• Facing a threat: Kangayam bulls graze at ‘Korangadu’, a pasture land. Exotic species are invading the grassland, posing a threat to the native grasses.
  • In the Tamil landscape, the word Kaalai (a bull) immediately conjures up the image of a five-foot animal having pigmented skin with a big hump, a longer and narrower face with sharp eyes and tapered ears, along with a pair of conical horns, well-developed dewlap, and long legs.
  • The bull in mind is none other than the Kangayam breed.
  • The habitat and distribution of Kangayam cattle are spread across eight districts in western Tamil Nadu, generally referred to as Kongu Nadu.
  • The Kangayams are one of the most documented breeds of Tamil Nadu,” says Karthikeya Sivasenapathy, managing trustee, SenaapathyKangayam Cattle Research Foundation, whose family is known for conservation of the breed.
  • He established the foundation near Muthur in 2009 to preserve the breed as well as Korangadu, a unique silvi-pasture found in western Tamil Nadu that is necessary to sustain the species.

Migration from Indus Valley

  • Sivasenapathy traces the breed to the migration of people from the Indus Valley to the peninsular part of India, who brought the cattle along.
  • He also quoted the documented works by researchers IravathamMahadevan and R. Balakrishnan about the migratory connection of Kangayams with the Harappancivilisation.
  • The Kangayam bulls and cows are an excellent draught breed that were widely used to operate Yetram, a manual method in which a scoop-like pouch, made of leather or rubber, was used to lift and pour the water from the wells.
  • The animals have to move front and back to lift water from the well using the pouch that hangs on a rope.
  • “Evolution of breeds and varieties are a product of the complex interplay of nature and culture,” said Mr. Senapathy, showing the photo of his ancestor Rao Bahadur N. NallathambiSarkaraiMandradiyar, who was responsible for shaping the present-day Kangayam bull.
  • It was in the 1920s that the Mandradiyar family had involved in the selective breeding of Kangayams, without altering the purpose to increase its charm and beauty, at Palayakottai village in the present-day Tiruppur district, as the bulls were not much attractive earlier.

Recognition in 1920s

  • Kangayam is the first of the five recognised breeds of Tamil Nadu, with the others being Umblachery, Pulikulam, Alambadi, and Bargur.
  • The National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources, under the Indian Council of Agriculture Research, maintains a herd book documenting the morphological characteristics of a particular variety of animals having a population of over 20,000 and subsequently gives the breed tag.
  • The Kangayam cattle were recognised as a breed by the British government in the 1920s.
  • PoochiKaalai (a stud bull) is selected on the basis of its height, the length of its legs, and the formation of its hump.
  • When the bulls attain a moderate level of dentition around three years of age, they are left to cover the heifers to get the best offspring. The cows usually calve 12 times in their lifecycle.
  • The erstwhile Government of Madras took steps to popularise the breed. In 1942, the then Imperial Council for Agricultural Research implemented the ‘Kangayam Cattle Improvement Scheme’
  • After Independence, with the help of Five Year Plans, the breeding tracts of Kangayams were improved. Mr. Senapathy highlighted that after the 1970s, the emphasis was shifted to exotic milch breeds to increase milk production.
  • The population of the breed in the 1940s was around 34 lakh, and declined to 2.42 lakh in 2003. In recent times, it was reduced to 1.5 lakh, Mr. Senapathy said, urging the government to take a livestock census and promote efforts to conserve the breed.
  • The Kangayam bulls are associated with civilisation and culture because of the practice of sedentary pastoralism, a technique in which pastoralists settle at a particular place with vast grazing land (‘Korangadu’ in this case), unlike their nomadic counterparts who used to move from one place to another as seasons changed.
  • The staple food of Kangayams that grow in Korangadu are Kollukattaipul (Cenchrusciliaris), Vennampul (Trachysmuricata), Ottampul (Setariaverticillata) and legumes such as NaripayathanKodi (Phaseolustrilobus).
  • The pods that fall from the VellaiVelan tree (Acacia leucophloea) are the supplementary fodder.


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