South Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - “Brahmani” Bulls, Desi Cows and the Civil Veterinary Department: More-Than-Human Geographies of Animal Breeding in Colonial North India

Friday, July 6
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Gulmohar, First Floor

From 1899, the Civil Veterinary Department (C.V.D.) launched breeding programs to improve the health and productivity of north India’s working animals. It proposed that by mating local cows with stud bulls supplied by Hissar cattle farm, regional populations of cattle would gradually attain the physical and behavioural attributes to increase agricultural productivity. As scholars have shown, the creation and development of Indian breeds was a cultural and scientific cornerstone of colonial efforts to uplift dairy yields and equine power. Unlike previous studies, this paper will re-locate its focus beyond the controlled environment of the colonial farm. For as C.V.D. officials frequently noted, the success of its breeding programs was contingent not only upon the quality of its stud bulls, but their capacity to influence and adapt to the behavioural, social and ecological geographies of regional cattle populations.This paper will analyse how breeding practices and discourses at the Hissar government cattle farm were shaped by the interactions of its Haryana stud bulls with the climates, domestication customs and cattle herds of north India. This will be achieved by firstly, exploring how stud bulls physiologically adapted to ecological conditions across the Punjab and United Provinces. Secondly, we will assess how the miscellaneous genealogies of desi cows, a term used to describe village cattle, hindered the possibility of imposing breed attributes through generational inheritance. To close, we will analyse the impact of “brahmani” bulls upon regional herds, being bulls let loose by Hindus after an ancestor’s death to service village cattle.

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2 - “Brahmani” Bulls, Desi Cows and the Civil Veterinary Department: More-Than-Human Geographies of Animal Breeding in Colonial North India



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