Breeds of cattles and Buffaloes

Indigenous dairy breeds of cattle. Gir. This breed is otherwise known as Desan, Gujarati, Kathiawari, Sorthi, and Surati. Originated in Gir forests of South Kathiawar in Gujarat. Basic colours of skin are white with dark red or chocolate-brown patches or sometimes black or purely red. Red


Breeds of cattles



A group of animals related by descent and similar in most characters like general appearance, features, size, configuration (arrangement/shape), etc. are said to be a breed.




A group of individuals, which have certain common characteristics, that distinguishes them from other group of individuals. Within a species the individuals are fertile when mated, in different species they are not.


The following are some of the breeds of animals found in Bhutan with their breed characteristics:




YAK:(Bos grunniens)


It is a grazing animal accustomed to travelling great distances in harsh environment. There has been close association between man and yaks ever since first humans migrated into high mountains of Asia. Most yaks are found in the mountains and plateaus of Tibet and western China. However, they occur from northern Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bhutan to Mongolia and the Soviet Union.


Appearance And Size:


Domestic yaks are about the size of ordinary cattle and rarely exceed heights of 1.3 metres at shoulder. The live weight is generally 250 to 550 Kg for the males and 180 to 350 Kg for the females. They differ little from wild yaks except that they are smaller, have shorter and thinner horns and rusty brown, silver grey or piebald (black and white patterns) instead of black. Often they have whitish spots on their hairs.

The yak hair is long, especially on the flanks that often reaches the ground. It has an enormous tail with a brush of long hair coming from its roots, which is rare in bovine. The horns are spread outward and upward and the head is held low. There are more than one million yaks in the world.

Yaks are specially useful as riding and pack animals. They can manage loads of more than 150 Kg. At altitude up to 6000 meters, they may carry a pack of person at a steady pace for days and still remain in good condition. Yak bulls (generally castrated) are also used for ploughing. Meat is also important in yak rearing areas. Yak’s milk is much richer than cow’s milk. The fat percentage of yak milk ranges from 5.7% to 6.8%. The hair of yak is used for making ropes, saddle, blankets, bags for storing grains, etc.

MITHUN: (Bos frontalis)

This is believed to be a domesticated form of animal, indigenous to parts of Burma and Bangladesh. Because of its large size and the high butterfat content of its milk (6.8 to 7.8% fat), it is widely used for crossbreeding cattle in Bhutan.

Mithuns are kept in a domesticated condition by the hill tribes of northern India (Mishis, Mizos, Nagas), the Chitagong Hill tracts and some Burmese hill ranges (Arakan and China Hills). It is the main domestic animal of the Nagas of Nagaland. Bhutanese farmers have some 60,000 heads of animals that are crossbreeds of Mithun and the local of cattle.  

Appearance And Size:

The bulls may exceed occasionally 1.7 metres at the shoulder and weigh 1000 Kg, but the average bull is about 1.5 metres and weighs about 540 Kg. Cows are shorter and weigh less. The animal has a dorsal ridge (sloping upwards) on the crest of the shoulders, a small but pronounced dewlap and generally slightly concaved forehead. Mithun horns are often unusual firth (wide tidal point of horns), they are straight or gently curving and many have enormous base that practically covers the top of the skull. Most calves and females are brown but adult males are generally black with white stockings (white pattern) on all four legs. Some however, are light brown, white or piebald.


Mithuns are used for fieldwork and draft animals. They are also Important as meat supply. The Bhutanese livestock breeders, particularly those in the eastern regions, have mated mithun bulls to Siri cows (Bos indicus) from India for at least a century. This produces very high profitable hybrid offspring that have high milk production capacity. The milk is rich in total solids and produces exceptional yields of cheese and butter. The male of cross, the “Jatsha” is a powerful draft animal and the female “Jatsham” is a prized milch cow. To this day, extensive crossbreeding of Mithun bulls with Siri cows is still being continued.

SIRI OR THRABUM: (Bos indicus)


Animals of this breed are found in the hill tracts around Darjeeling (Bengal, India) and in Sikkim and Bhutan. Bhutan is said to be the real home of this breed. It is distributed from that area to the various parts of Sikkim and Darjeeling.

Appearance And Size:

Siri has a massive body, small head, square cut, wide and flat forehead presenting convexity. Siri animals have sharp horns, relatively small ears, well placed hump covered with tuft (bunch) of hair at the top. They have strong legs and feet, the dewlap is moderately developed, bulls have tight sheath (skin cover). The udders of the cows are well developed.

The colour most frequently seen is black and white or extensive solid black, in colour patterns similar to that of Holstein-Friesians. Pure black or pure red is not uncommon. The animal carries a thick coat all the year round, and it is generally believed that this protects them from heavy rains and severe cold.


Bulls are eagerly sought after for draft purposes due to their size and reputed great strength. They are also used for agricultural work such as ploughing, cultivating, threshing, etc. Cows are poor milkers.



This is one of the oldest of the dairy breeds native to Switzerland, which is a rough and mountainous country. This breed is also widely found in Italy, Austria, Hungary, United States, Mexico and South America. Purebred Brown Swiss bulls were imported from Indo-Swiss Project, Patiala, India for crossbreeding programme in Bumthang. The average gestation period for females is 290 days with average milk yield of 5250 litres in a lactation period of 305 days.

Size And Appearance:

The colour varies from a light fawn (yellowish brown) to almost black. The muzzle (nose region) and a strip (line) along with backbone are light in colour. The nose, switch and horn tips are black. The animals are fairly large in size and have extremely strong constitution and hardiness. The breed is triple purpose animal in the homeland, i.e. for milk, meat and drought. Cows have large bones, large heads which are usually convex, thick and loose skin. Calves are large and weigh more than 40 Kg at birth. Adult males weigh about 700 to 800 Kg and adult females weigh about 500 to 600 Kg. Brown Swiss cattle have large heads and thick loose skin. This breed lacks dairy characters like angularity, etc. The breed is quiet, docile and easily manageable. This breed can tolerate more heat than Jersey.  


This breed is mainly used as dairy animals in Bhutan.


This breed was developed in the Island of Jersey in the English Channel. Jersey varies in colour from light red to black and from white spotted to solid in marking. The switch may be black to white. The muzzle is black with light encircling ring. The origin of this breed is not clearly established but it is thought to have been developed by introduction of black cattle of Britain and France before 1100 A.D.

Appearance and Size:

This is the smallest of the dairy breeds and considered comparatively an economical milk producer. The cows have straight top line, levelled rumps and sharp withers. Their heads have a characteristic double dish. They also show dairy temperament. They have excellent udders, both in shape and in fore and rear attachment. Adult cows weigh about 500 Kg and males about 600 to 700 Kg. The average gestation period of Jersey cows is 280 days and yield about 4000 litres of milk on average in a lactation period of 305 days.


This is a true dairy breed and hence this breed is used for milk production.




Holstein Friesian (Bos Taurus)



Holstein-Friesian cattle, breed of dairy cattle originated in Holland and Friesland. These large cattle with sharply defined black and white spotted markings are believed to have been bred for their dairy qualities for 2,000 years. In milk production the cows average a higher yield than that of any other breed, although the milk has a relatively low butterfat content; as a dairy breed, they rank high for beef and veal production. They are also widely raised in Canada, Australia, South America, and South Africa.


Physical characteristics

Holsteins, easily recognized by their distinctive colour markings and outstanding milk production, are large, stylish animals with colour patterns of black and white or red and white. In the strictest definition, a Holstein cow usually has black ears, white feet, and white end of the tail.


A healthy calf weighs 30 to 35 kg or more at birth. A mature Holstein cow weighs 500 to 750 kg and stands 130 cm tall at the shoulder. Holstein heifers can be bred at 15 months of age, when they weigh over 360 kg. Generally, breeders aim for Holstein heifers to calve for the first time between 23 and 26 months of age. The gestation period of this breed is about nine months.

While some cows may live considerably longer, the normal productive life of a Holstein is six years.

Milk Production 

Average production for all Holsteins enrolled in official U.S. production-testing programs in 1987 was 7913 kg of milk.



The water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) is a sub-genus of the genus Bos Bubalinae of the mainland Asia. The domestic animals are of great economic significance in tropical and sub-tropical parts of Asia. It is also found in south eastern Europe, Egypt and in small numbers in the Central American States and Brazil. In Bhutan, very few farmers of the southern region rear buffaloes. The buffalo breeds reared in the southern region of our country are Murrah and Surti.


This breed was developed in Punjab and Delhi in India.

Distinguishing Characters:

This breed has deep massive frame with short, broad back and comparatively high neck and head. It has short and tightly curled horns, well-developed udder and long tail with white switch reaching at the fetlock. Short massive limbs with good bone, broad boons and drooping quarters. Popular colour is jet black with white markings in the tail, face and extremities. The skin is soft and smooth with scanty hair. The body weight of the male amounts on average to 550 Kg and female to 450 Kg. On average, she buffalo yields 1400 to 2000 litres of milk with 7% fat in a lactation period of 9 - 10 months. The gestation period of Murrah buffalo is 320 days. The breed is considered to be the most efficient milk producers in the world Bulls of this breed are used extensively for upgrading inferior stock of many countries including Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Madagascar and Brail. she buffaloes are used in most cities for the supply of milk and ghee.


This breed was developed in the southwestern part of Gujurat state in India. This breed has got a fairly long and broad head with a convex shape at the top in between the horns. Horns are sickle-shaped and flat which grow in a downward and backward direction and then upwards at the tip forming a hook. The neck is long in females and thick and heavy in males. Surti buffalo has well-developed udder and finely shaped and squarely placed between the hind legs and has got a unique straight back. They are of medium size and docile temperament. The colour of the skin is black or brown and the colour of the hair varies from rusty brown to silver gray. The tail is long, thin and flexible usually with a white switch. The average lactation yield is 1600 litres of milk with 7.5% fat content in a lactation period of 350 days. The average gestation period of this breed of buffalo is 308 days.