Bos frontalis (*)
Gayal. Bos frontalis.
Bos frontalis Lambert, 1804
* Bos gaurus Hamilton Smith, 1827
* Bos frontalis on Mammal Species of the World.
The gaur (pronounced /ˈɡaʊər/) (Bos gaurus, previously Bibos gauris) is a large, dark-coated forest animal of South Asia and Southeast Asia. The largest populations are found today in India. The gaur belongs to the Bovinae subfamily, which also includes bison, domestic cattle, yak and water buffalo. The gaur is the largest species of wild cattle, bigger than the African buffalo, the extinct aurochs (the ancestor of domestic cattle), wild water buffalo or bison. It is also called seladang or, in the context of safari tourism, Indian bison. The domesticated form of the gaur is called gayal or mithun.
The gaur may be found in tropical Asian woodlands interspread with clearings in the following countries:Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia), Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam (IUCN, 2002).
Gaur are said to look like water buffalo at the front and domestic cattle at the back. They are the heaviest and most powerful of all wild cattle, and are among the largest living land animals; only elephants, rhinos and hippos grow larger. Males have highly muscular bodies, with distinctive dorsal ridges and large dewlaps, forming a very powerful appearance. Females are substantially smaller, and their dorsal ridges and dewlaps are less developed. Their dark brown coats are short and dense. There are dewlaps under the chin which extend between the front legs. They have shoulder humps, especially pronounced in adult males.
* Body length: 250–360 centimetres (8–10 ft)
Gaur bull with the typical high dorsal ridge
The gaur has 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. There is a prominent ridge on the back. The ears are very large; the tail only just reaches the hocks, and in old bulls the hair becomes very thin on the back.
In colour, the adult male gaur is dark brown, approaching black in very old individuals; the upper part of the head, from above the eyes to the nape of the neck, is, however, ashy gray, or occasionally dirty white; the muzzle is pale coloured, and the lower part of the legs are pure white or tan. The cows and young bulls are paler, and in some instances have a rufous tinge, which is most marked in individuals inhabiting dry and open districts.
Horns are found in both sexes, and grow from the sides of the head, curving upwards. They are regularly curved throughout their length, and are bent inward and slightly backward at their tips. The colour of the horns is some shade of pale green or yellow throughout the greater part of their length, but the tips are black. They grow to a length of 32–80 centimetres (13–31 in). A bulging grey-tan ridge connects the horns on the forehead. The horns are flattened to a greater or less degree from front to back, more especially at their bases, where they present an elliptical cross-section; this characteristic being more strongly marked in the bulls than in the cows.
The tail is shorter than in the typical oxen, reaching only to the hocks. The animals have a distinct ridge running from the shoulders to the middle of the back; the shoulders may be as much as 12 centimetres (5 in) higher than the rump. This ridge is caused by the great length of the spines of the vertebrae of the fore-part of the trunk as compared with those of the loins. The hair is short, fine and glossy, and the hooves are narrow and pointed.
Gaur have one calf (or occasionally two) after a gestation period of about 275 days (about nine months: a few days less than domestic cattle). Calves are typically weaned after seven to twelve months. Sexual maturity occurs in the gaur's second or third year. Breeding takes place year-round, but typically peaks between December and June. The lifespan of a gaur in captivity is up to thirty years.
Wild gaur feed mainly on grasses, herbs, shrubs and trees, with high preference for leaves. In Goa, finer and fresh grass was preferred to coarse grasses, though Strobilanthes species ixiocephalus and callosus were the most preferred food. Gaur spent 63% of their daily time feeding. Peak feeding activity was observed in the morning between 6:30 and 8:30 am and in the evening between 5:30 and 6:45 pm. During the hottest hours of the day, 1:30 to 3:30 pm, they rest in the shade of big trees.
Gaur graze and browse on a wider variety of plants than any other ungulate species of India, with a preference for the upper portions of plants, such as leaf blades, stems, seeds and flowers of grass species. Food preference varies by season, with more grass and herb species consumed in monsoon than tree species. In winter, no food type is dominant, but in summer, more tree species are eaten than grasses and shrubs.
Gaur consume the bark of teak (Tectona grandis) and cashew (Anacardium occidentale) in the summer season, perhaps due to an insufficiency of green grass in summer. Gaur are also known to feed on the bark of other tree species, including Adina cordifolia , Holarrhena antidysentrica and Wendlandia natoniana. Gaur may debark due to shortage of preferred food, a shortage of minerals and trace elements needed for their nutrition, or for maintaining an optimum fiber/protein ratio for proper digestion of food and better assimilation of nutrients. Gaur may turn to available browse species and fibrous teak bark in summer as green grass and herbaceous resources dry up. High concentrations of calcium (22400 ppm) and phosphorus (400 ppm) have been reported in teak bark, so consumption of teak bark may help animals to satisfy both mineral and other food needs.
Long-term survival and conservation of these herbivores depend on the availability of preferred plant species for food. Hence, protection of the historically preferred habitats used by gaur is a significant factor in conservation biology.
Ecology and behaviour
In January and February, gaur live in small herds of 8 to 11 individuals, one of which is a bull. In April or May, more bulls may join the herd for mating, and individual bulls may move from herd to herd, each mating with many cows. In May or June, they leave the herd and may form herds of bulls only or live alone. Herds wander 2–5 kilometres (1.2–3.1 mi) each day. Each herd has a nonexclusive home range, and sometimes herds may join in groups of 50 or more. The average population density is about 0.6 animals per square kilometre (1.5 animals per square mile), with herds having home ranges of around 80 square kilometres (31 sq mi).
Where gaur have not been disturbed, they are basically diurnal. But where populations have been disturbed by human populations, gaur have become largely nocturnal, rarely seen in the open after eight in the morning. During the dry season, herds congregate and remain in small areas, dispersing into the hills with the arrival of the monsoon. While gaur depend on water for drinking, they do not seem to bathe or wallow.
Due to their formidable size and power, gaur have few natural enemies. leopards, and dhole packs occasionally attack unguarded calves or unhealthy animals, but only the tiger and the saltwater crocodile have been reported to kill a full-grown adult. On the other hand, there are several cases of tigers being killed by gaur. In one instance, a tiger was repeatedly gored and trampled to death by a gaur during a prolonged battle. In another case, a large male tiger carcass was found beside a small broken tree in Nagarahole national park, being fatally struck against the tree by a large bull gaur a few days earlier. When confronted by a tiger, the adult members of a gaur herd often form a circle surrounding the vulnerable young and calves, shielding them from the big cat. A herd of gaur in Malaysia encircled a calf killed by a tiger and prevented it from approaching the carcass; while in Nagarahole, upon sensing a stalking tiger, a herd of gaur walked as a menacing phalanx towards it, forcing the tiger to retreat and abandon the hunt. Gaur are not as aggressive toward humans as wild Asian water buffaloes.
Gaur herds are led by an old adult female (the matriarch). 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. Males make a mating call of clear, resonant tones which may carry for more than 1.6 kilometres (1.0 mi). Gaur have also been known to make a whistling snort as an alarm call, and a low, cow-like moo. In some regions in India where human disturbance is minor, the gaur is very timid and shy. When alarmed, gaur crash into the jungle at a surprising speed. However, in Southeast Asia and south India, where they are used to the presence of humans, gaur are said by locals to be very bold and aggressive. They are frequently known to go into fields and graze alongside domestic cattle, sometimes killing them in fights. Gaur bulls may charge unprovoked, especially during summer, when the heat and parasitic insects make them more short-tempered than usual. To warn other members of its herd of approaching danger, the gaur lets out a high whistle for help.
* Bos gaurus laosiensis (Heude, 1901; Myanmar to China), the southeast Asian gaur, is sometimes also known as Bos gaurus readei (Lydekker, 1903). This is the most endangered gaur subspecies. Nowadays, it is found mainly in Indochina and Thailand. Southeast Asian gaur are now found mainly in small populations in scattered forests in the region. Many of these populations are too small to be genetically viable; moreover, they are isolated from each other due to habitat fragmentation. Together with illegal poaching, this will likely put an end to this subspecies in the not so distant future. Currently the last strongholds of these giants, which contain viable populations for long-term survival are Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve in southern Yunnan, China, Cat Tien National Park in VietNam, and Virachey national park in Cambodia. These forests, however, are under heavy pressure, suffering from the same poaching and illegal logging epidemic common in all other forests in Southeast Asia.
* Bos gaurus gaurus (India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan) is also called Indian bison. This is the most populous subspecies, containing more than 90 percent of the entire gaur population in the world. In 2006, a rare Manjampatti white bison was seen and photographed in Manjampatti Valley by Forest Department staff and was also seen on the nearby mountain downs above Kukkal in Tamil Nadu.
Indian gaur (Bos gaurus gaurus)
* Bos gaurus hubbacki (Thailand, Malaysia). Found in southern Thailand and Malaysia peninsula, it is the smallest subspecies of gaur.
* Bos gaurus frontalis, the domestic gaur, is probably a gaur-cattle hybrid breed.
The wild group and the domesticated group are sometimes considered separate species, with the wild gaur called Bos gaurus, and the domesticated gayal or mithun (mithan) called Bos frontalis Lambert, 1804.
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.
Previously thought to be closer to bison, genetic analysis has found that they are closer to cattle with which they can produce fertile hybrids. They are thought to be most closely related to banteng, and are said to produce fertile hybrids with this species too.
At 7:30 pm on 8 January 2001, the first successful birth of a cloned animal that is a member of an endangered species occurred, a gaur named Noah at Trans Ova Genetics in Sioux Center, Iowa. He was carried and brought successfully to term by a surrogate mother from another more common species, in this case a domestic cow named Bessie. While healthy at birth, Noah died within 48 hours of a common dysentery, likely unrelated to cloning.
The word gaur (Sanskrit: gau) is cognate with the English word "cow".
The gaur is the mascot for Malaysian football team, Perak FA.
Researchers have identified and synthesized a mosquito-deterrent from the gaur (Bos gaurus). One stereoisomer of the 18-carbon acid identified from the gaur appears to act in a different manner than known repellents. It serves as a "distractant", causing avoidance and compulsive grooming behavior in mosquitoes. This represents an unprecedented lead for the future development of mosquito repellents.
The popular energy drink "Red Bull" is made by an Austrian firm under license from a Thailand company who originally invented and marketed it in Southeast Asia. The original name of the drink in Thai is "Gratin Daang" which means "Red Gaur" ("gratin" is "gaur" in Thai).
Source: Wikipedia, Wikispecies: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License