Economics of Animal Rearing: Mithun

The mithun (Bos frontalis) is an important bovine animal also known as “cattle of the mountains”. It is endemic to the hilly region of North East India and also found in  few areas of China, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Bhutan. According to the 2007 livestock census, Mithun population in India is 2.64 lakh, out of which 82% have been found in Arunachal Pradesh alone.

Important Notes

Is Mithun a Milch animal?

Mithun is not classified as a milch animal in Livestock census but it gives milk. The agricultural census refers to the population of Cattle, Buffalo, Mithun and Yak under bovine population. Of this, only Cows and Buffaloes are put together in milch animals. However, it does not mean that Mithun does not provide milk. The milk of Mithun is less in quantity but is dense and nutritious as compared to cow or buffalo milk. Due to its high protein and fat, the milk is used for preparing curd, ghee, cheese and sweets.

The tribal communities of North East India rear mithun primarily for its meat value. Thus, Mithun is a sacrificial animal and its meat is preferred in comparison to other livestock in North East.

How Mithun is related to other cattle taxonomically?

Taxonomically, Mithun and Indian Gaur are same species and both are members of Bovidae family. While Mithun is semi-domesticated form of Gaur; Indian Gaur is wild counterpart. It is not a cow but is distantly related to them. It is generally allowed to graze in the open.

What is social, cultural, religious and economic relevance of Mithun?

Mithun has social, cultural, religious and economic relevance in the life of the tribal communities of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland. While most of the tribal communities of north east India rear mithun, it is a sacred animal for Nyishi community. Possession of mithun determines the social status of a person. Traditionally it is used as a medium of exchange and as the bride price. It is also considered as a source of social security during the times of emergency. However, now the mithun is under threat for various reasons including its present use for commercial purpose than cultural purposes. Due to limitless killing in the marriage ceremonies and during elections, their numbers have considerably reduced. Gradual denudation of the free-range areas along with climate change the mithun is under serious threat in Arunachal Pradesh. Its annual growth rate is 6.5% only. Few years ago, researchers carried out an embryo transfer, leading to the birth of Mohan, the first mithun calf born through this process.

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