Zebus and Indian wild cattle


en Anthropozoologica 25-26 - Pages 647-654

Published on 01 June 1998

This article is a part of the thematic issue Proceedings of the 7th ICAZ International Meeting, Constance, September 1994

The zebus represent a special group of domesticated cattle that is characterized by its elongated, very narrow skull, peculiar horn form, cervico-thoracic or thoracic hump, spinae bifidae on certain thoracic vertebrae, drooping rump, and a leggy conformation with long, slender metapodials. As the wild form of zebus, the Indian wild cattle (Bos primigenius namadicus) can be taken into consideration. The area of distribution of namadicus wild cattle extends to the dry parts of India and possibly to Southeast Asia, and their westernmost limits are the Great Salt and Lut Deserts of Iran, particularly their eastern borderlands. Lately, a Chalcolithic-Bronze Age site of Iranian Sistan (Shahr-i Sokhta) produced good evidence of the occurrence and local domestication of Indian wild cattle through characteristic, flattened, keeled horn cores and the presence of domestic zebus by figurines, bifid vertebrae and the relative length and slenderness of distal extremity fragments. Obviously, zebu domestication happened in the Neolithic of the Indian Peninsula as well, the earliest attempt took place by our most recent knowledge in Mehrgarh, Middle Pakistan. Nevertheless, in India, taurine and humped cattle coexisted very well, though the swift-legged zebus had an advance as draught animals of peasant households. Zebus reached Mesopotamia in the 5th millennium be and Africa through southern Arabia and the Horn of Africa in the early 2nd millennium bc, and a little later via the Levant as well. They arrived in Europe quite late, in the time of the Roman Empire.


Zebu, Iran, cattle, aurochs

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