Ongole Cows: The Gentle Giants of Andhra Pradesh

Ongole cows are the prominent desi cows from the heartland of Andhra Pradesh. They have pulled the attention of masses due to their power, endurance, and ability to stay strong amidst the unfavourable circumstances.

The dairy market had a successful development story in India, where once the country was importing milk despite having the highest bovine population in the world, it was transformed into the highest milk producer within 2-3 decades. It is considered a wholesome food as it’s been an essential part of a diet from infants to adults since ancient times (early 4000 BC). It accounts for a significant portion of protein in the diet of infants and vegetarians. The protein content is 3.5%, and the milk composition from different lactating species differs. Cow milk content is very similar to human milk’s tendency.

A2 milk from indigenous cows like the Ongole cows has the potential to be a healthier and easier-to-digest option for people. Further research has shown that these cows are not just animals raised for food but also cultural icons and guardians of various habitats. A2 milk is the only food that contains almost all the substances needed for growth and development.

Origin and History of Ongole Cow Breed

The Ongole cow breed originates in the arid space of Andhra Pradesh, specifically in the Ongole taluk of the Guntur district. The breed is also known as ‘Nellore’ as the Ongole area was earlier in the Nellore district.

The Ongole breed’s breeding tract originates from the Guntur, East Godavar, and Kurnool districts, Ongole, Nellore, of Andhra Pradesh. This extends all along the coast from Nellore to Vizianagaram.  Its native breeding tract also includes areas around the Gundalakama and Alluru rivers in the Ongole and Kandukur taluks, as well as several neighbouring villages such as Karumanchi, Nidamanur, Pondur, Jayavaram, Tungtoor, Karvadi, Vinukonda, and Narasraopet, and regions along the banks of the river Musi.

This breed shares similarities with the Gaolao breed of Madhya Pradesh and the Bhagnari type of cattle in north India; moreover, studies suggest that the breed may have been introduced to South India by migrating Rig Vedic Aryans from the north. The Nellore breed was initially identified in Brazil in 1868 when a vessel en route to England with two Ongole cattle made a stop in Salvador, Bahia, where the animals were subsequently purchased. Over the following decade, the Nellore breed gradually expanded, initially in Rio de Janeiro and Bahia and later in Minas Gerais, finally reaching Uberaba in 1875.

Characteristics of Ongole Cows

The Ongole cows have a glossy white coat colour. Male cows have dark spots on the head, neck, and hump and black marks on knees and pastern. This breed is categorised by its white or grey coat, muscular body, stumpy horns, and steel-grey colour.

 Male Ongole cows typically have a well-developed hump, this hump above their shoulders and have loose skin, white with black skin, muzzle, and tail, and they have comparatively long legs, which help them to walk in water when grazing. Ongole cows have the shortest ears of most Bos indicus types. The horns are thick brown that point up, but the breed also has a naturally polled strain.

The horns of the cows are thinner than bulls. Horns in cows generally extend outward, upward, and inward. These cows have small udders and short teats, while bulls’ sheaths are short. These characteristics pay attention to the breed’s reproductive efficiency. The breed is visibly identified by its gigantic posture, stumpy horns, and large, fan-shaped, fleshy dewlap.

 The Ongole breed produces moderate milk with an average of 798 kg per lactation and an average fat percentage of 3.79%.

Ongole Breed: Resilience and Adaptability

The Ongole breed is versatile and practical and is used for work and milk production in its native area. The bulls are known mainly for their power and capability in heavy-duty tasks such as ploughing and cart work, while the cows are rational milkers with an average yield of 3100 litres per lactation. The Ongole breed of Nellore is heat- and insect-resistant due to its loose, thick black skin and white hair covering, which reflects the sun’s rays. This breed’s sweat glands are twice as large and 30% more numerous than those of European breeds.

Ongole cattle have long, deep bodies with distinct underlines, which help protect vulnerable areas from infection. The cows of this breed have small udders and short teats, while the bulls have short sheaths.

Due to their slow metabolism, these cattle produce less heat and require less frequent feeding, contributing to their high resistance to bloat. The breed’s high endurance and adaptability to environmental stress, diseases, and long work hours add to its recognition as one of the best Indian cow breeds. Moreover, Ongole cattle are distinguished for their alertness, gentleness, intelligence, and responsiveness to care and affection. This statistic sums up here with:

  1. Hardiness
  2. Maternal instinct and disposition
  3. Meat quality
  4. Metabolic efficiency
  5. Reproductive efficiency
  6. Heat and insect resistance.

What is so special about the Ongole Breed?

Because of their draught power, the Ongole breed of cattle has remained indispensable for all farm operations in the Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh for centuries.

  • Cattle breeders rely on the bulls’ fighting prowess to select the most suitable stock for breeding based on their purity and strength.
  • The Ongole cattle are recognised for their resilience, quick development, and innate ability to withstand tropical heat and resist disease.
  • It was perhaps the first Indian breed of cattle to gain worldwide recognition.
  • Ongole cow milk is rich in A2 (allele of Beta Casein).
  • They fetch a premium price of over ₹150 per litre, enabling consumers to build immunity against viral and other diseases.

Conclusion

The Ongole breed of cattle is famous for its ability to withstand high temperatures, resilience, and resistance to diseases. Progressive farmers in the Guntur, Ongole, Nellore, Godavari, and Krishna districts of Andhra Pradesh State favour this breed. It is known for its excellent draught animals. The milk obtained from Ongole cows are nutritious and healthy. The sturdy bullocks are well-suited for ploughing and pulling carts.

Due to their ability to thrive and perform well in tropical pastures and climates, the Ongole cattle were exported to many tropical countries in South America, such as Brazil, in the late 18th century. Andhra Pradesh is the original home of the Ongole breed. They can be found in Prakasam, Nellore, Guntur, Krishna, West Godavari, Vishakhapatnam, and Kurnool districts. This breed is valued for its versatility in draft work, milk and beef production, and appearance. Andhra Pradesh takes pride in its Ongole cattle.

Frequently Asked Question

  1. Why is the Ongole bull famous?

    Ongole cattle are famous for their toughness, rapid growth rate, natural tolerance to tropical heat, and disease resistance. They are the first Indian breed of cattle to have worldwide recognition.

  2. What are the characteristics of the Ongole cows?

    The Ongole cows are large animals with loosely knit frames, large fleshy dewlaps hanging in folds extending to the navel flap, and a slightly pendulous sheath.

  3. What is the cost of an Ongole cow?

    The price of a single cow is generally based on the breed and age of the age. The price ranges between Rs. 30,000 to 2,00,000 and above.

  4. How to identify an Ongole cow?

    The Ongole cattle are of considerable size. The bulls can weigh up to 800 kg, while the cows weigh between 350 and 420 kg. Their predominant colour is white, and the males exhibit dark grey markings on the head and neck.

  5. What is the history of Ongole cows?

    Ongole is a prominent dual-purpose breed of Andhra Pradesh. Its name comes from its geographical area of origin, Ongole. The breed is also known as ‘Nellore’, as the Ongole area was earlier in the Nellore district.

  6. What is the lifespan of the Ongole cow?

    An Ongole cow has a natural life expectancy of up to 20 years.

  7. Is Ongole an Indian breed? 

    Ongole cows are indigenous cattle from the Prakasam district in Andhra Pradesh.

  8. What is the gestation period of Ongole cows?

    The gestation period of Ongole cows is 275-285 days.

  9. What is the other name of Ongole?

    This Ongole breed is also known as ‘Nellore’.

  10. Is Ongole cow sold to Brazil?

    While the average price of cows in India ranges from Rs 2500 to Rs 11000, an Ongole cow of Indian breed was recently sold for a staggering Rs 40 crore in Brazil, a South American country.

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