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Sunday, April 22, 2018

~ the oxen of Gir - at Triplicane

This post – started with a chance encounter in Thiruvallikkeni ..   இது நம்ம கோவில் மாடு !!

Talala is a city and a taluka in the famous  Somnath district in Gujarat, also known as capital of Gir, which for sure will make you read the subject-matter with some interest.  Talala, 75 km from Junagadh, is famous for Asiatic lions and its huge orchards of Kesar mangoes. Earlier Talala (Gir) was part of Junagadh district, but now it comes under Gir Somnath District. 

The Asian lion is  ‘mrigaraja’, the ‘king of the jungle’, but it was the prey of royalty, who displayed their valour as lion-slayers. During colonial raj, hunters armed with rifles wiped out all signs of the tawny cat from the country, across northwestern India, east to Bihar, and as far south as the Narmada. The hills of Kathiawar, saved its sorry roar.  It is stated that  Lord Curzon turned down an invitation from the Nawab of Junagadh to take down a lion or few, out of concern that the species was on its last legs. In 1920, Sir Patrick Cadell, the Diwan of Junagadh, counted 50 lions, and J.M. Ratnagar of the Bombay Forest Service said there were 100 left. The Indian government protected the 1,400 Gir forest, but the numbers wobbled up and down before beginning an upward climb that has not abated.  Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, is part of the Kathiawar-Gir dry deciduous forests ecoregion, now famed for lions.  In 2015, the population has been 523 (27% up compared to previous census in 2010). The population was 411 in 2010 and 359 in 2005.

This is no post on lions or colonial Raj – but on another breed from Kathiawar – the Gir Ox.  The scientific name of zebu cattle was originally Bos indicus, but they are now more commonly classified within the species zebu, sometimes known as indicine cattle or humped cattle originating in the Indian Subcontinent. Zebu are characterised by a fatty hump on their shoulders, a large dewlap, and sometimes drooping ears. They are well adapted to withstanding high temperatures, and are farmed throughout the tropical countries, both as pure zebu and as hybrids with taurine cattle, the other main type of domestic cattle. Zebu are used as draught and riding animals, dairy cattle,  as well as for byproducts such as hides and dung for fuel and manure.

The Gir  type of cattle originating in India, are an important milk cattle breed now  in America, known for their milking prowess. The origin of the breed is in the Gir forest region and surrounding districts of Saurashtra region of Gujarat State. It is a moderate to large size breed. The females average 385 kg with a height of 130 cm and the males average 545 kg with a height of 135 cm.

Generally the body colour of Gir cattle  is shining red to spotted white. The Gir is distinctive in appearance, typically having a rounded and domed forehead (being the only ultra convex breed in the world), long pendulous ears and horns which spiral out and back.  Gir was also one of the three Zebu breeds used in the development of the Brahman breed in North America. Two of the most famous foundation sires, Manso and Emperor, carried a high Gir content.

Back home, that is no great news as the breed had been driven to verge of extinction – reason : people of India using more of buffalo milk then the cow's milk.  Also there were not breeding programmes properly strategized.  At a time when cattle owners were finding difficulties in economies, awareness was created among people of Gujarat about saving this real pride breed of Gujarat. Mr. Mansukhbhai Suvagiya was one of those instrumental in that.  For this noble cause a trust too was  formed in Rajkot known as Jalkranti Trust. The trust has two main activities of Gir Gaay Breeding and Water conservation.  Many of the Swaminarayan Temples have also helped in preserving this high quality breed from Gujarat, which includes Charodi Swaminarayan gurukul at Ahmedabad, Bhuwneshwari pith gondal in the state of Rajkot, Sagwadi Education & gaushala Charitable trust at Bhavnagar etc.

A decade or so ago, some were exported to Brazil and some other countries.  There were reports that two containers with embryos of the breed were flown to Brazil to improve the stock of cows there. The embryos were developed in a laboratory in Bhavnagar which has been funded at a cost of Rs 2 crore by cattle breeders of Brazil.  "The last major export of the breed to Brazil took place in 1960, after which laws made import and export of animals difficult. The South American country has taken very good care of the breed, but they need fresh blood every three to four generations because of which the embryos were flown there," says Khachar. (AAU), Anand, Gujarat. 

But with the situation turning abnormal and the dawn of realization, it was reported a couple of years ago, the State Govt decided to import from Brazil 10,000 doses of Gir bull semen as the cow population of this prestigious breed has declined in Gujarat. Interestingly, the bulls whose semen are to be imported are descendants of those gifted to Brazil as a goodwill gesture by the maharaja of Bhavnagar before Independence.
Gir cows have long been the pride of Gujarat with their very high milk yield. The obsession with Jersey cows and indiscriminate breeding has led to the decline of Gir cow population in the State to nearly seven lakh out of the two crore milk-giving breeds.  Brazil, on the other hand, was careful to preserve the breed and now has a sizable population of Gir breed cows and bulls.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
22nd Apr 2018.

Tailpiece : .. .. .. the encounter described at the start is all about the beautiful bull that has recently come to Sri Parthasarathi swami temple and now leads the temple procession – all eyes ogled on the new arrival during Sri Ramanujar thiruvavathara Uthsavam.  Me too, got attracted – taking some photos of him  and having photo with this beautiful Ox.

1 comment:

  1. they are one of the gentlest breeds of cattle in the world.. Dakshin Vrindavan has a few of them rescued from butchers