The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Zebus (Bos taurus) are known as 'humped cattle' and are better-adapted to tropical environments than other domestic cattle. Their scientific name was originally Bos indicus, but this name is now deemed invalid by ITIS, who classify the zebu under Bos taurus along with all other domestic cattle. Zebus are descendants of aurochs domesticated in India about 10,000 years ago. The ancient species of Bos nomadicus cattle or even gaur may have contributed to the development of the zebus. There are some 75 known breeds, split about evenly between African breeds and South Asian ones. The major Zebu cattle breeds of the world include Gyr , Guzerat , Indu-Brazilian , Nellore , Ongole and Brahman.

Zebu have humps, large dewlaps and ears. They have more sweat glands than European cattle (Bos taurus). They handle hot, humid climates well and have pest resistances not seen in European cattle.

Because they were better adapted to hot environments, zebus were imported to Africa for thousands of years and interbred with native cattle there. Genetic analysis of African cattle has found higher concentrations of zebu genes all along the east coast of Africa, and especially pure cattle on the island of Madagascar, implying that the method of dispersal was cattle transported by ship. Partial resistance to rinderpest led to another increase in the frequency of zebus in Africa.

Zebu were imported into Brazil in the early twentieth century and crossbred to Charolais cattle, a European breed. The resulting breed, which consists of 5/8 Charolais and 3/8 Zebu is called the Chanchim. It has a better meat quality than the zebu but better heat resistance than European cattle. The zebu breeds used were primarily Indubrazil with some Nelore and Guzera.

Draft zebu in Mumbai, India
Draft zebu in Mumbai, India

Numerous breeds are complex mixtures of the zebu and other Bos taurus varieties, and some also have yak, gaur or banteng genetics. While zebu are the common cattle in much of Asia, Japanese, Korean and Mongolian cattle are closer related to the European type.

Bulls from the Brahman breed of zebu are often used in for bullriding in rodeo.

The Zebu were also mentioned in the VeggieTales silly song, "The Song of the Cebu".

Last updated: 05-02-2005 19:32:46