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

Below are some of the Traits of Perfect Indian Cows

1 ) 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.

2) Nostril: Nostril opening should be wide open. It’s a sign of a healthy cow.

Moisture on the muzzle of a cow
Moist muzzle

Muzzle lift to identifying if partner ready for mating
Muzzle lift to identifying if partner ready for mating

3) 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.

4) Eyelash: Eyelash should be very neatly placed.

Eye lashes will be neatly placed in all good cows
Eye lashes will be neatly placed in all good cows

Indian cows will have attractive cow
Indian cows will have attractive eyes

5) Eyes: Eyes will have 2 to 3 color combination in good cows which would be very bright and mesmerizing.

Curl on center of forehead
Curl on center of forehead

6) 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.

ear lobes sensing the surrounding
Ear lobes moving in all directions to sense surrounding area for threats

7) 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.

8) Teeth: Teeth also gives a good idea of cows and their age. Teeth should also be neatly placed.

9) 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.

bottle can be balanced on the backbone of indian cows
Indian cows will have flat backbone

11) 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.

12) 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.

13) 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.

small dew claw on Indian cow
Small dew claw

Dew claw become big as a result of stall feeding
Long dew claw & big hooves result of stall feeding

14) 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.

15) 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.

16) Tail Bone: The bone from which the tail originates should have triangular pattern.

17) Tail: Tail should almost touch ground and should be very active in swatting flies away.

18) 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.

Bull arching backbone while excreting
Healthy cows will arch their backbone while excreting

19) 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.

20) 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.

21) 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.

22) 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.

23) 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.

High Milk Yielding Indian Cows Trait

24) Loose Skin under Belly: Cows that have big sheath under their belly are generally very good milkers.

oh ya and cows love to play in mud. So let them get dirty.

Rubbing against the wall and applying mud
Rubbing against the wall and applying mud
This article has 23 Comments
  1. White coloured cows are preferred due to 2 reasons. 1st being, they can graze under the sun for a longer period in hot climate of India. 2ndly they can be made out in moonless dark nights in Indian villages. Finally, black cows although cannot graze longer under sun, their milk has better test. Hence black cows are also preferred for milk for family use.

  2. Very informative. Keep it up for Benifits of the nature, humans and above all GAUMATA and Gauvansham. Doing good job.
    Lt Col Vasant Sonara (Ahir)

  3. This article is very informative and it can be pass to the people those who need information regarding selecting the perfect Indian cows.

  4. Experience and hard work says all these, loads of information’s regarding cows and natural farming.
    Hats off to you sir, we all interested in natural farming and desi cow lovers need your guidance in future too

  5. Dear Sir

    It is very good Information, it will useful for new cow buyers.

    I want to donate one kapila cow to one sivalayam .

    Can any one suggest where it will be available in Andhra Pradesh.

    M.Katam raju

    1. Hi Mr.Raju,

      In my humble knowledge,
      Kapila cow is a version of kasargod dwarf cow in golden color. Very few kasargod dwarf calves are born with kapila characteristics.
      It is a rare kasargod dwarf calf .(kasargod dwarf is an indigenous cattle breed found at kasargod district of kerala) ie.all kasargod dwarf cows are not kapila, but all kapilas are kasargod dwarf.
      You may find it at kasargod or kerala Karnataka state border areas around kasargod.

  6. We are interested in acquiring 2 all black -pure black 2 kasargod dwarf cows preferably not more than 2nd lactation with or without calf for an ashram in Bangalore .
    Please contact me with your mobile/cell numbers with details

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