All Nepali cattle, except a very few in the Northern Mountains used for breeding cattle – yak hybrids, are humped zebu types. Cattle are the most numerous quadruped domestic animal. A major function – revered or maligned depending on the point of view – is the `holy’ cow. Holy animals are usually bulls (branded with the trident of Lord Shiva) as cows are often conveniently assumed as lost and quickly taken into private custody. In Kathmandu, holy bulls have been given breed status (Epstein, 1977) but this is incorrect as many are various types of B. taurus – B. indicus crosses. In addition to religious and social functions, cattle produce milk and power, especially in the Hills. Several breeds are recognized. A few gaurs (Bibos gaurus) – the largest of the world’s true wild cattle – still survive in the lower Hills in remote areas.

Types and breeds:

  • Terai Zebu: Cattle in the Terai are similar to their counterparts in India. Recognized breeds include Ponwar, Kherigarth and Bachar. All of these show Haryana inuence and, indeed, Bachaur animals are often indistinguishable from Haryana. The Haryana with its white coat and black skin is the most widespread breed in the Terai and is used mainly as a fast draught and cart animal.
  • Hill Zebu: Nepalese Hill cattle are similar to Indian Hill types (Mason, 1988). They are usually black (Epstein, 1977) and are tiny animals, hardly more than 100 cm at the withers, and have small or no (especially females) humps. Large bulls weigh 200 kg. Cows hardly weigh more than 120 kg and produce little milk, but they are used to produce oxen, many of which are so stunted as to weigh little more than their dams and produce little power.
  • Achham and Kirko: The Achham of west Nepal is a dwarf zebu that is even smaller than the Hill zebu. The colour is usually light brown. Bulls are usually horned whereas cows may be polled. The Kirko is a humpless breed from Tibet that is used in Nepal for crossing with yak.

Research, development and conservation.

There has been little true research on cattle. Official policy is to upgrade and replace native by “improved” breeds. Natural service and AI are used but, except in small pockets, there has been no more successful than for buffalo. Jersey and Holstein Friesians are the main exotic breeds, with most recent imports being from India. Semen of these, and of Ayrshire and Brown Swiss, is nominally available for AI. One improvement program in vogue, of mixed but usually limited success, is allocation of a bull to a farmers’ group. A major problem is a cost (in spite of occasional Government subsidy) to a small farmer with limited feed resources. This is compounded by the reluctance of other farmers to pay an economic price for the service fee. Development projects often provide free or subsidized exotic cattle in urban milk catchment areas, but there is little indication of long-term sustainability following the termination of the projects in question.


Yaks are found in limited areas and small numbers above 3500 m close to the Tibet border. Population estimates are unreliable because of remoteness and the confusion between yaks and hybrids, but yak is probably fewer now than previously since much Tibet – Nepal trade has been stopped or has become motorized. Opportunities for Sherpas in tourism and other economic activities have also contributed to reduced numbers.

Yaks are transport and milk animals. Orthodox Buddhists are forbidden to kill animals, but there is no prohibition on meat and it is said that deaths due to mysterious causes are not uncommon. Meat is high in protein (21.0%) and low in fat (1.6%). Milk contains 6-15% fat: total solids during the monsoon are 16% but may rise to 25% during the dry period. Milk offtake in unimproved animals is about 130 kg, and this is traditionally used to make butter for mixing in tea. The government encourages trade-in milk for cheese manufacture. Hair is a further product of which three types are recognized: coarse (88-210 mm staple length, 70 l fineness); mid-type (52-130 mm, 40 l); and, down (36-41 mm, 28 l). Males yield 2.1 kg of hair per year and females 0.5 kg. Blood is sometimes taken from live animals and used for food (Ullman, 1955).

Types and breeds. There is no real breed distinction among the few pure yaks in Nepal. Chauri(meaning ‘tail’ in Nepali) is a generic term for cattle – yak hybrids but is most commonly used for female offspring. The plethora of terms for various directions and levels of crosses between the species are very confused and differ with dialect and ethnic group. In the past, Bos taurus from Tibet were used for hybridization, but the long-term border closure has resulted in some Bos indicus crosses. There has also been difficulty in importing yaks for breeding pure and for producing hybrids.

Present trend of cattle production

The production of cattle in Nepal has increased from 7,090,714 in 2008 to 7,347,487 in 2016.

The production of milk and milk products also have been increasing over the decades.

Table 1:  Table showing Population and milk production of cattle in Nepal

Date Population Milking cow Milk Production Mt.
2007/08 7,090,714 915,411 1,388,730
2008/09 7,175,198 932,876 1,445,419
2009/10 7,199,260 954,680 1,495,897
2010/11 7,226,050 974,122 1,556,510
2011/12 7,244,944 998,963 1,622,751
2012/13 7,274,022 1,025,591 1,680,812
2013/14 7,243,916 1,024,513 1,700,073
2014/15 7,241,743 1,025,947 1,755,725
2015/16 7,302,808 1,026,135 1,854,247
2016/17 7,347,487 1,029,529 1,911,239
Source: CBS (2018)  


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