajasthan, there are good specimens of milch cows of this breed with yields as high as 900 kg per lactation.

7. Ongole cattle: The native tract of this breed is the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. This is essentially a large muscular breed suitable for heavy draft work.

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An average yield of 1,000 kg is common. Good specimens have given up to 1,500 kg yield per lactation.

The age at first calving is 38 to 45 months with an inter calving period of 470 days.

An excellent specimen of this breed has been exported to Brazil where large- herds abound. They are known as Nellore breed in Brazil. They are mo.stly reputed for their draft traits. Specimens of this breed have also been exported in the past to Sri Lanka, Fiji, Indo-China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the USA. The famous Santa Gertrudis breed evolved in Texas, the USA has the inheritance of Ongole breed in its development.

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8. Rathi cattle: This is also known as Rath. The animals are mostly localized in the Alwar district of Rajasthan.

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Good specimens are also found in and around Bikaner district.

They are medium-sized dual-purpose animals. Good cows yield up to 1,200 kg of milk per lactation. The bullocks are medium-sized, powerful animals adapted moderately for heavy plowing and road work.

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The third group – Heavy built, curly horns and pendulous dewlaps

1. Dangi cattle: The home tract of this breed is Ahmednagar and Nasik districts of Maharashtra.

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They have usually broken red and white or black and white in color. The animals are medium in size with deep bodies. The head is usually small with a slightly protruding forehead. The muzzle is large, the ears are small, and the horns short and thick. Though the cows are not good milkers, the bullocks are popular in heavy rainfall tracts.

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2. Deoni cattle: This is an admixture of Gir, Dangi, and local animals. Its native tract is in the western Andhra Pradesh.

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The bullocks are suitable for heavy cultivation. Certain farmers have selected cows for high milk productivity. They are quite popular in the tracts of former Hyderabad state which now forms parts of Andhra Pradesh and adjoining Karnataka.

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3. Gir cattle: This is a native of Gujarat. It is also found in Maharashtra and adjacent Rajasthan. Its peculiar features are the protruding-broad and long forehead, and pendulous frontwards turned ears. The popular color is white with dark red or chocolate-brown patches distributed all over the body.

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The entire red color is also encountered although it is mottled with yellowish-red to almost black patches. Gir cows are good milkers. The milk yield ranges from 1,200 to 1,800 kg. The heritability for milk yield is 0.20 to 0.30.

The age at first calving varies from 45 to 54 months and the inter calving period from 515 to 600 days.

The Gir breed has been most popular for export to other parts of the world. In Brazil where large herds are found, it is known as Gyr. Brazil has also evolved a strain called Indubrasil which is a cross between Gir and Kankrej. Gir animals are highly prized by Brazilian breeders and they have a Breed Society. Gir has also been exported to the USA, especially to Texas, Florida and Lousiana states.

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4. Nimari cattle: Nimari breed is an admixture of Gir and Khillari. It is found in the Nimar tract of Madhya Pradesh and the adjoining parts of Maharashtra. The color is usually red with large flashes of white on various parts of the body. Sometimes light red or white patches are also found.

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The head is moderately long with a somewhat bulging forehead. The horns usually emerge in the backward direction and are similar to that in the Gir breed. The body is long with a straight back.

The peculiarity of the animals is the hooves; they can stand rough wear on stony ground. The breed is hence popular on account of its working capacity in rough areas. The annual milk yield is 450 to 500 kg, and they are more of draft type animals.

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5. Red Sindhi cattle: The home tract of this breed is Karachi and Hyderabad districts of Pakistan. However, a number of herds of this breed are found in certain institutions in the country. Red Sindhi are small in size and are very good milkers.

They have a compact frame with round drooping quarters. The color is red with the shades varying from dark red to light. Specks of white color are sometimes seen on the dewlaps and occasionally on the forehead.

Milk production in the herds maintained in the institutions ranges from 1,250 to 1,800 kg. The heritability for this trait is 0.30 to 0.35.

Age at first calving is 39 to 50 months and the calving interval is of 425 to 540 days.

Red Sindhi has also been exported out of its native tract to many other parts of the world including Sri Lanka, Tanzania, the Philippines, the USA, Malaysia, Iraq, Burma, and Indo-China. Red Sindhi breed has been used for crossbreeding purposes to develop new breeds such as Karan Swiss at the NDRI, Kamal.

6. Sahiwal cattle: This is a native of Pakistan. The breeding tract of this breed was Montogomery district which is now named as Sahiwal district. By far it is the best breed of the subcontinent.

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It is comparatively a heavy breed with the symmetrical body and loose skin when compared with Red Sindhi with which it closely resembles. The animals arc usually long and fleshy and with heavier built.

The color is reddish Dunn or pale red, sometimes flashed with white patches. The distinguishing feature between Sahiwal and Red Sindhi is the muzzle. Red Sindhi has dark-colored muzzles whereas Sahiwal has lighter colored muzzles. Sahiwal has also a whitish ring along with the eyes. Muzzle and eye-lashes are light in color.

A number of herds of this breed arc maintained in India. The milk yield ranges from 1,400 to 2,500 kg. The heritability of this trait is 0.2 to 0.3.

The age at first calving ranges from 37 to 48 months and the calving interval is from 430 to 580 days.

Sahiwal is one of the most popular breeds of the subcontinent. It has been exported to Sri Lanka, Kenya, many countries in Latin America and West Indies where a new breed called Jamaica Hope has been evolved out of Sahiwal and Jersey crossbreeds.

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Fourth group – Mysore breed with Prominent forehead and long horns

1. Hallikar cattle: This breed originated in the former princely state of Vijayanagaram, presently part of Karnataka state.

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They are compact, muscular, and medium-sized animals. The head and horns are the notable features of the breed. The horns emerge in proximity to each other near the top of the poll and are carried backward, straight for nearly half their length, and then with a forward bend. The neck is long and thin for the size of the animal. The dewlap is thin and moderately developed. The sheath is very close. The forequarters are well developed and the legs are strong. The hooves are strong, small, and lightly set. The back is straight and strong. The color is grey, dark grey with deep sheath and fore- and hindquarters.

The breed is best known for its draft capacity and especially for its trotting ability. While rearing the calf, it is difficult to approach the animal. It was used in the war by Tippu Sultan for carrying cannons.

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2. Amritmahal cattle: The home tract of this breed is the former princely state of Mysore. Its breeding tract stretches from the basin of River Krishna to the River Kaveri.

This breed is usually having shades of grey, varying from almost white to nearly black with white grey markings. The muzzle, feet, and tail are usually black. The head is well shaped, long, and tapering towards the muzzle. The forehead bulges out slightly and is narrow and furrowed in the middle.

The horns emerge from the lop to the poll, fairly close together in an upward and backward direction and terminate in sharp points. The cars are small and piper to a point. The dewlap is thin and does not extend very far. The sheath and naval flap are very small and close to the body. The legs are of medium length and well proportioned.

The Amritmahal breed is primarily a draft animal but during the early days, it was known for its milch qualities. Maharajas of Mysore had developed large farms called Kavals for developing this breed. They are closely related to Hallikar.

3. Khillari cattle: Khillari breed also closely resembles the Hallikar. Its home tract is Sholapur and Sitapur districts of Maharashtra state. As compared to Hallikar, this has a higher milk potential.

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The animals are compact and tight. They have strongly set limbs. They are grey-white in color. The hindquarters are squarely developed. The gait of Khillari is quick. This forehead of the Khillari is long and with a convex bulge towards the horns with a distinct groove running in the center of the forehead.

The eyes are set in an elongated fashion, are small though prominent and often slightly bulging. Ears are small and pointed and are always held sideways. The horns are placed close together at the roof. They curve backward for half the length and then turn forwards in a peculiar fashion. The horns are black though pink horns are sometimes seen.

The horns are thick at the base and taper to a fine point. The legs 2irc straight and strong.

The hooves are black with digits closely set. Hindquarters are well muscled. Khillari bullocks are regarded as fast and powerful draft animals.

Excellent cows yield up to 900 to 1,000 kg milk. Khillari has been exported to Sri Lanka for crossing with the local cattle for improving their draft qualities.

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4. Kangayam cattle: The home tract of Kangayam breed is Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu state. The animals are of moderate size with compact bodies.

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They have short, stout legs with strong hooves. The horns are spread apart, nearly straight with a slight curve backward. The head is more proportionate to the body. The eyes are dark and prominent with black rings around them. The dewlap is thin. This sheath is well tucked up to the body. The humps are well developed in the bulls but are firm.

Kangaytim cattle are usually grey or white. The males have black or very dark color on the head, hump, neck, and quarters. The milk yield ranges from 600 to 700 kg. Kangayam is more reputed, for its draft capacity.

A large number of bullocks produced in the northern tract are sold to cultivators in other parts for working in the black cotton soils. Kangayam has also been exported to Sri Lanka for draft purposes.

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5. Alambadi cattle: This breed is restricted to Salem and Coimbatore districts of Tamil Nadu slate, and closely resembles Hallikar breed. A dual-purpose breed used as a draught animal and dairy purpose.

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Alambadi is a tough breed, that dwells in any temperatures. Mainly used for plowing.

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6. Bargur cattle: The origin of Bargur cattle is from the Bargur forest hills of Tamil Nadu. Brown skin with white patches. The breed is famous for its speed, endurance and trotting ability.

Bargur has very aggressive temperament, very difficult to train.

Fifth group – Heterogenous mixture

1. Ponwar cattle: Ponwar is from Uttar Pradesh, a draught strain cattle. also produces around 460 kgs of milk during lactation period. Age at first calving will be 40 to 60 weeks with an inter-calving span of 12 weeks.

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2. Siri cattle: A breed so common in the regions of Darjeeling and Sikkim. A medium-sized white and black cow. Majorly used for milk production and transport in the hilly regions.

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Sixth group

1. Dhanni cattle: A multi-purpose breed of cattle originated from the Punjab province. Now the region belongs to Pakistan. Majorly used for plowing, meat, and milk. Produces around 1000 to 1200 kg of milk per lactation.

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2 thoughts on “Breeds of Cattle”

  1. That’s an informative article about different breeds of cattle. Good to know that most of the breeds still exist!! Keep up the good work…


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