Friday, 27 September 2013

Primitive Zebu cow from Sri Lanka

Like I wrote on this post, it is premature to think about which zebu breeds should be considered most reminiscent of their wild type, the Asian aurochs, and which should be used in a breeding-back project for this subspecies. I wrote that I think actually a lot of primitive zebu cattle yet unknown to us might be grazing around in southern Asia, waiting to be discovered and used in effigy breeding. 
A photo provided by Jochen Ackermann, who recently came across a zebu herd on Sri Lanka, confirmed this. It shows a zebu cow with a perfect wild colour and - most notably - almost no "zebu hump". 

Primitive Zebu cow on Sri Lanka, photographed by Jochen Ackermann
This cow is seemingly free of taurine influence, at least there is no indication for it. I don't know the name of the breed or if it even belongs to a specific breed. The other cows in the herd were coloured similar but more "usual" for zebus, with a prominent dilution on the ventral side of the body and/or also white spots. The bulls were elusive, but their hump was considerably larger. Indeed there seems to be a trend for the hump to be sexually dimorphic in more primitive zebus in Asia, judging from other photos I have seen. A herd of zebu-gray cattle hybrids at the zoo of Haag, Austria, also had bulls displaying a zebu hump but cows virtually lacking it. Perhaps the size of this appendage is related to the testosterone level. I still think it is a domestic feature and effigy breeding should try to reduce it as much as possible, and cows like that above certainly would be very helpful. But also her perfect wild type colour, the long legs and snout make me optimistic for effigy breeding with zebu. Unlike the case of the European aurochs, it might not be possible to reconstruct the phenotype of the Indian aurochs completely because zebus are more phenotypically derived, but achieving zebus with wild type colour, small humps, long legs and skulls and large, aurochs-like horns is absolutely possible, and all the rest could be done by mother nature later on. I hope that some suited Indian wildlife reserves will have such "wild zebus" one day. 


  1. Greetings Daniel, Superb blog!!!! After becoming aware of it after you sent a comment to my blog asking about the Heck cattle pictures I had posted(to respond, I purchased the referenced pictures at a flea market in Dallas, Texas in either 1979 or 1980. That is all I know about them, and you are most welcome to use them if you want.) I come here often to read and learn when ever the "dicey" internet in China where I am currently working permit. The may be a picture of what was commonly called a "sacred cow" when they were initially imported and exhibited in zoo's around the world.


    They are now known as miniature zebu and there are a number of breed associations devoted to breeding them to each associations standards.


    Again, a really fine, informative, and educational blog. Have you done anything on the Mithun cattle? Quite a unique loud colored "Gaur."

    Regards, Wade Burck

    1. Hi Wade,
      thanks for the kind words and information!
      Could you maybe send me the link to your post with the old Heck cattle pictures again? I couldn't find it anymore unfortunately.
      Thanks for the links about the zebus; I have seen a number of miniature zebus with an aurochs-like colour. In fact I have been thinking of doing a drawing of what I think is possible to "rebreed" of the Indian aurochs' optics with modern zebus for some time, but never got to it.
      Regarding domestic gaurs or gayals, I considered doing a blogpost on them too. But I would have to do some research on it and I don't know if that topic is all that extensive.
      Regards, Daniel