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Ploughing - Kabini.jpg

Subject: Bullock & Plough

Place: Kabini, Karnataka

Year: 2023

Camera: Yashica Mat 124 G

Film: Ilford HP5 Plus

In 1961, draught animals, comprising 90% of bullocks, were engaged in almost 70% of farming activities across the country. Three decades on that number was down to 23.3%.

One reason for this displacement of bullocks was the rapid embrace of mechanization by the farming community of India. Most traditional activities – ploughing, sowing and harvesting – were all now being done by tractors and various time saving implements. 

India’s bullock population dropped by 47% in the period between 1997-2019. It is felt by many that bullocks can still play an active role in agriculture today, particularly in small rural farms. The thinking in official circles is that, with the help of a few practical innovations being developed by numerous Krishi Kendras in many states, it is possible for small farmers to still engage in traditional farming using draught animals.   

Despite this potential it is noticed that a farmer with means will opt to buy a tractor and harvester instead of bullocks. The high cost of maintaining these animals becomes an economic deterrent to many even if they are inclined towards tradition. 

The remote region of our resort on the banks of the Kabini reservoir still offers up these rare sights. Quite a few local farmers here still use bullocks for a variety of purposes including agriculture. Traditional ways of life and the easy availability of fodder keeps such options viable despite changing trends and preferences in their societies. 


A country like India, despite its high-growth developmental models, can find new uses for these draught animals that have always been relied upon for motive power – from hauling cargo and ploughing fields to transporting people. They are now being tried out in small experiments as they haul devices with dynamos to generate enough power for a small household. Could this be a new beginning for a very old member of our civilisation? 

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