Tamil Nadu’s Indigenous Cattle Breeds!

Cattle Breeds தமிழ்நாட்டு மாடுகள்

Published in: March 2017

Since ancient times, there has been a close relationship between livestock and humans, particularly among Tamils, as evidenced by traditional sports like Jallikattu and references in Sangam literature. Tamils have historically selected and bred cattle based on their suitability for Jallikattu, ensuring that only the fittest bulls were used for breeding, thus creating superior cattle breeds.

Across Tamil Nadu, various cattle breeds were prevalent. However, over the past fifty years, the number of these breeds has dwindled to just six: Kangayam, Pulikulam, Bargur, Umbalachery, Malaimadu, and Alambadi.


Kangayam cattle are renowned in the regions of Kangayam, Erode, Karur, and Namakkal districts in Tamil Nadu. The calves are red until about six months old, after which they turn grey. These cattle are known for their sturdy legs, majestic appearance, and the typical robust demeanor of native breeds. The horns are long, spaced apart, and slightly curved backward.


  • Appearance: Eyes surrounded by dark circles, adding to their beauty.
  • Milk Yield: A cow produces 600 to 700 kg of milk per lactation.
  • Significance: Kangayam cattle are considered a pride of Tamil Nadu.


Found in the Bhavani taluk of Erode district, particularly in the Bargur hills, these cattle are typically brown with white markings. They have a medium build and compact structure. The face is black, and the horns are light brown and close together.


These cattle are found in the Cauvery delta districts of Thanjavur, Thiruvarur, and Nagapattinam. Known by various names like Jathimadu, Mottaimadu, and Moolamadu, they are small but have strong legs. The face usually has white markings with red or brown. After six months, the body turns grey, and the horns remain short due to stunted growth, hence the name “Thanjavur Mottaimadu.”


These cattle are found in Sivagangai, Ramanathapuram, and Pudukkottai districts. Known as Pattimadu or grazing cattle, they are instrumental in organic farming practices, especially in grape cultivation in Kerala. Pulikulam bulls are commonly used in Jallikattu.


These small cattle, found in Erode district, are also known as hill cattle or “Semmarai.” Their hooves are hard and sturdy, reducing the need for horseshoes. They graze extensively in forests. However, the lack of legal recognition of the Forest Rights Act by various state governments has significantly impacted the tribal people who own these cattle.


Once prevalent in Dharmapuri, Hosur, and Krishnagiri areas, Alambadi cattle have now become extinct. These cattle, similar in appearance to Hallikar breed with grey, black, or white colors, were known for their curved horns and excellent draft power despite being fast runners.

Dr. R. Pradeep, Dr. S. Alimudeen, Madras Veterinary College, Chennai – 600 007.


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