History of Nili Buffalo
About four decades back, the Nili and the Ravi have considered two separate breeds as described by Indian Imperial Council of Agricultural Research (1941) and they derived their names from the blue (Nili) water of the Sutlej River and the valley of the Ravi River, respectively. Wahid (1976) concluded in his study that the Ravi and the Nili were originally two distinct breeds as they belonged to two different areas with little or no communication between them. Under this situation, in-breeding in the rural herds was inevitable which resulted in the fixation of certain morphological characters in each breed. Later on, when colonization started in Punjab from 1915 when the "Lower Bari Doab
Canal" (L.B.D.C) was commissioned to irrigate the centuries-old parched and thirsty plains and the means of communication improved, there was a frequent movement of men and animals resulting in the admixture of the blood of the two breeds, producing animals possessing blood of the two breeds in varying proportions. Both the breeds, therefore, lost their distinctive attributes and majority of them neither be classified as typical Ravi or typical Nili. During the fifties of the 20th century, buffaloes were being presented by the breeders for competition at the National Livestock Shows at Lahore every year as two separate breeds.
The livestock judges started feeling a great difficulty to distinguish between Nili and Ravi animals in the show ring because morphologically there was not the much distinctive difference between the two. Moreover, these traits being judged in the arena were not related to the production. Thus, ultimately, the experts decided to group Nili and Ravi strains as one breed under the common name of Nili-Ravi. Since then, it is known as the Nili-Ravi (N.R) breed of Pakistan the Nili animals were presented as a breed at the first All-India Cattle Show and after the second and third shows, the Nili and Ravi were briefly described in ICAR Bulletin No. 46 (1941 a). Their breed characteristics were defined in ICAR Bulletin No. 47 (1941 b) and later the authors followed this description (Ware, 1942 d; Phillips, 1945: Pakistan, 1949; Haq, 1950; Kaura, 1952). Sarwar and lshaq (1957) added some details to the description. The Nili is found in the Sutlej Valley, particularly in the Mailsi tehsil of Vehari district and the Pakpattan tehsil of Sahiwal district. According to Wahid (1976), the exact origin of Pakistani buffaloes is not known. The earliest record of buffaloes of Pakistan is found on a soapstone mass like seal discovered at Mohenjo-Daro and now lying in Lahore Museum. It shows swamp buffalo at a manger. It could indicate that the buffaloes were domesticated as draft animals by the Indus Valley civilization some 4500 years ago (Cockrill, 1970). At present, they are used as triple-purpose (milk, meat and draft) animals in Pakistan in the order of utility given above. It appears that the farmers in Pakistan, particularly in the Punjab, have been primarily concentrating on milk production and fat content for quite a long time with the result that the better-bred buffaloes can now be classified as one of the best milch animals in the world. This work has been further supplemented by the laudable efforts of the research scientists of the Department of Livestock experiment stations and animal
husbandry by producing the stud bulls with superior genetic background and issuing them to the breeders at a subsidised price to upgrade the rural buffaloes. At present, the pace of buffalo improvement is being accelerated through a programme of producing the progeny tested bulls and using the germplasm through artificial insemination services.
The Nili buffalo is one of the finest breeds in Punjab and is well known for its various qualities. The animals are mostly black in color but sometimes brown animals are also seen. They possess the small well-set head, hollow face with small active walled eyes. Horns are thick at the base and pointed at the tip and from well-formed rings. Ears are thin and pendulous and neck is long and thin. The tail is well-set and long, almost touching the ground. The legs are comparatively short. There is generally a big prominent udder with well placed and developed teats about 20 cm long which are distinctive features of the breed. The skin usually is jet black, sparsely covered with fine hair. The buffaloes with white foreheads, a white switch of the tail, white four legs ( Panj kalian i.e. five white extremities), wall eyes and jet black body color form the type specimen of the pure Nili breed. The average milk yield is 9 to 15 kg per day.
Distribution and Habitat
The home tract of this breed is Montgomery and Multan districts (West
Pakistan) and Ferozepore district (Punjab). The best animals are found in the
riverine treat along the Sutlej river, south-west of Pakpattan tehsil, Mailsi
tehsil of the Multan district and Bahawalpur in Pakistan. The· breed derives
its name from the supposedly deep blue waters (nili) of the Sutlej river.
The tract is chiefly low lying. The soil is sandy. Rainfall is scanty. Parts
of the. area become inundated when -the river Sutlej is in flood during the
monsoon months of July and August. The crops in the area, therefore, depend
on it aided by seasonal canals and wells. The chief fodder crops are peas,
sarson, turnips, maize, senji, maina, shaftal, guar, wheat, and gram. The last
two are, however, not grown exclusively for fodder purposes. Berseem has
recently been ~ntroduced and the zamindars are taking it up. There are no
well-defined pastures, but good grazing is available in bet area (known as
kunds) in winter months. The chief grasses found are dhub, dhaman, anjan
, and sarkanda with a luxuriant $rowth of maina, etc.
This breed is acknowledged' to be one of the best and is exported to places
as far away as Calcutta and Bombay. The military dairies also appreciate the
qualities of this breed and maintain a good number of these buffaloes.
Good herds of this breed are maintained by the hotianas,kohkers,Joyas, and janglis, but no
pedigree records are kept by them. The average milk yield in an average lactation of 250 days is about 1,600 kg:
(a) General: The Nili buffalo possesses a medium-sized deep
frame with a long head, convex in its upper-third, depressed between the eyes
and ending in a fine muzzle. The nasal bone is prominent. The horns are small
and tightly curved. The neck is long, thin and fine. The navel is very small,
udder well developed and tail long, almost touching the ground. The average
buffalo weighs about 454 kg while a mature bull may weigh nearly 590 kg.
The breed is docile and possesses good milking qualities. The color is usually
black, but brown is also recognized. Wall eyes, white markings on the forehead,
face, muzzle and legs and a white switch to the tail are important features
of the breed and are much liked.
(b) Head: The upper part of the head is markedly convex with a furrow
dividing it into two parts. The forehead is dished or depressed. The face is fine, with
or without white markings and has wide nostrils. The eyes are prominent
and bright in females, but in males, they are less so. Although the majority
of animals are wall-eyed; black eyes are also recognized. Ears are medium sized and pointed at apex. The horns are short and thick at the base and
closely curled. The closer the curls, the purer the breed.
(c) Body and Limbs: The neck is long and thin, blending well into shoulders
but thick and massive in males. A dewlap is absent. The chest is deep and well
rounded; the brisket is broad and free from excessive muscular development.
The shoulders are proportionate in size; the legs are straight and short with
good bones and the hoofs are black, except in animals with white markings.
The barrel is long, deep and rounded. In females the fore~quarters are light
and comparatively narrow while the hind-quarters are heavy and wide, giving a
wedge-shaped appearance. In males, the fore-quarters are massive and well
Back is straight, strong and wide. Ribs are well-sprung. Navel flap is very
small in size. The hump is absent but the withers are prominent. The hindquarters are straight, wide, deep, well-developed and slightly higher than the
fore-quarters. The loins are broad and strong with hip bones well apart. The
rump is broad, long and sloping slightly; the pin-bones are prominent and widely
spaced, but less so in males. Flanks are fine and hollow.
The thighs and buttocks are flat and the twist is arched; those of males are
comparatively more muscular, strong and less arched. Hock~ are strong and
straight in the male, but they are slightly bent in the females. The tail is well
set, fine and tapering from base to the point, generally black with a white
switch and long enough to reach the fetlock or even below it. The skin is thin,
pliable and soft to feel. Hair is scanty. The escutcheon is wide.
(d) Udder: The udder is well developed, extending well forward and backward with good length and even teats, placed well apart. The milk veins are prominent, long and tortuous. Body Measurements
Averages for different body m~asurements in the two sexes are presented in.
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