Zebu Cow

Elaine Sutton
• Monday, 17 January, 2022
• 7 min read

Zebu are characterized by a fatty hump on their shoulders, a large dewlap, and sometimes drooping ears. They are well adapted to withstanding high temperatures, and are farmed throughout the tropical countries, both as pure zebu and as hybrids with Maurine cattle, the other main type of domestic cattle.

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In 1999, researchers at Texas A&M University successfully cloned a zebu. The scientific name of zebu cattle was originally BOS indices, but they are now more commonly classified within the species BOS Taurus as B. t. indices, together with Maurine cattle (B. t. Taurus) and the extinct ancestor of both of them, the aurochs (B. primigenius).

The Spanish name, Cebu or Cebu, is also present in a few English works. The zebu picture engraved on coin that used in India of circa 20-1 B. C Zebu cattle are thought to be derived from Indian aurochs, sometimes regarded as a subspecies, B. p. nomadic.

Wild Asian aurochs disappeared during the time of the Indus Valley Civilization from its range in the Indus River basin and other parts of the South Asian region possibly due to interbreeding with domestic zebu and resultant fragmentation of wild populations due to loss of habitat. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that all the zebu Y-chromosome haplotypes groups are found in three different lineages: Y3A, the most predominant and cosmopolitan lineage; Y3B, only observed in West Africa; and Y3C, predominant in South and Northeast India.

Archaeological evidence including depictions on pottery and rocks suggests that the species was present in Egypt around 2000 BC and thought to be imported from the Near East or south. The major zebu cattle breeds of the world include Gym, Ranked and Gujarat, Indo-Brazilian, Brahman, SBI Hangar, White Aura, Archie, Cholistani, Hanna, Loan, Ne lore, Angle, Social, Red Sindhi, Butane and Kenny, Barbara, Tharparkar, Kannada, Southern Yellow, Kedah-Kelantan and Local Indian Dairy (LID).

Currently, more than 80% of beef cattle in Brazil (approximately 167,000,000 animals) are either purebred or hybrid Angle Cattle which is originated from Angle region of Andhra Pradesh. The African Santa cattle breeds originated from hybridization of zebu with indigenous African humpless cattle; they include the Afrikaner, Red Fulani, Ankole-Watusi, Born and many other breeds of central and Southern Africa.

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Santa cattle can be distinguished from pure zebu by their having smaller humps located farther forward on the animals. Zebu were imported to Africa over many hundreds of years, and interbred with Maurine cattle there.

Genetic analysis of African cattle has found higher concentrations of zebu genes all along the east coast of Africa, with especially pure cattle on the island of Madagascar, either implying that the method of dispersal was cattle transported by ship or alternatively, the zebu may have reached East Africa via the coastal route (Pakistan, Iran, Southern Arabian coast) much earlier and crossed over to Madagascar. Partial resistance to interest led to another increase in the frequency of zebu in Africa.

Zebu, which can tolerate extreme heat, were imported into Brazil in the early 20th century. Their importation marked a change in cattle ranching in Brazil, where feral cattle had grazed freely on extensive pasturage, and bred without animal husbandry.

Zebu were considered “ecological” since they could graze on natural grasses and their meat was lean and without chemical residues. Zebu crossbred with Charolais cattle, a European Maurine breed.

The resulting breed, 63% Charolais and 37% zebu, is called the Conchie. It has a better meat quality than the zebu and better heat resistance than European cattle.

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Another Charolais cross-breed with Brahmans is called Australian Charbray and is recognized as a breed in some countries. Many breeds are complex mixtures of the zebu and various Maurine types, and some also have yakked, Gaul, or Banting genes.

In Asia, Maurine cattle are only found in the northern regions such as Japan, Korea, and Mongolia, possibly domesticated separately from the other Maurine cattle originating from Europe and Africa). Other species of cattle domesticated in parts of Asia include yak, Gaul, Banting, and water buffalo.

Zebu have humps on the shoulders, large dewlaps, and droopy ears. Compared to Maurine cattle, zebus are well adapted to the hot, dry environment of the tropics.

Zebu are generally mature enough to begin reproducing around 44 months old. This is based on the development of their bodies to withstand the strain of carrying and lactation.

Early reproduction can place too much stress on the body and possibly shorten lifespans. Carrying time of the calf averages at 285 days, but varies depending on the age and nutrition of the mother.

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Draft zebu pulling a cart in Mumbai, India B. t. indices cows commonly have low production of milk. When B. t. indices is crossed with B. t. Taurus, production generally increases.

Retracing the Aurochs: History, Morphology and Ecology of an Extinct Wild Ox. “Legacies of domestication, trade and herder mobility shape extant male zebu cattle diversity in South Asia and Africa”.

^ Wilcox, Robert W. Zebu's Elbows: Cattle Breeding the Environment in Central Brazil, 1890-1960” in Territories, commodities, and knowledge: Latin American Environmental History in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Ed. A Review of a Reproductive Performance of Female BOS Indices (zebu) Cattle.

Making, Sithembile O.; Whit acre, Lindsey K.; Decker, Jared E.; Taylor, Jeremy F.; McNeil, Michael D.; Schultz, Michael M.; van Marle-Köster, Ester; Buchanan, Farsi C.; Makgahlela, Malabo L.; Malware, Azwihangwisi (2016-11-15). Wilcox, Robert W. Zebu's Elbows: Cattle Breeding and the Environment in Central Brazil, 1890-1960” in Territories, commodities, and knowledge: Latin American Environmental History in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Ed.

Wikimedia Commons has media related to BOS Taurus indices. Zebu are used as draft animals, and are farmed as both dairy and beef cattle.

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This breed is actually a subspecies of the domestic cow, and its scientific name is BOS Taurus indices. It is easy to recognize because it has a large hump on its shoulders, and a long flap of skin, known as a “dewlap,” on its chest.

At their largest, Zebu cattle stand up to 3.5 ft. tall at the shoulder, and weigh up to 600 lbs. Because of this selection by breeding, they are smaller than other domestic cattle, have a lower metabolic rate, and have more efficient sweat glands.

Their habitats are primarily tropical forests, jungles, wetlands, and swamps. While there are some feral populations, most of these cattle live under human care on farms and pastures.

Zebus originate in southern Asia, and humans transported them to Africa, India, and the Middle East shortly after. Overall, these cows do not have a “wild” distribution, and humans control their populations and movements.

They are grazers rather than browsers, which means that they feed on grasses rather than browsing for leaves and shrubs. After grazing, the Zebu picks a quiet spot to lie in the shade and chew its cud.

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They are raised primarily for beef and milk, even though their meat is not considered very tasty. Their dung is often used for fuel or fertilizer, and they are also used as draft animals, pulling carts, plows, and other farm equipment.

In some countries, such as Madagascar, Zebus are a sacrificial animal, and they are killed and eaten at occasions such as marriages, funerals and New Year’s Eve. There are some small feral herds, but the vast majority of these animals live in human care.

Even if you do own a farm, it is important to understand everything that goes into their care before choosing any type of pet. Even though they are miniature cattle, an adult bull can weigh up to 600 lbs.

Not all veterinarians work with livestock, and it can cost a lot of money to have a vet come out to your farm to examine your animals. The amount of time spent grazing depends on environmental factors, but is usually 8 – 9 hours per day.

Zebu shows typical social behaviors of domesticated animals, such as group cohesion, dominance, and leadership. A single male breeds with multiple females, and does not participate in the care of the calves.

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