Wool-pile carpets in colonial Madras and the lost Saidapet woolly-sheep breed in Madras of the 1870s

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The Agricultural School in Saidapet (13°02°N; 80°22°E), slightly southwest of Madras CBD was the first formally set-up agricultural training institution in India, established on the banks of Adayar River in 1865. This institution grew into a college offering three-year training in agriculture in 1875 and functioned until 1906, when it was shifted to Coimbatore for various political reasons. Its founding superintendent William Robertson and his deputy Charles Benson experimented with many agricultural commodities from 1865. One was the development of a new sheep breed - the Saidapet breed (Saidapet spelt also as Sydapet, Sydapett). John Augustus Voelcker in a report refers to the Saidapet sheep breed, although the post-1900 literature makes no mention of it. The experiments of Robertson-Benson on sheep breeding commenced in 1869 utilizing the 'Mysore', 'Coimbatore', 'Patna', 'Nellore', and 'Madras' germplasms available in Madras. Many trials were made, of which one was successful, resulting in the Saidapet breed. The strengths of this breed were that the progeny bore wool that could be used in making carpets, and the breed also supplied meat for human consumption. Within a decade or two of production, this breed had disappeared: reasons are unclear. Carpet-weaving occurred pre-eminently in the Eluru-Masulipatnam-Warangal stretch of the erstwhile Madras Presidency (now in Andhra Pradesh and Telengana). This note chronicles the evolution of wool-pile carpet production that flourished more as a cottage industry in the Eluru-Masulipatnam- Warangal region, thus providing a contextual backdrop for the interest in producing new breeds of woolly sheep in southern India.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2201-2204
Number of pages4
JournalCurrent Science
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 01 May 2018


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