Trained for jallikattu for long, Pulikulam cattle are fierce, resistant to diseases and suitable for ploughing

Pulikulam cattle, an indigenous breed with distinct characteristics and known for its valour in jallikattu (bull taming sport), is on the verge of extinction.

Only last year, thanks to the persistent efforts of Sustainable Agriculture and Environmental Voluntary Action (SEVA), this breed got recognition from the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR), Karnal, Haryana, thereby making it the 35th registered indigenous cattle breed in the country.

As per a survey, the population of Pulikulam cattle in and around Madurai has drastically come down from 90,000 in 1995 to 45,000 in 2006 to 21,225 in 2012. The number of places where the cattle was reared is also shrinking.

A workshop conducted by the SEVA here on Wednesday kindled the hope of preserving the breed as herders, officials and veterinarians decided to implement an action plan to restore its glory. “Since it is not a milch animal, the attention given to other breeds by the Animal Husbandry Department is missing in the case of Pulikulam cattle,” says P.Vivekanandan, executive director, SEVA.

The accreditation from the NBAGR was obtained after a characterisation study done by Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University to describe the features of this cattle variety and subsequently SEVA applied for registration of the animal as a new breed.

Farmers frustrated

Farmers who rear this variety are a frustrated lot as grazing has become almost impossible. They complain that the Forest Department was not permitting them to take their animals into forest area. S.Mahalingam (40) of Thenpalanji, whose family has been rearing Pulikulam cattle for the last seven generations, herds over 700 cattle in the dry Tirupparankundram kanmoi (tank) on a hot Wednesday afternoon.

He says, “We are victims of nature, there are no rains and no water for these animals. The drought conditions have made things worse. I don’t want my children to suffer like this. I’ve told them to study well so that they could find jobs.”

Herders like Mahalingam and P.Krishnan of Manapatti take their Pulikulam cattle where grass and water are available. “Our income is meagre and the maintenance cost has gone up. Sometimes, we sell the calf and make money,” says Krishnan, a fifth generation herder.

According to a SEVA report, this breed is concentrated in Thenpalanji, Vadapalanji, Chettikulam, Perumalpatti, Melakkal, Vadipatti, Manapatti, Idayapatti and Nilaiyur.

The cattle herders take their animals to distant places and for several months they will be away from home. Trained for jallikattu for long, the Pulikulam cattle are fierce, resistant to diseases and suitable for ploughing.

Grazing rights

Mr.Vivekanandan appealed to the Forest Department and the district administration to give grazing rights to pastoralists as Madurai had expanded in all directions and there was no place for the animals to graze.

“The Pulikulam breed, which has been registered at the national level, must be conserved. We have lined up awareness programmes to promote it in a big way,” he added.

Interestingly, Pulikulam village, where the breed is supposed to have originated from, is situated in Manamadurai taluk of Sivaganga district. But this breed is identified more with the Madurai region as the people of the community that rears the animal moved to Madurai and settled here in large numbers.

Now, a think-tank has been formed to save the cattle breed. It comprises B.Muruganandham, Professor and Head, Veterinary University Training and Research Centre, Madurai, Prof.Rajendran of TANUVAS, A.Maheswaran, Assistant Director, Cattle Breeding and Fodder Development, Department of Animal Husbandry, and Jeyasingh Gnanadurai, Joint Director (Agriculture).

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