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Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 16:55 EDT

Gaur

The ‘Gaur’ (pronounced “GOWr”)-(Malayalam kattupothu; Bos gaurus, previously Bibos gauris) is a large, dark-coated ox of the hilly areas of South Asia and Southeast Asia, which may be found wild or domesticated. The species is found primarily in India. It is also called the seladang or Indian bison, which is technically incorrect. Wild life experts as the largest of all wild cattle’s have recognized the gaur, which is bigger even than Asian wild Water Buffalo and American Bison. A typical black bull gaur averages 1 ton in weight.

Subspecies

  • Bos gaurus laosiensis (Myanmar to China)
  • Bos gaurus gaurus (India, Nepal) also called “Indian bison”
  • Bos gaurus readei
  • Bos gaurus hubbacki (Thailand, Malaysia)
  • Bos gaurus frontalis, domestic gaur, probably a gaur-cattle hybrid breed

The wild group and the domesticated group are sometimes considered separate species.

When wild Bos gaurus and the domestic Bos frontalis are considered to belong to the same species the older name Bos frontalis is used, according to the rules of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). However, in 2003, the ICZN “conserved the usage of 17 specific names based on wild species, which are pre-dated by or contemporary with those based on domestic forms”, confirming Bos gaurus for the Gaur.

General characteristics

Gaur are said to look like the front of a water buffalo with the back of a domestic cow. They are the largest and most powerful of all wild cattle’s. Males have a highly muscular body, with a distinctive dorsal ridge and a large dewlap, forming a very powerful appearance. Females are substantially smaller, and their dorsal ridge and dewlaps are less developed.

The body Length of the Gaur is 8.3-11 ft. / 250-330 cm. Shoulder Height ranges from 5.6-7.2 ft. / 170-220 cm on average. The tail Length is 28-40 in. / 70-100 cm while the weight of the males are often 2200 – 3300 lb /1000 – 1500 kg , females 1540 – 2200 lb. 700 – 1000 kg. Gaurs are huge animals. They are as heavy as African black rhinos and are the only wild bovid to exceed a shoulder height of 7 feet (2.1 m). Size varies by region. In India, the largest breed of gaur is found in the southern forests, while those in the north are smaller.

The dark brown coat is short and dense, while the lower legs are white to tan in color. There is loose skin under the chin, which extends between the front legs. There is a shoulder hump, especially pronounced in adult males. The horns are found in both sexes, and grow from the sides of the head, curving upwards. Yellow at the base and turning black at the tips, they grow to a length of 32 inches / 80 cm. A bulging grey-tan ridge connects the horns on the forehead.

Ecology and behavior

In the wild, gaurs live in small herds of up to 40 individuals and graze on grasses, shoots and fruits. They fall prey only to tigers. Tigers are one of the only predators, other than humans, who can kill a full grown adult.

A family group consists of small mixed herds of 2-40 individuals. A single adult male leads gaur herds. Adult males may be solitary. During the peak of the breeding season, unattached males wander widely in search of receptive females. No serious fighting between males has been recorded, with size being the major factor in determining dominance. Gaurs have also been known to make a whistling snort as an alarm call, and a low, cow-like moo.

The gaur belongs to the wild oxen family, which includes wild water buffaloes. Unlike its aggressive cousin, the gaur is very timid and shy, and often shuns humans and others. When alarmed, gaurs crash into the jungle at a surprising speed. But a gaur does not bluff when it charges. When wounded or angry, because of their huge size and power gaurs become quite dangerous and yield to nothing. Even a tiger would avoid taking on such an animal. A fight has been reported between a male Indian rhino and a bull gaur [citation needed], reflecting the strength and courage of the gaur.

Gaur