Gir Cow



Gir Cattle – Breeding status: Conservation

Country: India

Home or breeding tract: Gir breed (cow/ bull) belongs to Gir Hills and forest of Kathiawar including  Amreli, Bhavnagar, Junagadh, and Rajkot districts of Gujarat.

Other Names: Bhodali, Desan, Gujarati, Gyr, Kathiawari, Sorthi and Surti.


Gir Cow breed is one of the best milkers among the other native breed from India, This breed is named after the Gir Forest geographical origin area of this breed.

Body: Gir bull is More massive and of larger built.

Body color: These cattle are shiny red with white spots.

Skin: Gir cow’s skin is soft, thin and glossy

Head/Forehead: They have a big head with prominent bulging shield and a long face. The convex forehead of Gir cattle is the most unusual feature of this breed. Their convex forehead acts as a cooling radiator to the brain and pituitary gland.

Gir Cow

Ears: Gir Cow ears are very long and are an excellent fly and insect swatter

Neck: Dark

Dewlap: Big and Thick

Shoulder hump: They have a very large hump

Penis sheath flap: Thick

Horns: The horns of Gir cattle are set well back on their heads and thick at the base. Their horns grow downwards and backward with an upward curve.

Production traits: Gir Cow is one of the best milkers, not as like most of the Indigenous cattle breeds.

Ability as draught purpose:  They are fast trotters but suitable for the heavy draught.

Exhibition of world’s best Top 10 Gir Cow’s

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The Gir cattle breed of India – characteristics and present status

G.K. Gaur, S.N. Kaushik & R.C. Garg


The Gir is a famous milk cattle breed of India. The native tract of the breed is Gir hills and forests of Kathiawar including Junagadh, Bhavnagar, Rajkot and Amreli districts of Gujarat. The breeding tract lies between 20°5’ and 22°6’ north latitude and 70° and 72° east longitude. The total cattle population of Saurashtra region i.e., breeding tract of Gir cattle is 2.5 million and Gir breed accounts for 37 percent of total cattle population in the region. The body of Gir animals is well proportioned. Udder in cows is well developed and round. The body weight at one year of age was 138 kg in males and 136 kg in females. Adult body weight, height at withers, body length and heart girth in cows averaged 313 kg, 120 cm, 125 cm and 160 cm, respectively.

Age at first heat and calving averaged 1 149 and 1 534 day, respectively. Average dry period and inter-calving period were 123 and 423 days, respectively. Heifers received an average 1.07 inseminations for successful conception whereas cows received 1.64 inseminations per conception. Total lactation milk yield averaged 2 063 litres in an average lactation period of 326 days. Average milk yield in 300 days was 1 930 litres. Milk yield per day of calving interval was 4.98 litres. Average fat percentage in the milk ranged between 4.69±0.04 and 4.97±0.02. Gir animals are considered as hardy with low overall mortality (3.63 percent).


The Gir is a famous milk cattle breed of India. The native tract of the breed is Gir hills and forests of Kathiawar including Junagadh, Bhavnagar, Rajkot and Amreli districts of Gujarat. This breed is also known as Bhodali, Desan, Gujarati, Kathiawari, Sorthi and Surti in different parts of the breeding tract. The Gir animals are famous for their tolerance to stress conditions and resistance to various tropical diseases. Bullocks of this breed are used to drag heavy loads on all kinds of soil. Brazil, Mexico, USA and Venezuela have imported these animals where they are being bred successfully. These animals contribute significantly to the total milk production of Gujarat State. This paper presents information on breed characteristics, demographic distribution, morphological characteristics, management practices and reproduction and production parameters of Gir cattle.

Topography and Climate

The breed derives its name from the Gir forest, which is the natural habitat of the breed. The breeding tract lies between 20°5’ and 22°6’ north latitude and 70° and 72° east latitude (Figure 1). The tract is at an altitude of about 400 m above mean sea level ranging from 125 to 600 m. Soil is generally black with scattered tracts of light colours. The climate of the region is tropical. The temperature reaches 40°C (highest) in May and 11°C (lowest) in January. Rainfall ranges from 50 to 100 cm annually. The climate is dry in winter. The relative humidity ranges from 60 to 80 percent during the rainy season (July to September).

Management Practices

The Rabaris, Bharwads, Maldharis, Ahirs and Charans tribes are mainly involved in rearing of Gir cattle. They move with their cattle from one place to another in search for grazing. Sufficient fodder is available in pastures of the breeding tract from July to December, thereafter animals migrate to the adjoining districts. Weaning of the calves (Figures 2 and 3) has not been practised and milking cows, new born calves and bullocks are not sent for grazing in villages. Milking cows and bullocks (Figure 4) are given some amount of concentrate (1 to 3 kg/day), which is prepared from wheat bran, crushed pulses, grain husk, oil cakes, cotton seed, etc. Proper shelter is provided to the animals especially in winter nights. The animals in migration stay in fallow land during the night. Nominal payment (by farmers) is made to the animal owners for their animals to stay in the fields as dung and urine are very precious for the soil fertility. The Gir animals are also kept at different gaushalas (cow barns) in Gujarat State. These animals are maintained on green fodder, concentrates and pasture. Natural mating is practised in the entire breeding tract except on a few farms where artificial insemination takes place. The calving season in Gir cows lasts from July to September.


The total cattle population of the Gujarat State is 6.24 million, which is about 3.13 percent of India’s cattle repository (Dairy India, 1997). The herd size (Figure 5) varies from a few animals (two to five) to relatively larger herds (10 to 20). The size of the migratory herds ranges from 100 to 200. The population of breedable females in the state is 1.78 million including 0.084 million in Amreli, 0.117 million in Bhavnagar, 0.142 million in Rajkot and 0.140 million in Junagadh districts. The total cattle population of Saurashtra region i.e. breeding tract of Gir cattle is 2.5 million and Gir breed accounts for 36.61 percent of total cattle population in the region (Anonymous, 2001).

Physical Characteristics

The coat colour of Gir animals varies from shades of red and white to almost black and white or entire red. Skin colour is dominantly black but in a few animals it is brown. Forehead is prominent, convex and broad like a bony shield. This overhangs eyes in such a way that they appear to be partially closed and the animal shows sloppy appearance. Ears are long and pendulous and folded like a leaf with a notch at the tip. Horns are curved turning back at the tip. They orient downwards and backwards from the base and incline a little upwards and forwards, thereafter. Gir animals have moderately developed dewlap: males have a large and pendulous sheath. The tail is long and whip like; hooves are black and medium-sized; hair is short and glossy; skin is loose and pliable; hipbones are prominent; the body is well proportioned; the udder in cows is well developed and round and teat tips are round.

Table 1. Body weight (kg) at different ages in Gir cattle.

different ages in Gir cattle
N: Number of records, S.E. Standard error of the mean. (Source: PDC Annual Report, 1997-98).

Morphometric Characteristics

Body weights of Gir cattle at different ages are shown in Table 1. Males were heavier than the females at all ages from birth to 12 months of age. Body weight at one year of age was 138 kg in males and 136 kg in females. Kaushik et al. (1980), however, reported lower body weight at birth in Gir cattle. Tripathi et al. (1978), based on 326 Gir cows (Figures 6 and 7), reported average adult body weight as 313.05 kg, average height at withers as 120.4 cm, average body length as 125.14 cm and average heart girth as 160.53 cm. In a study on 72 Gir cows, Qureshi et al. (1980) observed mean udder length, udder width and udder depth as 53.80±0.40, 50.11±0.40 and 13.61±0.39 cm, respectively. In a herd of 240 cows, Tripathi et al. (1982) reported frequency of bowl shaped, rounded and goat like udders as 59.6, 39.5 and 0.90 percent, respectively. The frequency of cylindrical, funnel shaped and bottle shaped teats was 31.5, 15.4 and 3.1 percent for fore teats and 27.5, 21.2 and 1.4 percent for rear teats, respectively. Teat length, diameter and placement averaged 7.28, 2.88 and 3.11 cm, respectively. The distances between front teats and between rear teats averaged 5.57±0.22 and 2.09±0.12 cm, respectively.

Reproductive Performance

Reproductive performance of Gir heifers and cows is presented in Table 2. Heifers received a lesser number of artificial inseminations for successful conception than cows. Service period and calving interval presented in the table are lower than those reported by Ulmek and Patel (1995). Their values were 174.5 days for service period and 461.5 days for calving interval. Singh et al. (1981) observed age at first calving in Gir cows as 52.49 months. Age at first oestrus, gestation length, age at calving, service period, dry period and calving interval in 57 Gir heifers averaged 1 096, 287, 1 367, 317, 271 and 603 days, respectively (Malik and Ghei, 1977).

Production Performance

Production performance in Gir cows is presented in Table 3. Two cows (Lalita and Laxmi) produced more than 2 800 litre of milk in a lactation of 300 days. Nanavati and Qureshi (1996) observed 10±0.10 kg average peak yield and 47±0.83 days to attain the peak in 211 Gir cows. Ulmek and Patel (1993a) reported average lactation and 300 days milk yield in 378 Gir cows as 1 775 and 1 449 kg, respectively. They also observed that milk yield was significantly affected by parity and season of calving. Ulmek and Patel (1993b) reported milk yield per day of age at first calving, per day of first calving interval and per day of first lactation length as 1.10±0.04, 4.20±0.14 and 5.54±0.12 kg, respectively. Malik and Ghei (1977) in a study on 57 Gir Hiefers observed 351 days lactation length and 1 191 kg lactation milk yield. Average fat percentage in the milk of Gir cows ranged between 4.69±0.04 and 4.97±0.02.

Table 2. Reproductive performance of Gir cows.

Reproductive performance of Gir cows
Reproductive performance of Gir cows

Table 3. Production performance of Gir cows.

N: Number of records, S.E. Standard error of the mean. (Source: PDC Annual Report, 1997-98).

Disease Pattern/Survivability

Gir animals are considered as hardy with low overall mortality. Mortality pattern is presented in Table 4. Highest mortality was observed from birth to one month of age. Female calves had higher mortality than males during this stage. Mortality was very marginal after one year of age. Odedra (1979) has also reported similar calf mortality in Gir animals. Broncho-Pneumonia and Pneumo-Enteritis were the major causes of mortality in calves. A few cases of reproductive disorders i.e. dystokia, abortion, retention of placenta, prolaps have also been noticed in females.

Table 4. Mortality pattern in Gir herd.

Mortality pattern in Gir herd

Conservation and Genetic Improvement Programmes

This breed has been crossed with exotic breeds in All India Coordinated Research Project (Cattle) for the genetic improvement. The major objective of this mega project was to develop a crossbred strain suitable for the existing environmental conditions. The Animal Husbandry Department initiated a genetic improvement programme for Gir animals. Young Gir bulls are being progeny tested under this programme.

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) started two projects on Gir cattle, one is executed by the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR) for the conservation of breed and another by the Project Directorate on Cattle (PDC) for genetic improvement. The objectives of the former project are to characterise the breed in terms of qualitative and quantitative traits, to study the molecular genetic characteristics of the breed, develop breed descriptors and conserve the germplasm of elite/unique animals. The latter project aims to undertake testing and selection of bulls for the genetic improvement and to provide superior germplasm for utilisation in other development programmes.


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