Blessed with a huge livestock population, India has the world’s highest cattle population and second highest sheep population. Besides supporting millions of livelihoods, the value of these numbers also needs to be understood in light of the role native animal breeds play in maintaining a balance in different ecological systems. There is now an emerging consensus on the need for conserving genetic diversity of such breeds reared by mobile pastoralist communities. A crucial requirement for facilitating such conservation processes is that a wide range of audiences are able to take note of the variety of animal breeds in the country. This publication does just that.
It represents the first ever compilation of the pastoral breeds of India, those animal populations that have been bred and managed by nomadic or semi-nomadic pastoralist communities under extensive systems of animal management. Pastoralism has carefully crafted animal breeds with unique characteristics in sync with the ecology of their region. The report identifies 73 such populations -- including goats, sheep, cows, buffaloes, camels, horses, donkeys, pigs and yak. The fact that these 73 breeds represent close to 40% of the 197 recognized breeds in the country today, points to the remarkable contribution that pastoral communities have made in building and maintaining India’s domesticated genetic diversity, a contribution that is rarely recognized. This report provides details on these 73 pastoral breeds, including photographs where available, an assessment of the population’s status - whether or not it is endangered; details on its native tract and the ecosystem it grazes in; phenotypic and molecular characteristics, production and reproduction parameters, details on the communities that rear and manage the breed, and existing government or other plans to maintain the breed. While the report serves to document these breeds, and calls for attention to the pastoral systems that have bred them, it also serves as a field guide, for those interested in our domesticated animal genetic diversity.
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