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| Regions > Indomalaya > Gaur

Gaur

Location at the Zoo: Indomalaya



Region:

Indomalaya

Class:

Mammalia

Order:

Artiodactyla

Family:

Bovidae

Genus:

Bos

Scientific Name:

Bos gaurus

Description

: This is the largest species of wild cattle, bigger than the Cape buffalo, water buffalo, and bison. A large male will stand over two metres at the shoulder and weigh up to 1000 kg or more. Males are about 25% bigger than females. Both sexes have strong curved horns, the males' are more spectacular. The colour of the horns is a shade of pale green or yellow throughout the greater part of the length, but the tips are black. They have a high convex ridge on the forehead between the horns, which bends forward, causing a deep hollow in the profile of the upper part of the head. They have a raised hump-like ridge on the back, formed by extensions of the dorsal vertebral spine, which ends midway between the shoulder and the tail. The ears are large. The glossy coat varies in colour from dark reddish-brown to almost blackish brown with white stockings on the lower parts of the legs. The upper part of the head, from above the eyes to the nape of the neck is ashy grey; the muzzle is pale coloured. Cows and young bulls are paler and in some instances have a rufous tinge. Gaurs are very muscular; they are the heaviest and most powerful of all wild cattle. They live in herds of five and six, up to twenty or, occasionally, more. Old bulls often live alone and younger ones sometimes form bachelor groups. Gaur herds are led by an older adult. Males typically weigh 1000 - 1500kg and females between 700 - 1000kg. They stand up to 2.2m at the shoulder.

Distribution

: India Peninsula, Myanmar, and the Malay Peninsula.

Habitat

: Tropical grasslands and in rocky forested hills with grassy table lands at the summits. They range at altitudes of 450 - 1,800 metres. During the dry season herds congregate and remain in small areas dispersing into the hills with the arrival of the monsoon season.

Food

: Grass is the staple food, but they are especially fond of young bamboo shoots and fruit.

Reproduction and Development

: Breeding takes place year-round, but typically peaks during the cold months; this is the dry season in tropical areas. Unattached males search widely for receptive females by making a mating call of clear, resonant tones which may carry for more than 1.6 km. Size is a major factor in determining dominance, but no serious fighting takes place. Cows have a gestation period of 270-280 days. A single calf is born in August or September when the monsoon rains have produced new grass and herbage. Calves nurse for about nine months. They become pubescent in the second or third year. The average lifespan of a gaur is 30 years.

Adaptations

: In the rainy season, gaurs move from moist forest valleys to higher and drier elevations where they escape millions of flies and mosquitoes. They are seen to have a beneficial association with red jungle-fowl which catch insects around the gaur’s feet, whilst the gaur takes advantage of the extreme alertness of the fowl in raising alarm. The fowl has also been known to clean wounds of maggots and dead tissue at the base of the gaur’s horns. The herds feed and drink during the early morning and late evening, resting in the thick forest during the heat of the day. They need water for drinking and bathing, but do not wallow. The gaur is the only wild ox that does not attack frontally, but approaches its opponent broadside, lowering its head and hind quarters and striking from the side with its horns. In spite of their huge size, they can move quickly. Their alarm-call is described as a “whistling-snort”.

Threats to Survival

: In many areas of India domestic cattle are driven into the forest to graze, they can infect gaur herds with hoof and mouth disease as well as other diseases. Both population and habitat are diminishing. They are now only found in scattered herds in remote areas or in the parks and preserves. Habitat is cleared for land development and construction of water reservoirs. They are harassed by hunters. The gaur is protected by law in all countries where it is found, however enforcement has been inadequate or impossible. Because of their size and strength and, since the Indian tiger is now almost extinct, gaurs have few predators other than humans.

Status

: IUCN: Vulnerable; CITES: Appendix l

Zoo Diet

: Herbivore cubes, sweet feed, timothy hay.


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