Traditional Knowledge on Identifying the Perfect Cow
Cattle breeding, as a science, was well accepted by our ancestors. They had evolved a checklist of traits to look for in bulls and cows when selecting for breeding. Below is a short checklist I prepared from my experience.
Although, I must caution that despite all your best efforts, luck and imperceptible issues in cows could derail your best laid plans. Besides, the pool of cows to select from has already been compromised due to modernization of Animal Husbandry.
Read more on it at The Cock and Bull Story of Kerala’s Cattle-Development Policy
Some of the Traits of Perfect Indian Cow
- Horns: Horns should have uniform shape. One horn should not be pointing to one direction while the other one points to the opposite. It is believed that such cows can never be trusted.
- Nostril: Nostril opening should be wide open. It’s a sign of a healthy cow.
- Muzzle: Muzzle area should always be moist, not dry and flaky. Saliva can be dribbling while chewing cud. It’s a sign of a well feed cow. Cows and bulls that often smell the air and lift their muzzle have active sexual life
- Eyelash: Eyelash should be very neatly placed.
- Eyes: Eyes will have 2 to 3 color combination in good cows which would be very bright and mesmerizing.
- Curly Follicle: All good perfect shaped cows will have 3 round curls. one on center of forehead, next on the start of neck, third one on the center of back bone.
- Moving Earlobes: When you enter where cows are housed, they should move their ears in your directions and generally they should be moving their ear lobes in all directions, should always be alert. Sign of healthy cow. If not moving she is old, sick or lazy.
- Teeth: Teeth also gives a good idea of cows and their age. Teeth should also be neatly placed.
- Chest Area: Chest area of cows and bulls should be huge. Hind and belly area should be smaller compared to front.
- 10) Hump: Not every Indian breed cow has prominent hump like bulls. In cows, hump is in alignment with the backbone. It is only visible when they lift their head up. Another way to recognize is their neck area just after the hump will be in a big cavity. Cows with prominent humps like bulls will generally give very less milk they are also known as pure draught breed like kangayam, Hallikar etc.
- Flat Backbone: Hind area of backbone should be flat. You should be able to keep or balance things on the back of a cow or bull.
- Dead Skin: Check if they have dead skin on knees, bottom side of chest area. If dead skin is noticeable that means the cow is past it’s prime age. That judgement is difficult to make for today’s cows because they rest on rubber mats.
- Hooves: Hooves should be small and in good shape. Bigger ones are sign of age or when they are always tied in shed (you need to see few hooves to understand it). Hooves should also have glossy appearance and not dry and flaky.
- Dew Claws: Dew claws two small grips above each hooves should not be big. Cows which are always tied inside shed will have bigger dew claws, when they stroll daily it rubs on the ground and peels off. When cows with big dew claw are taken out for a stroll on rough terrain it can damage and wound may not heal easily.
- Udder: Udder of healthy cows will have uniform shape of which front 2 nipples will be lower than the rest, all in consistent shape and not protruding outwards. Only the front 2 nipples should be visible when a cow is standing still from side view.
- Tail Bone: The bone from which the tail originates should have triangular pattern.
- Tail: Tail should almost touch ground and should be very active in swatting flies away.
- When you approach very close to a cow, she should immediately get up in a fraction of a second. If not, she is not healthy.
- Arching Back Bone: She should also urinate immediately. While doing so, her back bone should arch. If not she is sick (most modern cows don’t arch their back). Urine should fall far off from her rear legs. Farther is better. Make sure it is also not dribbling, almost one flow and a little dribble once at the finish.
- Urine: Urine should have almost water like color. If not, it’s a signs of sickness or low water intake. If turmeric powder or other colored food is included in daily feed then urine will have color variation.
- Single Coat Color: Single color cows were preferred even during ancient times, different colors have different properties. Udder area will have white or cream color. All Indian cows will have slight to major color variation during pregnancy and when they become healthy because of hormonal changes.
- Indian cows are generally found in 7 single coat colors which are black, white, red(maroon), copper, golden, silver, brown which are also known as Krishnan Varna. There are variants also in the above mentioned colors, which was not considered the first option.
- Dung of Black colored cows was prefered, milk of white colored cow, ghee of golden cow(kapila), urine of copper color – even maroon was ok. However overall white color cows were preferred over other colors. I am still unclear on the color combination and benefits from it. Please share if anyone out there has information on this.
- Loose Skin under Belly: Cows that have big sheath under their belly are generally very good milkers.
Oh, and, by the way, cows love to play in mud. So let them get dirty.