Hindus worship cows as a sacred animal and some states have a ban on their slaughter. The country of 1.3 billion is about 81% Hindu and 13% Muslim.
Officer Somya Sambhasivam said police were searching for villagers who fled after the attack on Wednesday in Sarahan, a village in Himachal Pradesh state. The area is about 160 miles (260km) north of Delhi.
A mob chased the truck loaded with five cows and 10 bulls and attacked the five occupants of the vehicle, Sambhasivam said. They hid in the forest until police found them and took them to a hospital, where one of them died, she said.
Police arrested the four survivors for alleged cruelty toward the animals, who were injured while being transported, Sambhasivam added.
Police were investigating whether the assailants belonged to a Hindu hardline group. The Press Trust of India said the victims were all Muslims from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh state.
Violence by Hindu fringe groups has increased since Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party came to power last year.