Buffaloes thrive best in the areas of moderate rainfall as they require plenty of water for their daily bath. They live on coarser grass and even then are heavy yielders of milk.
Buffalo species is thought to have originated in India. The present-day Indian buffaloes are the descendants of Bos arni found in north-eastern parts of India, especially Assam and surrounding areas. There are two main types of buffaloes in India—river and swamp types. However, both are called Bubalus bubalis.
Most of the buffaloes in India are river type, though swamp varieties are also found in certain parts of the country, especially in eastern parts. Buffalo is our main milch producing species, and cattle the main milch species to produce the draft bullocks. This is why the contribution of buffaloes to the total milk production is larger than that of cattle. India is the home tract of some of the best buffalo breeds.
The breeding tract is Rohtak, Hisar and Jind in Haryana, and Nabha and Patiala districts in Punjab. The colour of the Murrah is usually jet black with white markings on tail, face and extremities. The average milk yield per lactation is 1,500-2,500 kg. The age of first calving is 45-50 months in villages, but in good herds, it is 36-40 months.
This breed is found in Bhadawari tehsil (Agra district) and Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh, and Gwalior district of Madhya Pradesh. , The body of the Bhadawari breed is usually light or copper coloured which is peculiar to this breed. The average milk production is 800 to 1,000 kg. The bullocks are reputed as good draft animals with heat tolerance.
The breeding tract of this breed is Kachchh, Junagarh and Jamnagar districts of Gujarat. The body is long but not compact. The colour is usually black. The average milk yield is 1,000 to 1,200 kg per lactation. These animals are mostly maintained by traditional breeders called Maldharis, who are nomads. The bullocks are heavy and are used for ploughing and carting.
The breeding tract of this breed is Kaira and Baroda districts of Gujarat. The body is well shaped and medium sized. The colour is black or brown. The peculiarity of the breed is that there are two white collars—one round the jaw and the other at the brisket. The milk yield ranges between 900 and 1,300 kg per lactation. The bullocks are good for light work.
The breeding tract of this breed is Mehsana, Sabar, Kanda and Banaskanta districts of Gujarat state. This is supposed to have evolved out of cross-breeding between Surti and Murrah. The colour is usually black to grey. The milk yield is 1,200-1,500 kg per lactation. The breed is supposed to have good persistency. The bullocks are good for heavy work, but are rather slow.
The breeding tract of this breed is Nagpur, Akola and Amravati districts of Maharashtra. This breed is also called Elitchpuri or Burari. The milk yield is 700-1,200 kg per lactation. The age at first calving is 40-50 months and intercalving period is 450-550 days. The bullocks are good for heavy trotting work, but slow in movement.
The breeding tract of this breed is ‘ Satluj valley in Ferozepur district of Punjab and the Sahiwal district of Pakistan. The colour of the animals is usually black with white markings on forehead, face, muzzle and legs. The milk yield is 1,500-1,850 kg per lactation.
There are a number of other less known breeds such as Toda in Nilgiri, Parlakmedi in Orissa and Pandharpuri and Marathwada in Maharashtra. But their number is very low, and they are only found in isolated pockets. However, they are distinct because of their morphological traits.