Bos indicus

Miniature Zebu

Family

  • Bovidae

Lifespan

  • 16-18 years

Size

  • Length: 34-42 inches high at the withers (highest part of the back at the base of the neck)
  • Weight: Cows (females) weigh 300-500 pounds and bulls (males) weigh 400-600

Origin

  • Southern Asia and IndiaMiniature Zebu

Habitat

  • Deserts and forests

Lifestyle

  • Herbivore

Diet

  • Wild: Fresh and dry grasses and grains
  • Zoo: Timothy hay and grain

Reproduction

  • Zebu reach maturity slowly, and rather late
  • A single offspring is born every year after gestation of 277-290 days
  • Calves are generally 12-20 lbs at birth and are weaned at 50 lbs

Unique Characteristics

  • Zebus have a heavy dewlap (fold of loose skin) and a hump above the withers that is composed of muscle and fat
    • It is actually a functionless, enlarged rhomboid muscle
  • They also have short horns

Special Adaptations

  • They are highly resistant to heat and disease
    • Zebus have built in muscles that allow better twitching of the skin to protect from insect bites
    • They even have a gland beneath the skin that secretes an oily, odorous substance that repels some insects

The Ruminant Way

  • Zebus are ruminants, meaning their digestive system is unique
  • Zebus, and other cattle, have a 4 chambered stomach for digesting food
    • The first three chambers have bacteria that help break down tough plant matter 
    • In the second chamber, the food forms a ball called ‘cud’, which is then chewed again
    • When swallowed again, it passes through the third and fourth chambers
    • This process allows them to absorb maximum nutrients from their food

Zebu &Humans

  • Zebu are the world’s oldest domesticated cattle, dating back to 3000 B.C., and were first introduced to the U.S. in 1849
  • They have fair to poor milk and meat production, but are excellent draft animals
    • This was their original purpose in the cotton plantations of the south
  • In India, the Hindus revere the zebu and protect it from harm

Conservation Status Miniature Zebu

  • IUCN: Not Evaluated
  • CITES:Not Listed
  • Although domestic cattle are not threatened, there are 5 Bovid species which are in need of protections:
    • Bos gaurus (Gaur)
      • IUCN: Vulnerable
      • CITES: Appendix I
      • Found in India, China, Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia
    • Bos javanicus (Banteng)
      • IUCN: Endangered
      • CITES: Not Listed
      • Found in Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, and sporadically in Indonesia.  Small population introduced to Australia
    • Bos mutus (Wild Yak)
      • IUCN: Vulnerable
      • CITES: Appendix I
      • Found in China.  Historically found in China and India.  Believed to be extinct in all countries except China
    • Bos sauveli (Grey Ox/Kouprey)
      • IUCN: Critically Endangered
      • CITES: Appendix I
      • Found in Cambodia and southern Laos
    • Bubalus arnee (Indian Water Buffalo)
      • IUCN: Endangered
      • CITES: Appendix III
      • Found in India, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia; all extremely fragmented

Sources

  1. CITES Appendices. Accessed December 2012. www.cites.org
  2. IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. Accessed December 2012. www.iucnredlist.org