The British famously identified livestock improvement – improved or “modern” breeds of cattle, sheep, horses and pigs – as a source of national pride. The export of British livestock, and the consequent production of pastoral landscapes centered on animal products for the world market, has been identified as a key feature of British empire, at least in temperate regions. In colonial India, we know that British travelers, officials, and other observers measured landscape and livestock against the ideal of improvement, finding both wanting. But although that certain types of livestock have been the focus of bitter public contention in India since the nineteenth century – in particular, cows – studies of improvement in colonial India have centered on botanical science, rather than animal husbandry. This paper examines cattle “improvement” in colonial India in the period ca. 1880 to 1945. Its point of departure is the All-India Cattle Shows that were initiated after 1937 as part of a highly-publicized Viceregal campaign to improve Indian breeds of cattle. The paper situates this campaign against several decades of self-conscious promotion of a “British” model of livestock improvement by the Government of India, one that called upon Indian landlords and aristocrats to set a model for tenants and cultivators, and undertake breed improvement as a public service. Tracing points of alliance between this model of improvement and Indian elites -- including vocal segments of the Indian public who advocated “cow protection”-- the paper traces the hybrid history of an Indian patriotism of the cow.