Bargur is a dual-purpose cattle breed, found around the Bargur hills in Anthiyur Taluka of Erode district in Western Tamil Nadu. This breed has been generally raised in herds, exclusively by the Kannada speaking Lingayats of the Bargur region. The Bargur cattle are raised especially for carrying out agricultural operations in the hilly terrain and are well-known for speed, endurance and their trotting ability. These are very hardy animals and are known to be aggressive and fiery in their disposition. They are also cautious in behaviour and tend to remain away from strangers.
This small and fiesty animal is also known as Semmarai in Tamil Nadu, and is a favourite during the “Jallikattu” – bull taming tradition played in Tamil Nadu, as part of the Pongal celebrations (Harvesting Festival). The cows are not very good ‘milkers’ but their milk is known to have high nutritive and medicinal value. Possibilities are being explored for enhancing the milk yield of these cows through scientific means. Researchers are carrying out extensive plans for the selective breeding of the cattle, in order to double the milk yield from the present 2 to 3 litres per day.
These cattle are most often maintained in extensive management system, being raised in forest areas in semi-wild conditions. They are usually housed in enclosures called ‘pattys’ in groups of 50 to 200 animals. This hill cattle survive under almost zero-input conditions since they are mostly reared inside the forest areas.
In the last three decades, the population of these animals have declined drastically – by about 90% – due to various reasons. Hence, there is a strong and urgent need to make efforts for conservation in order to save this breed from extinction.
- Bargur cattle are of medium size with compactly built body and tight body skin.
- The cows and bulls are usually red coloured with white patches. Full white and reddish brown complexions are also found at times.
- The coat colour varies from cherry red to light red and the skin is red in colour.
- The hair is short, straight and fine and the hair colour is brown and white.
- The muzzle and eyelashes are mostly brown in colour.
- The head is well-shaped and long and tapering towards the muzzle.
- The forehead is moderately broad and slightly prominent.
- The ears are short and horizontal while the horns are thin.
- The horns are light brown in colour, emerge closer at the root and are inclined backward, outward and upward with a forward curve that is sharp at the tip.
- The hump is moderate-sized and the ribs well-arched.
- The dewlap is well-marked, short and extends up to the sternum.
- The sheath is fairly tight and tucked up to the body.
- The legs are medium in length while the tail is rather short with a brown switch.
- The hooves are brown in colour. Also, black coloured hooves are also found amongst the animals.
- The udder is small and closely attached to the teat.
- The teats are small, cylindrical in shape and well set apart with pointed tips.
- There is a tight navel flap, almost inconspicuous in the cows.
- The average height at withers of a male is 126 cm and a female is 116 cm.
- The average body length of a male is 126 cm and of a female is 115 cm.
- The average chest girth of a male is 139 cm while that of a female is 124 cm.
- The milk yield of the Bargur cows does not exceed two to three litres a day.
- Average milk production of the cows is 350 kgs per lactation and ranges from 250 to 1300 kg per lactation.
Bulls of this breed are now being raised at the Tamil Nadu University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (TANUVAS), Chennai Farm and semen from these selected bulls is being processed for freezing. The frozen semen is to be utilized for the conservation and improvement of this breed of cattle.
Our Surabhivana Gaushala continues to participate in the national movement of conserving the native Indian breeds of cattle.