Ongole cattle, also known as the Nellore breed, is a robust and muscular breed of cattle that originates from Andhra Pradesh, India. These majestic animals are renowned for their incredible strength, resilience, and endurance. They have been a part of Indian culture for centuries, and their significance can be traced back to the time of the Cholas and the Vijayanagara Empire. Ongole cattle have a unique history, fascinating physical features, and an important role in Indian agriculture. In this article, we will explore all the aspects of this magnificent breed, from their origins to their relationship with humans.
Scientific Name and Classification:
The scientific name of Ongole cattle is Bos indicus. They belong to the family Bovidae and are a sub-species of the domesticated cattle, Bos taurus. Ongole cattle are also known as Nellore breed after the name of the district where they were originally bred. They are one of the largest and strongest breeds of cattle in India.
Ongole cattle are a zebu type of cattle, which means they have a hump on their back, long ears, and a dewlap. They are primarily used as draught animals and for meat production.
The history of Ongole cattle can be traced back to the 16th century when they were first bred in the Guntur and Ongole districts of Andhra Pradesh. The breed became popular during the rule of the Vijayanagara Empire and was further developed during the British colonial period. The British recognized the breed's strength and resilience and began exporting them to other countries, including Brazil, Australia, and the United States.
Evolution and Origins:
The evolution of Ongole cattle can be traced back to the aurochs, the wild ancestor of modern cattle. The domestication of cattle occurred around 8000 BCE in the Middle East. The domesticated cattle then spread to different parts of the world, including India. Ongole cattle were developed through selective breeding to be well-adapted to the tropical climate of India.
Ongole cattle are a large breed of cattle with a muscular body, long legs, and a prominent hump on their back. They have a short, glossy coat that ranges in color from white to light gray. The breed has long, droopy ears that help them to keep cool in hot weather. The breed's prominent dewlap helps them to regulate their body temperature and store fat reserves.
Ongole cattle are social animals that live in herds. The herd is typically led by a dominant bull, who protects the group from predators and other threats.
Anatomy and Appearance:
Ongole cattle have a large, muscular body with a broad chest and powerful legs. They have a prominent hump on their back, which is made up of fat and connective tissue. The hump serves as a source of energy for the animal during times of food scarcity. The breed has a distinctive dewlap, which is a flap of skin that hangs below their neck. The dewlap helps to regulate body temperature and store fat reserves.
Distribution and Habitat:
Ongole cattle are primarily found in the southern parts of India, particularly in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The breed thrives in hot and humid climates and is well-adapted to living in tropical regions.
Population - How Many Are Left?
The population of Ongole cattle has been declining in recent years due to crossbreeding with other breeds and the increasing popularity of dairy breeds. The breed is currently listed as 'at risk' by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and conservation efforts are being made to preserve the genetic diversity of the breed. The exact number of Ongole cattle remaining in India is difficult to estimate, but it is believed that there are still several thousand animals in existence.
Ongole cattle are a large breed of cattle, with bulls weighing between 700-900 kg and cows weighing between 400-500 kg. They have a height of around 140-150 cm at the shoulder.
As mentioned above, Ongole cattle have an average weight of 400-900 kg depending on their gender and age. However, some individuals have been known to weigh up to 1200 kg, making them one of the heaviest breeds of cattle in the world.
Behavior and Lifestyle:
Ongole cattle are generally docile and calm in nature. They are well-suited to working in hot and humid conditions and have a high tolerance for heat. They are social animals and prefer to live in herds. Ongole cattle are primarily used for draught purposes, such as plowing fields, transporting goods, and as pack animals. They are also used for meat production.
Ongole cattle have a natural breeding cycle, with females reaching sexual maturity at around 24 months of age. The breeding season typically occurs between December and May, with cows giving birth to one calf per year. Ongole bulls are known for their high fertility rates, and one bull can service up to 50 cows in a year.
Ongole calves are born with a light brown coat and weigh between 20-25 kg at birth. They are weaned at around 6-8 months of age and reach sexual maturity at around 24 months.
The lifespan of Ongole cattle varies depending on their living conditions and the care they receive. On average, they live for around 15-20 years, but some individuals have been known to live for up to 25 years.
Diet and Prey:
Ongole cattle are herbivores and primarily feed on grasses, hay, and other vegetation. They have a simple stomach and are able to extract maximum nutrition from the food they consume.
Predators and Threats:
Ongole cattle are relatively large and powerful animals and are not typically preyed upon by other animals. However, they are vulnerable to diseases and parasites, which can affect their health and overall wellbeing. In recent years, the breed has also faced threats from crossbreeding and the increasing popularity of dairy breeds.
Relationship with Humans:
Ongole cattle have been an integral part of Indian agriculture for centuries. They are highly valued for their strength, resilience, and endurance and are used for a variety of purposes, including draught work, meat production, and as pack animals. The breed is also deeply ingrained in Indian culture and has a significant role in festivals and religious ceremonies.
- Ongole cattle are known for their incredible strength and endurance and have been used to pull carts weighing up to two tons.
- The breed's hump is made up of a fatty deposit that serves as a source of energy during times of food scarcity.
- Ongole cattle have been exported to other countries, including Brazil, Australia, and the United States, where they have been used to improve the quality of local breeds.
- Ongole cattle are sometimes referred to as the 'super cows' due to their impressive size and strength.
- The breed is the subject of many traditional Indian folk songs and stories, which celebrate their beauty and strength.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions):
Q: What are Ongole cattle used for?
A: Ongole cattle are primarily used for draught work, meat production, and as pack animals.
Q: How many Ongole cattle are left in India?
A: The exact number of Ongole cattle remaining in India is difficult to estimate, but it is believed that there are still several thousand animals in existence.
Q: What is the lifespan of Ongole cattle?
A: The lifespan of Ongole cattle varies depending on their living conditions and the care they receive. On average, they live for around 15-20 years.
Q: What is the average weight of Ongole cattle?
A: Ongole cattle have an average weight of 400-900 kg depending on their gender and age.
In conclusion, Ongole cattle are a unique and important breed of cattle that have played a significant role in Indian agriculture for centuries. They are known for their strength, endurance, and resilience, and are highly valued for their use in draught work, meat production, and as pack animals. Despite facing threats from crossbreeding and the increasing popularity of dairy breeds, efforts are being made to preserve the genetic diversity of the breed and ensure its continued existence for future generations.