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Citation of this paper

Morphobiometrical characteristics and management of Umblachery cattle from coastal region of Tamilnadu, India

R Rajendran, T V Raja*, A K Thiruvenkadan**, A Mahalinga Nainar*** and P Thangaraju****

Department of Animal Genetics and Breeding, Madras Veterinary College, Chennai-600 007, Tamilnadu, India
*Kerala Agricultural University, Trichur, Kerala, India
**Department of Animal Genetics and Breeding, Veterinary College and Research Institute, Namakkal-637 001, Tamilnadu, India
***Department of Animal Biotechnology, Madras Veterinary College, Chennai, Tamilnadu, India
****Tamilnadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Chennai, Tamilnadu, India


The Umblachery cattle breed is the native of the coastal districts i.e., Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam districts of Tamilnadu, India. This is a medium-sized draught cattle.


The calves of this breed are red or brown in colour at birth. The red colour begins to change to grey at three to four months of age. Total grey colour is generally attained at six to eight months of age.  Heifers and cows are grey in colour. In majority of cows dark grey colour is present on face, neck and pelvic regions.  Bulls are grey in colour with dark grey on the hump, extremities, fore quarter and hindquarter. They have white star on the face. The switch of the tail is white or partially white in colour. The mean chest girth, body length and height at withers of bulls, bullocks and cows were 145, 118, and 112 cm; 151, 119 and 117 cm and 135, 109 and 105 cm respectively. The principal body measurements reveal that this breed of cattle is of medium size and smaller than other breeds of Tamilnadu.


This breed is suitable for ploughing in marshy paddy fields of the deltaic breeding tract because of its medium size. A pair of bullocks was able to pull 2000-2200 kg over a distance of 20 km in seven hours. Pure breeding of Umblachery breed was done mostly by natural mating.

Keywords: characterization, management, reproduction, Umblachery


 Umblachery breed is an excellent draught cattle of Tamilnadu noted for its strength and sturdiness. This breed is the outcome of selection for short stature, suitable for work in marshy rice fields of eastern districts of Tamilnadu, India. The habitat is in the Cauvery delta region and the agriculture production in this region is very intensive especially rice production. The total estimated population of Umblachery cattle in its breeding tract was 2,83,000. The breedable females, breeding bulls and working males constituted 41.66, 0.26 and 24 per cent respectively. The average herd size was three animals (Report 1999). The farmers in the home tract  reported the decline in Umblachery population and dilution of germplasm. The reasons were increased mechanization of farm operations and attention towards increased milk production by rearing crossbred. The breeding tract of this breed has shrunken over the years. A systematic study was undertaken to establish breed characteristics and to document existing management practices of Umblachery cattle in its home tract. This will be useful for formulating suitable breed improvement programmes.


Materials and methods           

This study was carried out in Thiruvarur and Nagapattinam districts of Tamilnadu.  Information on geographic distribution, morphological and reproduction parameters were collected in these villages as per the cattle descriptors of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO 1986). Physical measurements were made in 1568 animals (comprising 654 males and 914 females) as per the procedures given by Sasimowski (1987). Reproduction and disease aspects of these animals were also noted by observations and on the basis of information provided by the farmers.


Results and discussion 

Habitat and geographic distribution


The name Umblachery has been derived from its place of origin i.e., Umblachery village in Nagapattinam district of Tamilnadu. Umblachery cattle were distributed in coastal region; Thiruvarur and parts of Nagapattinam districts of eastern Tamilnadu (Figure 1).


Figure 1. 
Distribution of Umblachery cattle in Tamilnadu

Typical Umblachery animals were seen in Thiruthuraipoondi union of Thiruvarur district and Thalaignayar union of Nagapattinam district. The home tract of Umblachery cattle is located approximately between 10 18’ and 10 54’ N and between 79 18’ and 79 48’ E with and estimated total area of 3500 square kilometre. The elevation of the home tract ranges from 0 to 50 metre above the mean sea level. The mean maximum and minimum temperatures were 32.7 C and 25.1 C respectively. The home tract  received a total annual rainfall of 1493 mm in 71.6 rainy days.


Morphological characteristics

Umblachery calves are red or brown in colour at birth (Figure 2).


Figure 2.
 Umblachery calf: Red colour of coat

The red colour begins to change to grey at three to four months of age (Figure 3).


Figure 3.
 Umblachery calf at six months (Note colour change – red to grey)

Total grey colour is generally attained at six to eight months of age.  Heifers and cows are grey (Figure 4).

Figure 4.
 Umblachery cow (note white star on the forehead and white switch)

In the majority of cows, the dark grey colour is present on the face, neck and pelvic regions. In young males, darkening of hump, fore and hind quarters of the body occurs at the age of two years. Bulls are grey in colour with dark grey on the head, back and pelvis (Figure 5).


Figure 5.
 Umblachery bull (note darker extremities)

After castration the dark part of the body begins to change to grey colour in about four months (Figure 6).



Figure 6.  Umblachery bullocks

This similar pattern of colour change is also observed in Kangayam breed of cattle, another draught breed of this state.The forehead is fairly broad and always has a prominent white star. But the other breeds in this region lack white star in the forehead. Horns are medium in thickness, short and pointed. In adults curving horns were seen in most of the cases. The ears are short and erect and horizontally placed. The hump is fairly developed and medium in size in bullocks, well developed in bulls and small in cows. The dewlap is short, thin and extends up to the sternum. The legs are short, straight and with white markings called socks or stockings. The hooves are strong, small and black in colour or partly or wholly white in colour. The animals have a straight and narrow back. The tail  is long and tapers gradually below hock and the switch of the tail is white or partially white. The naval flap is inconspicuous and the penal sheath in males is well tucked up to the abdomen.  The udder is not well developed; bowl shaped and tucked up with the abdomen. The teats are small and well set apart. But in Kangayam animals, the hooves and switch of the tail are completely black in colour.


Physical measurements


The linear measurements of all categories of Umblachery cattle are presented in Table 1.

Table 1.  Mean ( S.E.) body measurements (cm) of Umblachery cattle




Chest girth

Body length

Height at withers

Ear length

Tail length

1 month



64.8 0.7

56.5 0.9

65.1 0.8

12.6 0.3

32.8 0.4



64.9 0.5

57.7 0.8

64.9 0.7

12.2 0.2

33.1 0.3



64.9 0.4

57.1 0.6

65.0 0.5

12.4 0.2

33.0 0.2

6 months



82.4 1.0

69.6 0.8

76.0 0.8

15.8 0.2

42.3 0.9



80.6 1.0

66.9 0.7

73.3 0.8

15.6 0.3

44.3 1.4



81.6 0.7

68.3 0.6

74.8 0.6

15.7 0.2

43.1 0.8

7-12 months



92.2 0.7

76.4 0.6

82.6 0.6

16.2 0.2

50.6 1.1



90.5 0.6

75.7 0.6

80.7 0.5

16.2 0.1

49.4 1.0



91.3 0.5

76.1 0.5

81.6 0.4

16.2 0.1

49.9 0.7

19-24 months



107.9 1.1

88.7 0.8

92.3 0.8

18.1 0.3

52.4 0.5



108.7 0.9

89.0 0.7

93.4 0.6

18.4 0.2

53.7 1.4



108.5 0.7

88.9 0.6

93.1 0.5

18.3 0.1

53.4 1.1

31-36 months



118.6 3.6

94.1 2.9

98.7 2.7

18.7 1.3




118.2 1.0

96.8 0.9

99.6 0.7

18.3 0.2

64.1 2.4



145.0 3.0

118.0 3.1

112.2 1.6

20.1 0.4




150.9 0.5

118.7 0.4

116.8 0.4

22.2 0.6

75.3 0.6

Heifers  (42-48 months)


129.6 1.4

105.5 0.9

103.6 0.7

19.2 0.3


Milking cows


134.7 0.5

109.2 0.3

104.8 0.3

20.2 0.1

72.7 0.6

Dry cows


136.0 0.6

108.5 0.4

104.9 0.3

20.3 0.1

69.0 0.7

The chest girth, body length and height at withers were bigger in bulls than bullocks and cows. Horn length and ear length of bulls were 17.5 0.8 and 20.1 0.4 cm respectively and the same for milking cows and bullocks were 21.1 0.3 and 20.2 0.1 and 28.3 2.1 and 22.2 0.6 cm respectively. The principal body measurements reveal that this breed of cattle is of medium size and smaller than other breeds of Tamilnadu (Littlewood 1936; Pattabhiraman 1962; Rajendran 1995).


Draught capacity


Umblachery bullocks are used for ploughing (Figure 7), carting, threshing and leveling the marshy field. 


Figure 7.
 Umblachery bullock ploughing in marshy rice field

This breed is suitable for marshy paddy fields in this delta region because of its medium size. The bullocks are capable of doing work for six to seven hours under a hot sun. A pair of bullocks was able to pull a total load on an average of(including cart weight)  2000 kg over a distance of 20 kilometre in seven hours irrespective of cart type. Two types of carts viz., pneumatic tyre cart and a wooden-iron wheel cart were used.


Management practices


The farmers adopted both open and closed (Figure 8) types of animal housing, but the majority were of the closed type. 


Figure 8.
  Closed type of housing

The animal houses were mostly of kutcha type with mud flooring and walls. In day times animals were tethered to a wooden pegs  or trunk of the trees in the open area. The animals were generally housed in the sheds during the night. Paddy straw was main staple fodder fed to Umblachery cattle. The animals were usually taken for a distance of three to four kilometre for grazing. Concentrates feed, such as rice bran, soaked cotton seed and oil cakes, were fed only to working bullocks and cows in the early stage of lactation. In certain places herding is practiced (Figure 9).


Figure 9.
  Umblachery herd

In the month of January or February (after harvesting of the paddy) herdsman collected the animals from various households and maintained them on grazing for six months until June or July. During nights these herds were penned on agricultural fields for manure collection purposes and herdsmen sold the collected manure form the pens. The herd size usually ranged from 250 to 400 animals. The calves and young stock were not taken with this herd. The cows in the herd were naturally bred by one or two bulls from the same breed.


The male calves were dehorned at about 10-12 months of age. During dehorning, pruning of ears was also practiced. At the time of castration  hot-iron branding was done across the face and gluteal region. The branding was done because of superstition among the farmers that it would increase the vigor or capacity of bullocks to work as well as disease resistance. Branding and pruning of ears were not done in females.


 Pure breeding of Umblachery breed was done mostly by natural mating and artificial insemination in few animals. The bulls were allowed to breed at the age of 3 to 4 years. Males were castrated at the age of about 2 to 3 years by burdizzo castrator or by country method by pressing the testicle using two wooden sticks  and were put to work at the age of 3 years and above.


Vaccinations against Black Quarter, Haemorrhagic Septicemia, Rinderpest and Foot and Mouth disease were done.


Breed improvement programme


The Government of Tamilnadu (Formerly Madras) established a farm in 1954 at Orathanadu (near Thanjavur) to develop this breed. A new farm was later started in Korukkai, near Umblachery village, especially to conserve Umblachery breed in its home region. The animals of this farm were sold to farmers to maintain the availability of the genetic resource   The Department of Animal Husbandry, Government of Tamilnadu has also stored semen of the Umblachery breed in the Exotic Cattle Breeding Farm, Eachenkottai, Thanjavur district.





The authors wish to thank Indian Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi for financial support for this study.



FAO 1986 Animal genetic Resources Data Banks. 2. Descriptor Lists of cattle, Buffalo, Pigs, Sheep and Goats. FAO Animal Production and Health Paper 59(2), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome. Pp.13-36


Littlewood R W 1936 Livestock of Southern India. Government of Madras, Madras


Pattabhiraman D 1962 Breeds of cattle in Tamilnadu. Director of Animal Husbandry, Madras


Rajendran R 1995 Distribution and Characteristics of Kangayam Cattle. M.V.Sc Thesis submitted to Tamilnadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Chennai, India


Report 1999 Characterisation of Umblachery Breed of Cattle. Department of Animal Genetics and Breeding, Madras Veterinary College, Chennai, Tamilnadu, India


Sasimowski E 1987 Animal Breeding and Production an Outline. Elsevier, Amsterdam

Received 16 September 2007; Accepted 15 December 2007; Published 1 March 2008

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