Tamil Nadu: Tall order for Umbalacherry after new rules

Farmers and bull owners of Umbalacherry breed rejoiced when pro-jallikkattu protests shook the state and the ban was lifted subsequently.

Published: 14th January 2018 02:03 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th January 2018 09:37 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

NAGAPATTINAM: Farmers and bull owners of Umbalacherry breed rejoiced when pro-jallikkattu protests shook the state and the ban was lifted subsequently. Many people from across the State even started showing interest in buying Umbalacherry bulls. But a recent government rule that allows only bulls that are above four feet in height to take part in Jallikattu has come as a shock for them.

Fully grown Umbalacherry bulls have an average height of 4 feet, and some are slightly shorter. Though Kangeyam and Pulikulam bull breeds are widely used in jallikkattu, after the pro-jallikkattu protests, the Umbalacherry bull breeds also began getting the attention of jallikkattu lovers.

According to J B Janakiranam, president, Umbalacherry Traditional Cattle Breed Growers Association, usually only about 20 bulls sell per year for Jallikkattu, but this year, the number touched 200. Of them, 50 were sold in the last three months.

Janakiraman said: “Ours is a 150-year old breed. There are about four varieties, namely Suriyankaattu Maadu, Vennapillai Maadu, Ganapathiyaan Maadu and Aaattukkaari Maadu. Each has its own character.Vennanpillai and Attukkaari varieties are used in jallikkattu. In order to develop the breed, the TN Government has established a cattle farm at 500 acres in Korkai, near Umbalacherry.

There, around 500 cows and bulls are being protected. In Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam, there are about 70,000 original Umbalacherry cattle with the farmers. Before the jallikkattu protests, Umbalacherry bulls were only used in jallikkattu events conducted in Thanjavur and Pudukottai districts. But after the protests, even people from Madurai, Dindugal, Theni and Namakkal began purchasing the bulls.”

Explaining how it is different from other breeds, Janakiraman,  said, “Our bulls do not have big horns, and are not very tall. But they are very sensitive. The bull tamers would not be able to identify where the Umblacherry would strike from the vaadivaasal. Kangeyam bulls have two-foot long horns and can reach heights of up to 7 feet. Puliyankulam breeds are around six-foot tall and horns grow up to 1.5 feet. But the maximum height of the Umbalacherry variety is around four feet and they have horns that measure around 45 cms.”

He also said three-year-old bulls are highly preferred as they can be trained in a short period of time. A three-year-old bull sells for `45,000. An 8-year-old bull sells for around `65,000, but the government’s decision has poured cold water on sales. “The government should instead place restrictions based on strength and stamina,” he said.     

Speaking to Express, J Pandiyan of Madurai, who purchased a three-year-old bull last March for `45,000, said, “I had trained the bull well. I already have a Kangeyam bull. But the Umbalacherry bull is much more ferocious and intelligent. As my Umblacherry stands 3.72 feet tall, it has been rejected for taking part in the Alanganallur, Avaniyapuram and Balamedu Jallikkatus. Not only myself, many people like me have been affected much.”

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