Madurai’s own Pulikulam cattle breed which provides us those raging bulls that test the taming skills of bull fighters during the ancient sport of jallikattu held annually has now been approved and registered as an indigenous breed.

The Breed Registration Committee (BRC) of National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR) coming under Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) has approved the registration. In a letter issued by B.K.Joshi, Director, NBAGR, it has been stated that the committee had approved the registration of Pulikulam cattle as a breed and the accession number of the breed is ‘01 Pulikulam Tamilnadu INDIA_CATTLE_1800_ PULIKULAM_03035.’

Thanks to the tireless efforts of SEVA (Sustainable agriculture and Environmental Voluntary Action) – an institution specialising in conservation of native cattle breeds – in Madurai which has been working hard over the years fighting for the protection of native cattle and livestock breeds.

NBAGR is the nodal agency for the registration of newly identified germplasm of the livestock and poultry of the country. The newly identified breed is approved by BRC headed by Deputy Director General (Animal Sciences), ICAR and represented by National Biodiversity Authority, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries, Assistant Director General (ICAR), Directors of ICARs, species specific animal science institutes and NBAGR.

SEVA in its study found that Pulikulam cattle were contributing significantly to organic farming of coconut, grapes, banana and spices crops of the area through manure and draft power. There were 55 herds (a herd comprising between 50 and 500 animals per livestock keeper / keepers) in the area with their total population being around about 5,000 in Madurai district.

Pulikulam is a village located in Sivaganga which was part of the erstwhile composite Ramanathapuram district, local myth says that the village got its name Puli Kulam (Tiger Pond) because the village some five hundred years ago was surrounded by thick forest consisting Karuvelam (Acacia Nilotica) trees and tigers used to come and quench their thirst in the pond.

The bulls here in the village are believed to be so raging that they would fight the tigers before going down. SEVA founder, P.Vivekanandan, while talking to The Hindu on Monday, said that the indigenous breed which is found in 8 villages in Sivaganga and 13 villages in Madurai were originally brought by the pastoralists who migrated from Pulikulam over the years. “Ninety nine per cent of the cattle is bred and maintained by the traditional cowherds belonging to Yadava caste and remaining one per cent is maintained by members of Mukkulathor caste.”

Starting from the month of October, till the harvest season in January the cattle would be kept in herds in their villages and during the remaining season they would be on the move going to hills and forest areas, however restrictions by forest department on access to grazing land has resulted in decrease of their numbers. Pulikulam cattle was widely used for ploughing but mechanization saw farmers no more using them, they are widely used for cattle penning wherein cattle are kept overnight in the field and urine and fecal matter added to the soil is incorporated to a shallow depth by working blade harrow or cultivator or cultivator.

Globalisation has led to a situation where the traditional role of pastoralists as custodians of animal genetic resources is on the wane. These indigenous breeds, which were maintained after a meticulous process of selection and breeding, could withstand local environment conditions. They are disease-resistant and culturally and religiously are part of our social imagination as property resource. The traditional herdsmen followed this process over centuries but they are all fading into memory says Mr.Vivekanandan.

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