Kalmyk cattle

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Kalmyk cattle
Other names
  • Astrakhan (eng.)
  • Kalmytskaya (ru.)
  • Krasno-Astrakhanskaya (ru.)
Country of origin western Mongolia, southern Altai
Distribution central Asia and Southern Russia on dry steppe pastures
Use beef
  • Male: 720 kg
  • Female: 430 kg
  • Male: 135 cm
  • Female: 126 cm
Coat red of various shades; white markings on head, belly and legs; pale muzzle
Horn status horned; short, upward pointing
  • Cattle
  • Bos (primigenius) taurus

Kalmyk cattle (Russian: Калмыцкая, Kalmytskaya) are a beef cattle breed originating in Mongolia and northwestern China and taken to southeastern Russia by migrating Kalmyk tribes in the early 17th century. They are now found in central Asia and Southern Russia on dry steppe pastures.[1]


Kalmyk cattle are red with white markings on the head, belly and legs. They are medium-sized, compact animals with a small head, long face and short horns. There is a well-developed dewlap. Believed to originate from Indian cattle they have a high number of sweat glands, allowing them to endure high summer temperatures, and grow a long thick coat in winter.

Cows weigh around 420 to 500 kg and bulls 750 to 850 kg.

The Russian cattle expert A.V. Cherekayev wrote about the Kalmyk breed in his book "Beef cattle raising: breeds, techniques, herd managing" (Moscow, 2010):

"For a long time this breed was considered an aboriginal cattle, which, as well as Kyrgyz cattle was in need of further enhancement.

However deeper research showed that the Kalmyk cattle is a quite modern and highly productive breed, which has its own distinctive structure embedded into the breed’s array. It is a breed that possesses a set of valuable qualities that no other breed in the world has. Therefore, the decision was made to bring the Kalmyk breed into accordance with modern requirements.

The pedigree work on Kalmyk cattle was at one time headed by two scientists from Orenburg Research Institute of beef cattle breeding – A.V. Zarkevitch and G.S. Azarov.

In relatively short time they revealed a number of highly productive related groups of animals and unified them into branches and families, studied and developed different types within the breed and different areal types. On their proposal a number of pedigree cattle farms (outfit) were founded in Republic of Kalmykia, Rostov and Astrakhan regions.

The Kalmyk breed is typical steppe cattle, well adapted for breeding not only in arid steppes, but also in semidesert and even desert conditions.

Having strong and hard frame and conformation, as early as on the fourth or fifth day after birth, Kalmyk breed calves are able to walk many kilometers a day through dry steppe at 30-40 °C in search of feed and water. The Kalmyk breed has no equals among other cattle breeds in terms of robustness, hardiness, strength of the frame and conformation. Therefore, the technique for breeding it can be even more yielding, more simple and cheaper than for other beef cattle breeds. The Kalmyk breed is represented by quite large animals. Live weight of cows is around 500 kilograms, bulls – 700-800 kilograms. Cows have excellent maternal qualities. They never have calving problems. The cows will never allow any predators, including wolves or even unfamiliar people to approach not only the calves but also the herd itself. In harsh steppe conditions they raise their calves up to 180-200 kilograms by the age of 6–8 months.

Kalmyk cattle have its own secure, nowadays largely unoccupied niche – vast Russian steppes in the East and the West of the country. They can be quickly and successfully utilized by the use of Kalmyk cattle and high-quality beef can be produced there.


The beef, produced by the Kalmyk breed, has extraordinary taste qualities, especially for cooking bouillon. Many researchers have noted insufficient muscling on the rear part of the carcass of the Kalmyk breed animals. It is due to the animals’ conditions of living: they have to walk tens of kilometers a day in search of water and feed. Numerous researches in the field of crossbreeding the Kalmyk cattle with Hereford, Angus, Shorthorn and other breeds of beef and dairy cattle have not brought any significant results neither in the past nor in the present. The crossbreeding only led to diminishing in adaptability to extreme environmental factors. Therefore, the most effective way to breed Kalmyk cattle is pure-breeding, and the best environment for it is steppes.

Pedigree farms[edit]

The Zimovniki stud farm in Rostov region still remains the best pedigree farm (outfit) breeding Kalmyk cattle. The pedigree herd was formed there by A.V. Zarkevich as far back as in the prewar period.

In 2009 the owners of the RusBusinessInter firm, energetic entrepreneurs Shuchkin V.V and an Indian citizen Mataru Raju, founded a large Kalmyk breed pedigree farm in Borsky and Kinel-Cherkassky counties of Samara region. The farm’s herd was based on pedigree cattle bought in Republic of Kalmykia. However the most important thing wasn’t that they brought beef cattle there, but that they organized beef cattle breeding there and after having implemented a special resource-saving technique started mastering the science of herd managing. There is no such beef cattle-breeding outfit anywhere else in Russia.

The Kalmyk breed is one of the most ancient cattle breeds in the world. Probably, this breed inhabited the Russian steppes during the Mongol invasion.


The famous historian of Genghis Khan Erendzhen Khara-Davan wrote in his book “Genghis Khan” (author edition, Belgrade 1925) that even at the time of birth of the great Mongolian commander Genghis Khan (1155 or 1162 AD), Mongols, apart from hunting, were engaged in migratory cattle breeding, constantly moving through the steppes in search of pastures for their numerous cattle herds. As they advanced, already as conquerors, to the North and West, to colonize the new lands Mongol armies brought with them civilians with their nomadic tents and belongings, including horses and beef cattle.

Above mentioned Erendzhen Khara-Davan, explaining the reason why Batu Khan (Genghis Khan’s grandchild) stopped the advance of his armies 200 kilometers from Novgorod and decided not to seize the city, wrote that the succulent grass of the outskirts of Novgorod and Pskov was unsuitable for feeding the steppe animals, including horses and cattle. It would have led to inevitable loss of cattle. The Genghis Khan’s grandson knew that, but for some reason our scientists don’t take it into consideration. For many years they have been trying to promote breeding Kalmyk cattle in woodlands, in the North or even in the mountains.