Anthropologists do not consider them original inhabitants of hills. They have moved up to the mountains either for wage labour or while doing slash and burn agriculture. Usually, the Irulas have very little link to the other adivasis in the region, except with the Kurumbas. They have a more plains-ward movement and associate with agricultural and trading communities in the adjacent plains around the hills. Hunting, food gathering and agriculture form a distinctive way of making a living, which they now carry out, mainly for commerce.

They usually go in groups into the forest and collect items for sale to traders. Till now, the hunting for small game and eating of roots from the forest is common. They collect honey from the Roch Bee from trees and from the combs of the smaller bee – Apis cerana. They have a more widespread foraging strategy, collecting more volume for trade by covering vast areas. They too have knowledge of various medicinal plants, which they use. However, they hold the Kurumbas in awe for their skill in sorcery and medicine.