This year the price tag range from Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 3 lakh
Men riding horses at top speed and decorated horses performing stunts usually mark the first day of the annual horse and cattle fair at Anthiyur in Erode district. And this year is no exception.
Huge crowds gathered to witness the men riding the horses in a cloud of dust around the long line of sheds at the fair that begun on Wednesday. People cheered when two horses danced to the tunes and children rushed to touch them. People moved from one shed to another, watching hundreds of horses brought by the traders from different parts of Tamil Nadu and neighbouring states. This year, the fair has horses with price tag ranging from Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 3 lakh and the total trade is expected to cross Rs. 3 crore.
R. Sakthivel, a businessman from Tirupur, has brought five of his best horses to sell at the fair this year. He has been visiting the fair to buy and sell horses for the past 15 years. Like many others, raising horses is a hobby for Mr. Sakthivel. “I picked up the hobby from my father, who brought me to the fair when I was 15. Since then, I never missed a fair,” he says proudly.
Despite having a thriving hosiery business worth Rs. 5 crore at Tirupur, it is the horse trade that gives Mr. Sakthivel a sense of satisfaction. “I feel proud to own the best horses. I stay in my shed for all the five-days of the fair with friends. It is a special occasion,” he says.
Like him, many horse traders regard the fair as an occasion not only to do business but to meet their friends in the horse trade and exchange information about the horses. Jahir Hussain, a trader from Dindigul, cooks food at his shed and shares it with his friends and fellow traders. “It is not just a fair. It is a meeting place for friends in the trade,” he says.
Mr. Hussain has brought five horses and managed to sell one on the first day. “We provide the horses for marriages, various ceremonies and to train the school students. It is a good business,” he says.
Mr. Hussain also facilitates individuals to buy horses at the fair.
“Finding the right horse is difficult. There are several sentiments associated with the buying of a horse. Owning a horse will require a consistent amount of work and money to care for. Since my family has been doing horse trade for decades, we know how to find the right horse and negotiate with the sellers,” he explains. Like Mr. Hussain, there are several facilitators doing their work at the fair.
The fair attracts buyers from almost every part of the country. Even traders from North India buy horses at the fair. R. Bharat, who runs a travel business in Karur, has bought his first horse at the fair on Wednesday. He paid a whooping Rs. 1 lakh for the animal. “I am so proud to own a horse. I am looking for another in the fair,” he says. Along with traders, farmers and locals, the fair also attracts a significant number of students from the veterinary colleges. This year, a group of foreign students from United States visited the fair. “This is one of the largest [fairs] we have seen. We see diverse breeds of animals. It is great,” says Karen Habitzreuther, who is doing Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in Virginia Tech. The students were on a study tour to India.
Besides horses, the fair, which closes on August 12, also has a large number of cows, bulls, goats and poultry. The fair is a part of the annual festival of Sri Gurunatha Swamy temple.