The Vechur cattle had their origin in Vechur, a small place near Vaikom in Kottayam district of south Kerala. Kerala,the south western part of the Indian Peninsula is bordered in the east by the Western Ghats and in the west by the Arabian sea.
Kerala issituated between 76° 23′ and 77° 23′ longitudes and 9° 44’to 10° 18′ latitudes on the northern hemisphere. The state is blessed with an abundant rainfall (290-305 cm). Long spells of dry weather alternates with the monsoons. The monsoons comprise of a south-western (June to August) and a north-eastern (September to November) spell. The climate is hot (23 – 35°C). And it is quite humid (75-82%) due to proximity of backwaters. The luxuriant vegetation in the hot humid tropical climate gives an evergreen panorama to the State.
In Vechur and nearby places water route was the main mode of transport.The movement of the animals of the area was restricted because of the barriers like rivers, rivulets and backwaters which led to a geographic isolation. The heavy rain fall and the hot humid climate of the area led to the natural selection for a small animal. Apart from this, the Vechur bulls with their small size and light weight, yet with strong stature were suitable for ploughing in the marshy paddy fields. Low input requirement for these animals also contributed to this.
The popularity of the Vechur cows lay in the fact that the milk production was relatively higher compared to that of other local cows. The Travancore State Manual of 1940 by T.K.Velu Pillai has a particular mention of Vechur cows in it.
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Page 383…their proportion to the human population and the number maintained per one hundred acres of net sawn area, it was found that the proportion of cattle and buffaloes to the population is very low and that Travancore compares favourably with the British Indian provinces in the matter of cattle maintained per one hundred acres of sown land. It has also been found that the number of cattle is too heavy a stock for the grazing that is available.The cattle in Travancore hardly satisfy the demand. Roughly five to six thousands heads of cattle are imported every year to the State from Tinnevelly, Coimbatore and Karachi for purposes of draught, slaughter and milk. Kumbham to Edavam are the months of maximum import, as the cattle are wanted for the plough during the cultivating season of the main paddy crop.
Breed and size:-Travancore does not possess any special breed of cattle as its own. Authorities are inclined to label the Travancore cattle “Nondescript”.But in common parlance the cattle are devided into different breeds according to the locality to which they belong. Of this, the Vechur breed is noted for its milking capacity. Latterly, attempts at improving the breed by crossbreeding have created a mixed breed of cattle in the State. Recent calves owe their birth to Palirs from Ongole, Kangayam, Montgomery, Sind, etc.
The size of the cattle isextremely diminutive. Messers Ward and Conner describe Travancore cattle as diminutive in size, small of build and poor workers…
Page 734…liverworts or algae and they form the characteristic flora of these rocky beds. The Travancore streams are rich in the genera of the podostemonaceae. A number of forms has been collected and identified and all the chief genera occur here.Tigers, elephants, bisons, beers, deer, monkeys and wild buffaloes are seen in the forest regions of this Division. The forests abound in big game. Cows, buffaloes, bullocks, sheep and goats are among the chief Fauna domestic animals. A good species of cows, very small in size, but of good milk-yield, are common in Vechur, a village in Vaikam taluk.
Elephants, Indian bison or gaur, the sambur or barking deer, the Indian cherverton or maise-deer, the Nilgiri wild goat or ibex, as it is locally called, the wild boar, the Indian sloth beer, and wild boar, tiger, the panther or leopard of both the spotted and black varieties are found in the forests of this Division. Numerous other species of fauna of a less important nature are also found. And in addition, there is a great variety of birds. Birds like eagles, wild fowls and pea-fowls are also seen. Big fishes are found in the Periyar lake. The Vempanad lake affords much scope for fishing industry. Horses, mules, cows and buffaloes are the domestic animals of this Division.
The Kottayam Division enjoys a heavy rainfall. The normal rainfall Climate and in inches and the normals of rainy days rainfall in the division except the High Ranges from 1107 to 1111 are…
The extremely small size of cows, low feed requirement, good adaptation and high disease resistance are the traits very much favoured by the farmers. The milk of Vechur cows was considered having high medicinal value and was extensively used in the Ayurvedic system of medicine. According to Mr. K.V.N.Namboothiripad, septuagenarian of the place, the erstwhile Maharaja of Travancore dynasty His Highness Balarama Varma was advised by the Chief Palace Physician to take the milk of a black Vechur cow renowned for its medicinal properties. The Maharaja’s men came all the way to Vechur and took two black cows.The culture, the way of life, occupation and outlook on cow-keeping so as to get milk just enough for home consumption were in favour of a small animal.
Vechur cows become endangered:
Massive cross breeding policy adopted by the Government from 1950s transformed the local animals to crossbreds in the state. Local bulls were not permitted to be retained as per Kerala Livestock Act 1961. The Act states that ” No person should keep a bull for breeding if attains a particular age except with license and other terms and conditions unless certified to be castrated”.; The Act covered the entire male cattle that have reached the breeding age, whether they are retained for breeding purpose or not.. (However; even now the number of breeding bulls belonging to the indigenous variety outnumber the crossbred breeding bulls in the State as per census figures.) But bulls dedicated to the temples were exempted from provisions of the Act. Thus the Siva Temple of Vaikom had its role in averting the extinction of the breed.