India is considered as one of the mega biodiversity centers of the world, which is reflected among livestock species also. Livestock rearing is one of the most important economic activities in the rural areas of the country providing supplementary income for most of the families dependent on agriculture. Apart from providing a subsidiary income to the families, rearing of livestock such as cattle, buffaloes, sheep, goats, pigs, poultry, etc. is a source of protein supplement to the family members of the household in the form of milk, eggs, and meat. Total 40 breeds of cattle, 13 buffalo, 42 of sheep, 26 of goat, 9 of camel, 6 of horses, 6 of the pig, 1 of a donkey and 17 breeds of chicken are documented and registered, besides the majority of livestock species not yet classified as descript breeds. These livestock species are adapted to their distinct agro-climatic conditions and not only play an important role in milk production but also contribute to meat and wool production, draft power and dung for fuel and manure (Ranjhan and Pathak, 1978).
Buffalo is the major livestock species in India contributing more than 50% to country’s milk production and also major meat-producing animal. The buffalo population has increased from 105.3 million to 108.7 million showing a growth of 3.19% (19th Livestock census, 2012) with 13 registered breeds and many populations yet to be classified as breeds. All these breeds are well adapted to harsh climatic condition, tolerance to tropical diseases and survival under meager feeding and poor management practices of an extensive system of rearing. Two main subtypes of buffaloes (Bubalus) are reported to be present in India – the riverine and the swamp types. Both types are distinguished on the basis of their phenotypes as well as chromosomal constitution also being different. Swamp type buffaloes with 2n chromosomes number of 48 are confined to the states of North-east, whereas buffaloes in rest of the country are reported to be riverine types with (2n) 50 chromosomes (Mishra et al., 2010). These buffalo populations are mostly being reared under extensive system having the ability to resist infectious diseases effectively.
In the Odisha state of India, different types of breeds/populations of buffalo like Chilika, Kalahandi, Sambalpuri, Paralakhemundi, and Manda are reported, having a significant contribution to milk and draft power. Two of the populations, Chilika and Kalahandi are among the 13 registered breeds of the country. Cytogenetic analysis of Chilika buffalo is reported to be typical riverine type and distribution around the Chilika Lake in Odisha (Mishra et al., 2009). This buffalo breed is not only popular in yielding handful amount of milk in a low input system of rearing but also has proven its worth in agricultural operations in the native tract.
Prem Kumar is a Ph.D. scholar at Department of Biotechnology, JNU.