Mithun (Bos frontalis), the domesticated free-range bovine species, is an important component of the livestock production system of North-Eastern hilly region of India. This unique bovine species is believed to be domesticted more than 8000 years ago. Mithun is the domesticated from of wild gaur. At present, both mithun and gaur are taxonomically grouped into the species Bos frontalis. This animal is mainly available in the four North-Eastern hilly states Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur. Besides, it is also avilable in many pockets of the neighbouring countries. According to 18th livestock census of India in 2007, total mithun population of India is 2,64,279. In the previous livestock census in 2003, some of the hybrids of Yak and local zebu cattle were wrongly recorded as Mithun, but was corrected later on by consultation with the Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir. Presently, out of the total population of mithun in India, Arunachal Pradesh is home to 82.84% ( 2,18,931) of mithun followed by 12.63% (33,385) in Nagaland, 3.79% (10,024) in Manipur and 0.73% (1,939) in Mizoram.
Currently, farmers rear this animal under free-grazing system in forests. This animal is well adopted with humid climate and hilly terrain at an elevation of 300 to 3000 m above mean sea level. Mithun is an extremely efficient grazer on steep hilly slopes compared to other animals. Mithun is primarily reared as meat animal and highly preferred among the tribal people of North-Eastern region of India. Neverthless, mithun is also used as a ceremonial animal and plays important role in economical, social and cultural life of the tribal people of North-Eastern India. Like buffalo, mithun milk contains high protein and fat. Evidences are there that mithun-cattle hybrids are used as milk animal in some pockets of North-Eastern India and Bhutan. Therefore, this species may also be explored as a supplementary component of the milk production system in the region. Besides, it is now established that superior quality leather can be obtained from mithun skin. However, the optimum production potentiality of this animal has not been explored fully till date and in coming days major efforts are needed to develop a scientific and sustainable mithun production system for the people of the North-Eastern hilly region.
National Research Centre on Mithun was established by Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in the year 1988 in the state of Nagaland. The institute was functioning from shillong, Meghalaya during the period of 1988 to 1994. The institue was shifted to Porba in the year 1994 and started functioning. However, due to remoteness of the area with little facilities, the institute was shifted to Jharnapani and accommodated in the campus of ICAR research complex, Nagaland. During the period 1988 to 1997 the institute was functioning with a skeleton stuff and could not achieve much progress. The institute could achieve a remarkable progress during the period 2000 to 2007 and its activities have been flourished by many folds and in many directions. At present. the institute is functioning from its main centre at Jharnapani with excellent infrastuctural facilities and from the Porba station with the institute KVK.