The Ponwar cattle is an indigenous breed of India and is named after the place from where it has originated, viz: Ponwar in Puranpur Taluk in the Pilibhit district of Uttar Pradesh. Its breeding tract lies in the Pilibhit district of Uttar Pradesh. Its breeding tract is a plain area with majority of land area covered with forests. A few of this cattle are also found in the Lakhimpur-Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh.
Ponwar is mainly a draught breed and is carting and agricultural operations. The bullocks of this breed are quick and strong and are well suited for such operations. They are mostly used for light ploughing and carting. The bullocks can easily transport 800 to 100 kgs of load upto 10 kms and can plough one acre of land in six to eight hours.
This breed is also known as Purnea or Kabri (mixture of colours) and is said to have evolved from a mix of hilly cattle (Morang – Nepalese hill cattle) and plain land cattle. The animals are excellent at foraging, and excel under free grazing conditions. This breed is maintained by the Pasi and Yadav communities of Uttar Pradesh, while the Tharu tribe is mainly involved in rearing the pure breed Ponwar.
These animals are of a sturdy kind with rare occurrence of diseases amongst them. A peculiar characteristic of this breed is that they generally move in groups with their heads down, in between each other, due to fear from predators. They have a fiery disposition and are known to be very active and aggressive. They have remarkable speed and stamina.
These animals are maintained under the extensive management system, without provision of sheds. They are relatively tough to control. They are raised entirely on forest-land without any feed supplementation. These animals have been found to mature late. The cows of this breed are said to be fair milkers and the calves are allowed suckle the cows.
- The Ponwar have small, compact and non-fleshy bodies with tight skin.
- They exhibit dual coloured complexion of intermixed black and white colours. The coat colour is brown or black with white patches in varying proportions, but with no particular pattern.
- The colour of the muzzle, eyelids and hoofs is generally black.
- They have small and narrow face, with slightly concave and narrow forehead.
- They have small to medium sized horns that curve inwards with pointed tips.
- These animals have small ears with pointed tips, and big bright eyes.
- They have short, powerful necks and moderately long barrels.
- The sheath is short and tight while the dewlap is light and thin.
- The tail is long and tapering with white switch in black animals, and black switch in the ones having a greater proportion of white patches.
- They have a small hump in females and developed humps in the males.
- The cows have small udders and teats and the milk veins are small.
- Average height of a male is 117 cms and that of a female is 109 cms.
- Average body length of a male is 101 cms and of a female is 94 cms.
- Average weight of a male is 318 kgs. while that of a female is 295 kgs.
- Average chest girth of a male is 150 cms and that of a female is 142 cms.
- The average milk production of this breed is about 460 kgs per lactation.
- The milk produced is rich with about 4.3 % fat content.
- Age at first calving is 40 to 60 months with inter-calving period of 12 months.
The population of this cattle breed has shrunk to less than 10,000 numbers in the entire breeding tract, mainly due to unplanned and unsystematic breeding. The current situation demands an urgent need for genetic management and conservation. The castration and selling of male calves of 6 to 12 months age, for use in agricultural operations and transportation should be stopped immediately. Active planning and systematic breeding operations should commence without further delay so that this sturdy and locally adaptable draft breed can flourish.
The substantial amount of work done in most states through gaushalas and cooperatives must be promoted further in order to conserve our native breeds. Surabhivana continues its engagement with the movement of conserving the Indian breed of cattle.