Ausgewählte Texte aus der Carakasaṃhitā

Anhang B: Tierbeschreibungen

Bos frontalis 

zusammengestellt von Alois Payer

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Carakasaṃhitā: Ausgewählte Texte aus der Carakasaṃhitā / übersetzt und erläutert von Alois Payer <1944 - >. -- Anhang B: Tierbeschreibungen. -- Bos frontalis.  -- Fassung vom 2010-12-10. -- URL:    

Erstmals publiziert:


Anlass: Lehrveranstaltung SS 2007

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Verwendete und zitierte Werke siehe:

Abb.:  Gaur - Bos frontalis, Bandipur National Park, Karnataka (ಕನಾ೯ಟಕ)
[Bildquelle: Yathin SK / Wikipedia. -- Creative Commons Lizenz (Namensnennung)]

Abb.: Gaur-Bulle
[Bildquelle: Sanderson, 1893]

Abb.: Schädel und Hörner von Bos frontalis (Gaur)
[Bildquelle: Ward, 1903]

Abb.: Schädel und Hörner von Bos frontalis (Gayal)
[Bildquelle: Ward, 1903]

Abb.:  Verbreitungsgebiet des Gaur - Bos frontalis
[Bildquelle. Wikipedia]



(Bos Frontalis of Lambert ;)


(Bos Gavaeus of Colebrooke ;)


(Bos Sylhetanus of F. Cuvier.)

Of the animals named in the foregoing list, we have had several very interesting accounts ; but none of these have been sufficiently precise to enable us to determine the specific character of the animals described. Are they, as some affirm, merely different names for the same animal ; or do they designate animals which are really and truly distinct ?

Nothing short of an appeal to structure can satisfactorily settle this or any other disputed point of a similar nature ; but, unfortunately for zoology, the opportunities for such appeals are rare, and, when they do occur, are seldom taken advantage of. Let us hope that this hint will not be lost on some of our intelligent countrymen in the East ; and that before long we may be favoured with the result of their researches.

In the meantime, and in order to facilitate as much as possible the endeavours of those who may have opportunities for such inquiries, the following epitome is given of the various papers which have already appeared on the subject, but which, in their present scattered form, are of very little general utility.


The earliest descriptive notice we have of the Gyall was that given in a paper read before the Linnean Society, in 1802, by Mr. Lambert, on the occasion of a bull of this species arriving in London from India.

" Bos Frontalis.

" General colour a blueish-black ; the frontal fascia gray ; the horns short, thick, and distant at their bases, the tail nearly naked, slender, and with a tuft at the end. The Gyall has no mane ; its coat is soft ; the edge of the under-lip is white, and is fringed with bristling hair. The horns are pale, with their bases included in the frontal fascia."

The Gyall, reduced from the Linnean Transactions.

The animal of which this description is given, appeared to be between two and three years old, very tame, and inoffensive. A drawing was taken of it, which was engraved and published in the Linnean Transactions.

The following are its dimensions :

In reply to some inquiries respecting this animal which he made of a gentleman, (Mr. Harris,) resident in India, Mr. Lambert received the following :

" DEAR SIR, I have before me your note, with the drawing, which undoubtedly appears to me to be the figure of the animal I mentioned to have in my possession. Some parts of the drawing seem to be rather too much enlarged, as in the base of the horns, and the rising between the fore-shoulders.

"The animal I described to you, and which I have kept and reared these last seven years, and know by the name of the Gyall, is a native of the hills to the north east and east of the Company's province of Chittagong, in Bengal, inhabiting that range of hills which separates it from the country of Arracan.

" The male Gyall is like our Bull in shape and appearance, but I conceive not quite so tall ; it is of a blackish-brown colour; the horns short, but thick and strong towards the base, round which, and across the frons, the hair is bushy, and of a dirty white colour ; the chest and forehead are broad and thick. He is naturally very bold, and will defend himself against any of the beasts of prey.

" The female differs a little in appearance ; her horns are not quite so large, and her make is somewhat more slender. She is very quiet, and is used for all the purposes of the dairy ; as also, (I have been informed by the natives,) for tilling the ground, and is more tractable than the Buffalo. The milk which these cows give has a peculiar richness in it, arising, I should conceive, from their always feeding on the young shoots and branches of trees in preference to grass.

(Head of Gyall, from Linnean Transactions.)

" I constantly made it a practice to allow them to range abroad, amongst the hills and jungles at Chittagong, during the day, to browse ; a keeper attending to prevent their straying so far as to endanger losing them. They do not thrive so well in any part of Bengal as in the afore-mentioned province, and in the adjoining one, Pipperah, where, I believe, the animal is also to be found. I have heard of a female Gyall breeding with a common Bull. I wish it were in my power to give you more particulars, but I am describing entirely from memory."

In February, 1804-, Mr. Lambert again addressed the Liunean Society on the same subject. He says,

" Since I presented to the Society the last account of the Bos Frontalis, or Gyall of India, Mr. Fleming, a gentleman who has just returned from that country, has very obligingly communicated to me the following further particulars. This account was transmitted to Mr. Fleming by Mr. Macrae, resident at Chittagong, in a letter, dated March 22, 1802, and was accompanied with a drawing, by which it appears that the animal from which my figure was taken was full grown." (See the figure, p. 51.)


The Gyall is a species of cow peculiar to the mountains, which form the eastern boundary of the province of Chittagong, where it is found running wild in the woods ; and it is also reared as a domestic animal by the Kookies, or Lunclas, the inhabitants of those hills. It delights to live in the deepest jungles, feeding on the tender leaves and shoots of the brushwood ; and is never met with on the plains below, except when brought there. Such of them as have been kept by the gentlemen at Chittagong, have always preferred browsing among the thickets on the adjacent hills to feeding on the grass of the plains. It is of a dull heavy appearance, yet of a form that indicates both strength and activity; and approaches nearly to that of the wild Buffalo. Its head is set on like the Buffalo's, and it carries it much in the same manner, with the nose projecting forward ; but in the shape of the head it differs materially from both the Buffalo and the Cow, the head of the Gyall being much shorter from the crown to the nose, but much broader between the horns than that of either. The withers and shoulders of the Gyall rise higher in proportion than those of Buffalo or Cow, and its tail is small and short, seldom falling lower than the bend in the ham. Its colour is in general brown, varying from a light to a deep shade ; it has at times a white forehead, and white legs, with a white belly and brush. The hair of the belly is invariably of a lighter colour than that of the back and flanks. The Gyall calf is of a dull red colour, which gradually changes to a brown as it advances in age.

The female Gyall receives the bull at three years of age ; her term of gestation is eleven months, when she brings forth, and does not again admit the male until the second year thereafter, thus producing a calf once in three years only. So long an interval between each birth must tend to make the species rare. In the length of time she goes with young, as well as in that between each conception, the Gyall differs from the Buffalo and Cow. The Gyall does not give much milk, but what she yields is nearly as rich as the cream of other milk. The calf sucks its dam for eight or nine months, when it is capable of supporting itself. The Kookies tie up the calf until he is sufficiently strong to do so.

The Gyalls live to the age of from fifteen to twenty. They lose their sight as they grow old, and are subject to a disease of the hoof, which often proves fatal at an early age. When the Kookies consider the disease beyond the hope of cure, he kills the animal and eats the flesh, which constitutes his first article of luxury.

The Kookies have a very simple method of catching the wild Gyalls, which is as follows : On discovering a herd of wild Gyalls in the jungles, they prepare a number of balls, of the size of a man's head, composed of a particular kind of earth, salt, and cotton. They then drive their tame Gyalls towards the wild ones, when the two herds soon meet, and assimilate into one; the males of the one attaching themselves to the females of the other, and vice versa. The Kookies now scatter their balls over such parts of the jungle as they think the herd most likely to pass, and watch its motions. The Gyalls, on meeting these balls as they pass along, are attracted by their appearance and smell, and begin to lick them with their tongues ; and relishing the taste of the salt, and the particular earth composing them, they never quit the place until all the balls are consumed. The Kookies having observed the Gyalls to have once tasted their balls, prepare a sufficient supply of them to answer the intended purpose ; and as the Gyalls lick them up, they throw down more; and it is to prevent their being so readily destroyed that the cotton is mixed with the earth and the salt. This process generally goes on for three changes of the moon, or for a month and a half, during which time the tame and the wild Gyalls are always together, licking the decoy balls ; and the Kookie, after the first day or two of their being so, makes his appearance, at such a distance as not to alarm the wild ones. By degrees he approaches nearer and nearer, until at length the sight of him has become so familiar that he can advance to stroke his tame Gyalls on the back and neck, without frightening away the wild ones. He next extends his hand to them, and caresses them also, at the same time giving them plenty of his decoy balls to lick. Thus, in the short space of time mentioned, he is able to drive them, along with the tame ones, to his parrah, or village, without the least exertion of force ; and so attached do the Gyalls become to the parrah, that when the Kookies migrate from one place to another, they always find it necessary to set fire to the huts they are about to abandon, lest the Gyalls should return to them from the new grounds.

It is worthy of remark that the new and full moon are the periods at which the Kookies in general commence their operations of catching the wild Gyalls, from having observed that at these changes the two sexes are most inclined to associate. The same observation has been made with respect to Elephants.


About four years after the publication of Mr. Macrae's account of the Gyall (namely in 1808,) there appeared, in the Eighth volume of ' Asiatic Researches' a description of a species of Ox, named Gayal, communicated by H. T. Colebrooke.

He commences by observing, that

" the Gayal was mentioned in an early volume of the ' Researches of the Asiatic Society' (vol. ii, p. 188, 1790,) by its Indian name, which was explained by the phrase " Cattle of the mountains." It had been obscurely noticed (if indeed the same species of Ox be meant) by Knox, in his historical relation of Ceylon (p. 21); and it has been imperfectly described by Captain Turner, in his journey through Bootan, ('Embassy to Tibet,' p. 160).

" Herds of this species of cattle have been long kept by many gentlemen in the eastern districts of Bengal, and also in other parts of this province ; but no detailed account of the animal and of its habits has been yet published in India. To remedy this deficiency, Dr. Roxburgh undertook, at my solicitation, to describe the Gayal, from those seen by him in a herd belonging to the Governor-General. Dr. Buchanan has also obligingly communicated his observations on the same cattle; with information obtained from several gentlemen at Tipura, Sylhet, and Chatgaon, relative to the habits of the animal. The original drawing from which the plate has been taken was drawn by a native artist."

Reduced copy of the Plate just referred to.

This representation does not appear to have been taken from a specimen of the animals here described : it bears a much stronger resemblance to our figure of the Gaur, which was taken from the stuffed specimen in the British Museum (see p. 97), than it does to the Gyall (Bos frontalis of Lambert, see p. 51), or to the Gayal, which died in the Zoological Gardens in 1846, from which our figure was taken, which is given on p. 68.

Dr. Roxburgh, who undertook, at the solicitation of Mr. Colebrooke, to describe the Gayal, appears to have done so by the very simple method of copying Mr. Macrae's description of the Gyall, which appeared in the ' Linnean Transactions' in 1804, to which he has added, that the dewlap is deep and pendant; and this, according to every other account, is not the fact.

With respect to the account given by Dr. Buchanan, I have thought it best to quote it in full; because (although it repeats several of the characteristics already given,) it appears to flow from the pen of one who really observed what he describes.

He says :

" The Gayal generally carries its head with the mouth projecting forward, like that of a Buffalo. The head, at the upper part, is very broad and flat, and is contracted suddenly towards the nose, which is naked, like that of the common cow. From the upper angle of the forehead proceed two thick, short, horizontal processes of bone, which are covered with hair ; on these are placed the horns, which are smooth, shorter than the head, and lie nearly in the plane of the forehead. They diverge outward, and turn upward with a gentle curve. At the bases they are very thick, and are slightly compressed, the flat side being toward the front and the tail. The edge next the ear is rather the thinnest, so that a transverse section would be somewhat ovate. Toward their tips the horns are rounded, and end in a sharp point. The eyes resemble those of the common Ox ; the ears are much longer, broader, and blunter than those of that animal.

" The neck is very slender near the head, at some distance from which a dewlap commences, but this is not so deep, nor so much undulated as in the Zebu or Indian Ox. The dewlap is covered with strong longish hairs, so as to form a kind of mane on the lower part of the neck ; but this is not very conspicuous, especially when the animal is young.

" In place of the hump (which is situated between the shoulders of the Zebu) the Gayal has a sharp ridge, which commences on the hinder part of the neck, slopes gradually up till it comes over the shoulder-joint, then runs horizontally almost a third part of the length of the back, where it terminates with a very sudden slope. The height of this ridge makes the neck appear much depressed, and also adds greatly to the clumsiness of the chest, which, although narrow, is very deep. The sternum is covered by a continuation of the dewlap. The rump, or os sacrum, has a more considerable declivity than that of the European Ox, but less than that of the Zebu.

"The tail is covered with short hair, except near the end, where it has a tuft like that of the common Ox ; but in the Gayal the tail descends no lower than the extremity of the tibia.

"The legs, especially the fore ones, are thick and clumsy. The false hoofs are much larger than those of the Zebu. The hinder parts are weaker in proportion than the fore ; and, owing to the contraction of the belly, the hinder legs, although in fact the shortest, appear to be the longest.

" The whole body is covered with a thick coat of short hair, which is lengthened out into a mane on the dewlap, and into a pencil-like tuft on the end of the tail. From the summit of the head there diverges, with a whirl, a bunch of rather long coarse hair, which lies flat, is usually lighter-coloured than that which is adjacent, and extends towards the horns and over the forehead. The general colour of the animal is brown, in various shades, which very often approaches to black, but sometimes is rather light. Some parts, especially about the legs and belly, are usually white ; but in different individuals these are very differently disposed."

The following is the measurement of a full-grown cow:

" The different species of the Ox kind may be readily distinguished from the Gayal by the following marks ; the European and Indian oxen by the length of their tails, which reach to the false hoofs ; the American Ox, by the gibbosity on its back; the Bovis moschatus, Gaffer, and pumilus, by having their horns approximated at their bases ; the Bos grunniens by its whole tail being covered with long silky hairs ; the Bos bubalus, (at least the Indian buffalo,) by having the whole length of its horns compressed, and by their being longer than the head, and wrinkled also by its thin coat of hair, by its want of a dewlap, and above all by its manners ; the Bos barbatus, by the long beard on its chin.

" The cry of the Gayal has no resemblance to the grunt of the Indian Ox, but a good deal resembles that of the Buffalo. It is a kind of lowing, but shriller, and not near so loud as that of the European Ox. To this, however, the Gayal approaches much nearer than it does to the Buffalo."

Mr. Macrae, who furnished the account in 1804, is again consulted ; and from his second account, the following additional particulars have been gleaned. [Now, however, as the reader will observe, the name is Gayal, and not Gyall; although, according to Mr. Macrae's own derivation of the word, it would appear to be more correctly Gyall.]

" The Gayal is found wild in the range of mountains that form the eastern boundary of the provinces of Aracan, Chittagong (Chatgaon), Tipura, and Sylhet.

" The Cucis, or Lunclas, a race of people inhabiting the hills immediately to the eastward of Chatgaon, have herds of the Gayal in a domesticated state. By them he is called Shial, from which, most probably, his name of Gayal [Gyall] is derived ; as he is never seen on the plains, except when he is brought there. It appears, however, that he is an animal very little known beyond the limits of his native mountains, except by the inhabitants of the provinces above mentioned.

"His disposition is gentle : even when wild in his native hills, he is not considered to be a dangerous animal ; never standing the approach of man, much less bearing his attack.

" To avoid the noon-day heat, he retires to the deepest shade of the forest ; preferring the dry acclivity of the hill to repose on, rather than the low swampy ground below ; and never, like the Buffalo, wallowing in mud.

"Gayals have been domesticated among the Cucis from time immemorial; and without any variation in their appearance from the wild stock. No difference whatever is observed in the colour of the wild and tame breeds; brown of different shades being the general colour of both.

"The wild Gayal is about the size of the wild Buffalo of India. The tame Gayals among the Cucis, being bred in nearly the same habits of freedom, and on the same food, without ever undergoing any labour, grow to the same size with the wild ones.

" The Cucis makes no use whatever of the milk, but rear the Gayals entirely for the sake of their flesh and skins ; they make their shields of the hides of these animals. The flesh of the Gayal is in the highest estimation among the Cucis; so much so, that no solemn festival is ever celebrated without slaughtering one or more Gayals, according to the importance of the occasion.

" The domesticated Gayals are allowed by the Cucis to roam at large during the day, through the forest, in the neighbourhood of the village ; but as evening approaches, they all return home of their own accord; the young Gayal being early taught this habit, by being regularly fed every night with salt, of which he is very fond ; and from the occasional continuance of this practice, as he grows up, the attachment of the Gayal to his native village becomes so strong, that when the Cucis migrate from it, they are obliged to set fire to the huts which they are about to leave, lest their Gayals should return thither from their new place of residence, before they become equally attached to it, as to the former, through the same means.

" The wild Gayal sometimes steals out from the forest in the night, and feeds in the rice fields bordering on the hills. The Cucis give no grain to their cattle. With us (at Chatgaon) the tame Gayals feed on Calai (phaseolus max), but as our hills abound with shrubs, it has not been remarked what particular kind of grass they prefer.

" The Hindus in this province will not kill the Gabay (or Gayal) which they hold in equal veneration with the cow. But the As'l Gayal, or Seloï, they hunt and kill, as they do the wild Buffalo. The animal here alluded tois another species of Gayal found wild in the hills of Chatgaon. He has never been domesticated, and is in appearance and disposition very different from the common Gayal which has just been described. The natives call him the As'l Gayal, in contra-distinction to the Gabay. The Cucis distinguish him by the name of Seloï ; and the Mugs and Burmas by that of P'hanj, and they consider him, next to the tiger, the most dangerous and fiercest animal of their forests."

Mr. Elliot, in writing from Tipura, says,

" I have some Gayals at Munnamutty, and from their mode of feeding I presume that they keep on the skirts of the vallies, to enable them to feed on the sides of the mountain, where they can browse ; they will not touch grass, if they can find shrubs.

" While kept at Camerlah, which is situated in a level country, they used to resort to the banks, and eat on the sides; frequently betaking themselves to the water, to avoid the heat of the sun. However, they became sickly and emaciated, and their eyes suffered much; but, on being sent to the hills, they soon recovered, and are now (1808) in a healthy condition. They seem fond of the shade, and are observed in the hot weather to take the turn of the hills, so as to be always sheltered from the sun. They do not wallow in mud, like Buffaloes, but delight in water, and stand in it during the greatest heat of the day, with the front of their heads above the surface.

" Each Cow yields from two and a half to about four sers [from five to eight pounds] of milk, which is rich, sweet, and almost as thick as cream ; it is of a high flavour, and makes excellent butter."

We learn from Mr. Dick that the Gayal is called Gaujangali in the Persian language, Gavaya in Sanscrit, and Mat'hana by the mountaineers ; but others name the animal Gobay-goru.

The tame Gayals, however long they may have been domesticated, do not at all differ from the wild ones, unless in temper, for the wild ones are fierce and untractable. The colour of both is the same, namely, that of the Antelope, but some are white and others black, none are spotted or piebald. They graze and range like other cattle, and eat rice, mustard, chiches, and any cultivated produce, as also chaff and chopped straw.

According to this gentleman the Gayal lives to the age of twenty or twenty-five years, and reaches its full growth at five years. The female is generally higher than the male. She receives the bull in her fifth year, and bears after ten months.

In reference to the case of Mr. Bird's Gayal breeding with the common Zebu, I may observe that this proves nothing beyond the bare fact stated ; no inference whatever of an identity of species can be drawn from a thousand such cases. It is pretty well known that animals of perfectly distinct species will, when artificially brought together, produce hybrids, as in the familiar examples of the Horse and the Ass, the Canary and the Goldfinch ; but a hybrid is neither a species nor (zoologically speaking) a variety.

In a paper on the Gour, by General Hardwicke, (' Zoological Journal,' Vol. Ill,) he introduces the following observations on the Gayal :

" Of the Gayal (Bos Gavaeas of Colebrooke) there appears to be more than one species. The provinces of Chatgong and Sylhet produce the wild, or, as the Natives term it, the Asseel Gayal, and the domesticated one. The former is considered an untameable animal, extremely fierce, and not to be taken alive. It rarely quits the mountain tract of the south-east frontier, and never mixes with the Gobbay, or village Gayal of the plains. I succeeded in obtaining the skin, with the head, of the Asseel Gayal, which is deposited in the Museum of the Hon. East-India Company, in Leadenhall Street." [A drawing was taken of this head, of which the engraving on the opposite page is a copy.]

" I may notice another species of Gayal, of which a male and female were in the Governor General's park, at Barrackpore. This species differs in some particulars from the domesticated Gayal, and also from the Asseel, or true Gayal ; first, in size, being a larger animal than the domestic one ; secondly, in the largeness of the dewlap, which is deeper and more undulated than in either the wild or tame species ; and, thirdly, in the size and form of the horns."

Thus, according to the opinion of General Hardwicke, there are three distinct species of the Gayal ; but in this matter nothing can be decided without further evidence, which we hope will soon appear in the shape of complete skeletons, and accurate drawings and descriptions.


The representation of the Gayal here given was taken from a living specimen in the Zoological Gardens, 1846. The scanty information I was able to glean concerning it, consists in its having been procured at Chitagong, and shipped, as a commercial speculation, from Calcutta for London, in January 1844, when about two years and a half old. It remained in the Zoological Gardens till the summer of 1846, when it died from inflammation of the bowels, brought on chiefly by eating too much green food.

I had the above particulars from Mr. Bartlett, naturalist, &c., who had been commissioned to dispose of it. He preserved the skeleton, which he kindly allowed me to examine, and from which I made the sketches of the skull and horns, which appear on the following page.

The skeleton has fourteen pairs of ribs.

In concluding these details of the Gayal and Gyall, let it be remarked that, when we hear one animal called Gayal and another Gyall, we are not, on that account merely, to set them down as of the same species. It is hardly necessary to say, that similarity or even identity of name, is not the slightest criterion of identity of species. The name Elephant is popularly applied to that animal, whether brought from Africa or Asia ; they are, nevertheless, anatomically distinct. The same observation may be made respecting the Lions of those countries, and various other animals.

It may further be observed, that the value of external characters in determining a species is very different when applied to ascertain the distinctions of domestic races, to what it is when applied to ascertain the distinctions of animals living in a natural state. In domestication, varieties ramify to an indefinite extent, and under such circumstances external characters are comparatively valueless. But wild animals retain their external characters with undeviating exactness ; exceptional cases may indeed occur, but so very rarely, that they are not worth taking into the account; consequently, external forms, and in some cases even colours, become of importance in ascertaining specific distinction.


Bos Sylhetanus. (Cuv.)

Further information is requisite to decide the specific character of this animal. According to the opinion of Col. Smith, (see

'Synopsis of the Species of Mammalia ' in Griffith's Translation of Cuvier's Animal Kingdom,) it is a mere variety of the Gayal (Bos Gavaeus) ; and Mr. J. E. Gray, in his ' List of the Specimens of Mammalia in the Collection of the British Museum classes it as a domestic variety of the same animal, but Mr. Fred. Cuvier regards it as an entirely new species.

The following account of the Jungly Gau (which is the only one that has been published), is a translation from the splendid folio work of Messrs. St. Hilaire and F. Cuvier.

This species of Ox, which is entirely new, appears to be the most nearly allied to our domestic cattle. Those ruminants which are classed under the generic name of Ox, may be very naturally divided into two distinct groups. The first includes the Buffaloes, animals in some measure aquatic, living in low, swampy localities, or near rivers, in which they remain half immersed a great part of the day ; having broad-based horns, partly spreading over their foreheads, flat on their internal side, and round on their external; tongue soft, &c. The second is that of the Ox, properly so called. These are distinguished from the first by their dwelling on more elevated lands, or in the vicinity of forests ; having smooth round horns, without enlargement at their base ; tongue covered with horny papillae, &c.

It is to this second family, consisting of the American Bison, the Aurox, the Yak, and the domestic Ox, with its varieties, that the Jungly Gau undoubtedly belongs. It however differs from the first two in being entirely destitute of the thick shaggy mane ; and, instead of the long silky hair of the third, it is clothed with close, short hair, equal in uniformity of texture to the sleekest of our domestic cattle. To judge from its general appearance, we might be even tempted to take it for a mere variety of the domestic species, so close is the resemblance. But the information furnished by M. Alfred Duvaucel, in the only description which has been given, leaves no doubt as to its being a new species.

The following is M. Duvaucel's account :

" The horns of the Jungly Gau rise from the sides of the occiput, first outward, then forward, with a slight inclination  backward of the upper extremity, forming a double lunation, and separated by a space which gradually diminishes as the animal grows older ; standing equally apart in every individual of the same age and sex ; are round, except at their base, which is slightly compressed ; and they become smoother as the animal advances in age.

" The hump, which is characteristic of the generality of Indian oxen, is reduced in this to a slight prominence, extending to the middle of the back, and is covered with a grayish, woolly hair, rather longer than that on the other parts of the body, which spreads likewise over the occiput and the front. The rest of the hair is black except the legs, which are white from the knees downwards. The tail terminates in a large tuft of hair ; and, in bulls of two or three years old, the under part of the neck is slightly furnished with long, black, silky hair.

" The female is smaller than the male, with horns of a still less proportionate size. The front of the head, instead of being convex, as in the male, appears to be slightly depressed, in consequence of the superior elevation of the muzzle. The colour of the female is not so deep a black ; the gray on the top of the neck and the shoulders extends to the sides, and the inferior part of the muzzle is white.

" I have long entertained the opinion," continues M. Duvaucel, " that these oxen were essentially the same as the domestic that they were both varieties of the same species ; but this opinion was formed on the inspection only of such specimens as I had seen in the menagerie at Barracpour. Since that time, I have pursued them myself near the mountains of Sylhet; and I have likewise learned from various sources that they are as numerous and as generally diffused as the common Buffalo; but they appear to be wilder than the Buffalo, and not so bold, never approaching where man has established his dominion. Nevertheless, when caught, they are easily subdued, and become quite domesticated in a few months. The milk of this species is said to be more abundant and nourishing than that of any other."

From all that is at present known respecting this animal, it is regarded by M. F. Cuvier as a new species added to the genus Bos; and, from the circumstance of its having been first seen in a wild state near the mountains of Sylhet, he has given it the specific name of Sylhetanus."

[Quelle: Vasey, George <1822-1893>: A monograph of the genus Bos. The natural history of bulls, bisons, and buffaloes. Exhibiting all the known species, and the more remarkable varieties. With an introduction, containing an account of experiments on rumination, from the French of M. Flourens. By George Vasey. With 72 engravings on wood, by the author. -- London, J.R. Smith, 1857. -- xvi, 192 S. : Ill. ; 23 cm. -- S. 50 - 74. -- Online: -- Zugriff am 2007-10-25]


Bos Gaurus.

The above representation of this animal was sketched  from a stuffed specimen in the British Museum, the dimensions of which are given on p. 102.

The following interesting particulars are taken from Mr. T. S. Traill's paper on the Gour, in the 'Edinburgh Philosophical Journal,' October, 1824.

" The Gaur is considered by the Indians as of a specie totally distinct from either the Arna or the common Buffalo. The only animal with which it appears to have affinity is the Gayal, or Bos Gavaeus, described by Mr. Colebrook, in the 'Asiatic Researches,' vol. viii. That animal is said to exist, both wild and domestic, in the hilly countries of Upper India, and to have a high dorsal ridge, somewhat similar to what we shall immediately find in the Gaur; but the very different form of its head, the presence of a distinct dewlap, and the general habit of the Gayal, appear sufficient to distinguish it from the Gaur. The Gaur occurs in several mountainous parts of central India, but is chiefly found in Myn Pat, or Mine Paut, (Pat or Paut, in Hindostanee, signifies table-land,) a high, insulated mountain, with a tabular summit, in the province of Sergojah, in South Bahar. This table-land is about 36 miles in length, by 24 or 25 in medial breadth, and rises above the neighbouring plains probably 2000 feet. The sides of the mountain slope with considerable steepness, and are furrowed by streams that water narrow valleys, the verdant banks of which are the favorite haunts of Gaurs. On being disturbed, they retreat into the thick jungles (of saul-trees), which cover the sides of the whole range. The southeast side of the mountain presents an extensive mural precipice from 20 to 40 feet high. The rugged slopes at its foot are covered by impenetrable green jungle, and abound with dens formed of fallen blocks of rock, the suitable retreats of Tigers, Bears, and Hyaenas. The western slopes are less rugged, but the soil is parched, and the forests seem withered by excess of heat. The summit of the mountain presents a mixture of open lawns and woods. There were once twenty-five villages on Myn Pat, but they have long been deserted, on account of the number and ferocity of the beasts of prey. On this mountain, however, the Gaur maintains his seat. The Indians assert that even the Tiger has no chance in combat with the full-grown Gaur, though he may occasionally succeed in carrying off an unprotected calf. The wild Buffalo abounds in the plains below the mountains; but he so much dreads the Gaur, according to the natives, that he rarely attempts to invade his haunts. The forests which shield the Gaur abound, however, in Hog-deer, Saumurs, and Porcupines.

The size of the Gaur is its most striking peculiarity. The following measurement of one not fully grown will show the enormous bulk of the animal :

The form of the Gaur is not so lengthened as that of the Arna. Its back is strongly arched, so as to form a pretty uniform curve from the nose to the origin of the tail, when the animal stands still. This appearance is partly owing to the curved form of the nose and forehead, and still more to a remarkable ridge, of no great thickness, which rises six or seven inches above the general line of the back, from the last of the cervical to beyond the middle of the dorsal vertebrae, from which it gradually is lost in the outline of the back. This peculiarity proceeds from an unusual elongation of the spinous processes of the dorsal column. It is very conspicuous in the Gaurs of all ages, although loaded with fat ; and has no resemblance to the hunch which is found on some of the domestic cattle of India. It bears some resemblance, certainly, to the ridge described as existing in the Gayal ; but the Gaur is said to be distinguished from that animal by the remarkable peculiarity of a total want of a dewlap. Neither the male nor female Gaur, at any age, has the slightest trace of this appendage, which is found on every other known animal of this genus.

The colour of the Gaur is a very deep brownish black, almost approaching to blueish black, except a tuft of curling dirty white hair between the horns, and rings of the same colour just above the hoof. The hair over the skin is extremely short and sleek, and has somewhat of the oily appearance of a fresh seal-skin.

The character of the head differs little from that of the domestic Bull, excepting that the outline of the face is more curved the os-frontis more solid and projecting.

The horns are short, thick at the base, considerably curved towards the tip, slightly compressed on one side, and in the natural state are rough. They are, however, capable of a good polish, when they are of a horn gray colour, with black solid tips. A pair in my possession measure one foot eleven inches along their convex sides; one foot from the centre of the base to the tip, in a straight line ; and one foot in their widest circumference; but as they are cut and polished, a portion of their length and thickness has been lost. They are of a very dense substance, as their weight indicates, for even in their dressed state the pair weigh 5 lbs. 11 oz. avoirdupois.

The limbs of the Gaur have more of the form of the deer than any other of the bovine genus. This is particularly observable in the acuteness of the angle formed by the tibia and tarsus, and in the slenderness of the lower part of the legs. They give the idea, however, of great strength combined with fleetness ; and the animal is observed to canter with great velocity. The form of the hoof, too, is longer, neater, and stronger than in the ox, and the whole foot appears to have greater flexibility.

When wounded the Gaur utters a short bellow, which may be best imitated by the syllable ugh-ugh.

It is said that the Gaur will not live in a state of captivity; even when taken very young, the calf soon droops and dies. The bull-calf of the first year is called, by the natives, Purorah ; the female, Pareeah ; and when full-grown the cow is called Gourin.

Gaurs associate in herds consisting usually of from ten to twenty animals. So numerous are they on Myn Pat, that, in one day hunting, the party computed that not less than eighty had passed through the station occupied by the sportsmen.

The Gaurs browse on the leaves and tender shoots of trees and shrubs, and also graze on the banks of the streams. During the cold season they remain concealed in the saul forests, but in hot weather come out to feed in the green vallies and lawns, which occur on the mountain of Myn Pat. They show no disposition to wallow in mire or swamps, like the Buffalo; a habit, indeed, which the sleekness of their skins renders not at all probable.

The period of gestation is said to be twelve months, and they bring forth usually in August."

To the preceding observations of Dr. Traill, I have to add the important fact (which of itself will be sufficient to constitute a specific difference between the Gaur and the Gayal), namely, that in the skeleton of the Gaur there are only thirteen pairs of ribs, whilst the skeleton of the Gayal possesses fourteen pairs. This fact I have ascertained from an examination of both the skeletons ; that of the Gaur in the museum of the Zoological Society, and that of the Gayal, in the possession of Mr. Bartlett, Russell Street, Covent Garden. (See p. 68.)

The skeleton of the Gaur just refered to, strikingly confirms Dr. Traill's account of the elevated dorsal ridge of this animal ; several of the dorsal vertebrae measuring, with their spinous processes, upwards of seventeen inches each, the longest being twenty inches and a half.

The Gaur, from which this skeleton was taken, was killed at Nicecond, November 8, 1843.

There is another fine specimen of the skull and horns of the Gaur, in the Museum of the Zoological Society, taken from an animal killed by Lieut. Nelson, on the Neilsburry Hills, Salem district. This animal measured nineteen hands and half an inch at the shoulder.

Dimensions of the Figure in the British Museum :

In Mr. D. Johnson's Sketches, the Gaur is described as a kind of wild bullock, of prodigious size, residing in the Ramghur district, not well known to Europeans.

Mr. Johnson says :

" I have never obtained a sight of them, but have often seen the print of their feet, the impression of one of them covering as large a space as a common china plate. According to the account I received from a number of persons they are much larger than the largest of our oxen; light brown colour, with short horns, and inhabit the thickest covers. They keep together in herds, and a herd of them is always near the Luggo-hill; they are also in the heavy jungles between Hamghur and Nagpoor. I saw the skin of one that had been killed by Rajah Futty Narrain; its exact size I do not recollect, but I well remember that it astonished me, having never seen the skin of any animal so large. Some gentlemen at Chittrah have tried all in their power to procure a calf without success. The Shecarries and villagers are so much afraid of these animals, that they cannot be prevailed on to go near them, or to endeavour to catch any of their young. It is a prevailing opinion in the country, that if they are in the least molested, they will attack the persons disturbing them, and never quit them until they are destroyed ; and should they get into a tree, they will remain near it for many days.""

[Quelle: Vasey, George <1822-1893>: A monograph of the genus Bos. The natural history of bulls, bisons, and buffaloes. Exhibiting all the known species, and the more remarkable varieties. With an introduction, containing an account of experiments on rumination, from the French of M. Flourens. By George Vasey. With 72 engravings on wood, by the author. -- London, J.R. Smith, 1857. -- xvi, 192 S. : Ill. ; 23 cm. -- S. 97 - 104. -- Online: -- Zugriff am 2007-10-25]


"THE GAUR (Bos gaurus).

With the magnificent animal known as the gaur, but generally misnamed by Indian sportsmen the bison, we come to the first of three species from South-Eastern Asia, nearly allied to one another, and broadly distinguished from those already noticed. These animals, which include the handsomest existing representatives of the genus, are collectively characterised by the following features. 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 character being more strongly marked in the bulls than in the cows. The tail is shorter than in the typical oxen, and reaches but little if at all below the hocks. A third feature is presented by the distinct ridge running from the shoulders to the middle of the back, where it ends in an abrupt drop, which may be as much as 5 inches in height. This ridge is caused by the great height of the spines of the vertebrae of the fore-part of the trunk as compared with those of the loins ; but it is a character much less developed in the banting than in either of the other two species. The three species have also a characteristic coloration, the adult males being dark brown or nearly black, the females and young males being either paler or reddish brown, while in both sexes the legs from above the knees and hocks to the hoofs are white or whitish. The hair is short, fine, and glossy, and the hoofs are narrow and pointed.

The gaur is a strong and massively-built species, easily recognised by the high convex ridge on the forehead between the horns, which bends forwards, and thus causes a deep hollow in the profile of the upper part of the head. The ridge on the back is very strongly marked, and there is no distinct dewlap on the throat and chest. The flattening of the horns at the base is very decided, and the horns are regularly curved throughout their length, and are bent inwards and slightly backwards at their tips. 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-grey, or occasionally dirty-white, the muzzle is pale-coloured, and the lower part of the legs pure white. The cows and young bulls are paler, and in some instances have a rufous tinge, which, according to Mr. Blanford, is most marked in individuals inhabiting dry and open districts. 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.

The gaur appears to be the tallest of all the oxen, old bulls sometimes reaching as much as 6 feet (18 hands) at the shoulder, or even, it is said, exceeding these dimensions by an inch or more. The more usual height is, however, from 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches ; while the cows do not exceed 5 feet. Mr. Blanford gives the average size of the horns of bull gaur as from 20 to 24 inches along the outer curve ; but specimens have been recorded with a length of 39 inches and a basal girth of 19 inches. This girth has, however, been exceeded by horns of which the length was less, a pair from the Malay Peninsula having a circumference of 22 inches, with a length of 32 inches. The horns of the cows are smaller, measuring in large examples from 23 to 24 inches above the curve, with a girth of about 13 inches.

The geographical range of the gaur is extensive, comprising all the larger forest regions of India from Cape Comorin to the foot of the North-Eastern Himalaya, but excluding Ceylon. To the north-west its limits in India are marked, according to Mr. Blanford, by the valley of the Narbada River; while in the grass-jungles of the Ganges Valley the gaur is met with only along the skirts of the Himalaya. Eastwards the range of the gaur extends from Nipal through the hilly districts on the south of Assam into Burma, and thence as far south as the Malay Peninsula, where it is known to the natives as the sladong. It has been stated that the gaur occurs in Siam, but this requires confirmation.

The gaur prefers hilly districts to the plains, and in India is more generally found at elevations of from two thousand to five thousand feet than in the low country. While aged bulls are generally or invariably solitary in their habits, gaur, as a rule, collect together in small herds of about a dozen individuals, although the number may be increased to twenty or thirty, and one instance is recorded where the number in a herd was estimated at not less than one hundred head. Such an unusual gathering was, however, probably but temporary, and due to the scarcity of pasture. Each herd is governed by an old bull; the other members of that sex present being always younger animals. The best account of the habits of the gaur is by G. P. Sanderson, from whose work the following extracts are taken, with the substitution of the word gaur for bison. The gaur living in herds " are shy and retiring in their habits, and retreat at once if intruded upon by man. They avoid the vicinity of his dwellings, and never visit patches of cultivation in the jungle. The gaur is thus an animal which would soon become extinct before the advance of civilisation were the latter rapid, or were the jungles in which he roams limited in extent ; but his exemption from serious diminution, except in isolated positions, is secured by the existence of the continuous jungles of the Western Ghats and other forest ranges. Gaur, though found in the low- country jungles, are very partial to high and well-wooded tracts, and their activity in hilly ground is astonishing. A herd scrambles up a steep hillside almost with the facility of a troop of deer, or thunders down a slope into the thicker cover of a valley, when alarmed, at a rapid trot or free gallop."

The food of the gaur, according to the same writer, consists mainly of grass, but also comprises the leaves and young shoots of bamboo, as well as the bark of certain trees. Gaur "feed till about nine in the morning, or later in cloudy and rainy weather ; they then rest, lying down in bamboo-cover or light forest till the afternoon, when they rise to graze and drink ; they also invariably lie down for some hours during the night. Although certainly quick in detecting an intruder, gaur can scarcely be considered naturally wary animals, as they seldom encounter alarms in their native haunts. Unsophisticated herds will frequently allow several shots to be fired at them before making off, and even then probably will not go far. But if subjected to frequent disturbance they quickly become as shy as deer, and if alarmed by the approach of man they retreat without loss of time." Except when wounded, and in such a position as to be unable to escape, Sanderson states that he has never known gaur belonging to a herd attack human beings. Gaur are very similar in their general habits to elephants, and herds of both may at times be found feeding in proximity.

"Both seek the deep and ever-verdant valleys, watered by perennial streams, during the hot months, or from January to May, where they are safe from the jungle-fires which sweep the drier localities. With the early rains of April and May a plentiful crop of succulent young grass springs from beneath the black ashes, and the gaur and elephants then roam forth to feed and enjoy their emancipation from the thraldom of the season of scarcity. About September the grass in the hill-ranges has become so coarse, and the annoyance from insects during continued rain so great, that the herds move into more open country, and especially into forest tracts at the foot of hill-ranges where suitable cover exists." In such localities the grass is not more than a yard high at the most, and insects are comparatively few. In contradistinction to elephants, gaur never forsake the forest districts for the open plains; but when in the lowland districts are in the habit of visiting the numerous salt-licks.

It must be remembered that the foregoing description applies solely to the gaur of Southern India, and that in the more northern portions of their range, where the seasons are different, there is a corresponding alteration in their habits.

When in the lowlands, gaur are apt to catch various diseases prevalent among domestic cattle, and sometimes the herds are decimated from this cause.

In Peninsular India the calves are generally born during August and September, although a few are produced from April to June.

The cries of the gaur are three in number. The first is a loud reverberatingbellow, used as a call ; the second a low mooing cry, uttered when in alarm, or when the curiosity of the animals is excited ; while the third is a kind of whistling snort, heard when the frightened creatures dash off into thicker cover. In India proper the gaur has never been domesticated ; and it is but recently that a living example a young one has been exhibited alive in England. The hill-tribes of the north-eastern portion of India have, however, succeeded in taming these animals.

Solitary gaur are always very old bulls, which have been driven from the herds by their younger rivals after deadly combats, the marks of which are to be seen on their scored and seamed flanks, as well as in their slit and frayed ears and their battered horns. Mr. Sanderson says that these solitary bulls always have the finest heads and horns, and offer the most noble object of pursuit to the sportsman.

The morose and savage disposition commonly attributed to these outcasts is regarded by the same writer as not altogether authenticated. It is true, indeed, that men are sometimes killed by a sudden rush from one of these solitary bulls, but that this is generally owing to the circumstance that the animal has been suddenly surprised, and thereupon starts up and rushes forwards without considering what may be in its path.

Gaur-shooting, from the nature of the ground, is invariably undertaken on foot, and, next to elephant-shooting, is considered to be the finest sport with the rifle in India. Good trackers are essential to its success ; but these are fortunately to be found among the non-Aryan hill-tribes of Southern India, who are unsurpassed in the keenness and accuracy with which they follow a trail. The emergence of an old solitary bull-gaur on an open glade, among the tall bamboo forests of the hills of Southern India, is described as being one of the finest sights with which the toils of the sportsman can be rewarded. When killed, the gaur affords excellent meat, the great delicacy being the marrow-bones roasted on the camp fire.

THE GAYAL (Bos frontalis).

Well known for many years as existing in a semi-domesticated condition in the hilly districts of North-Eastern India, it is but recently that the gayal has been determined to be a truly wild species, although we have yet no definite information of its habits or the limits of its range in this condition.

The gayal, or, as it is frequently termed the mithan, is nearly allied to the gaur, from which, however, it differs in several important particulars. In the first place, it is a somewhat smaller animal, with proportionately shorter limbs, a minor development of the ridge on the back, and a larger dewlap on the throat of the bulls. The head is also shorter and broader, with a perfectly flat forehead and a straight line between the bases of the horns. The horns, which are very thick and massive, are less flattened and much less curved than in the gaur, extending almost directly outwards from the sides of the head, and curving somewhat upwards at the tips, but without any inward inclination. Their extremities are thus much farther apart than in the gaur. The colour is very nearly the same as in the latter, the head and body being blackish-brown in both sexes, and the lower portion of the limbs white or yellowish. The horns are of uniform blackish tint from base to tip. Some domesticated gayals are parti-coloured, while others are completely white.

The gayal stands much lower at the withers than the gaur. In the skull of an old wild bull measured by Mr. Blanford the horns reached 14 inches both in length and basal girth; but these dimensions are exceeded by those of many domesticated specimens. The cow gayal, as shown in our illustration, is a much smaller animal than the bull, and has scarcely any dewlap on the throat.

Distribution. It has been ascertained by Mr. Blanford that the gayal occurs in a wild condition in Tenasserim ; but in a more or less domesticated condition large herds of these animals are kept by the Kuki tribes on the hill-districts of Tipperah. It is, moreover, certain that some of the domesticated cattle kept by the hill-tribes on both sides of the Assam Valley in the districts of Manipur, Cachar, Chittagong, and the Lushai Hills, are gayal, although others are gaur. From indications afforded by certain skulls it is not improbable that these tame gayal and gaur occasionally interbreed. Mr. Blanford observes that the tame herds of gayal " are kept for food, and, according to some authorities, for their milk, though this is doubtful, as most of the Indo-Chinese tribes who keep mithans never drink milk. The animals appear to be never employed in agricultural labour, nor as beasts of burden. They roam and feed unattended through the forest during the day. and return to their owner's village at night."

Like the gaur, the gayal is essentially an inhabitant of hillforests, and the facility with which it will traverse rocky country is little short of marvellous for an animal of such bulky proportions.

Gayal have been exhibited in England alive, but none of them were fully-grown bulls, and consequently failed to give an adequate idea of the magnificent proportions attained by that sex. Adult bulls have, however, been shown from time to time in the Zoological Gardens at Calcutta, and were most splendid animals, with glossy coats of the deepest shade of brown. Gayal will breed with the humped cattle of India, and the product of such a union born in the London Zoological Gardens was again crossed with a bull American bison. A pure-bred gayal calf produced in the same menagerie was of a light brownish red colour, with the throat, chest, and the inner sides of the legs white."

[Quelle: Lydekker, Richard <1849-1915>: The royal natural history / edited by Richard Lydekker ; with preface by P.L. Sclate. -- London ; New York : F. Warne, 1893-96. -- 6 Bde. : ill. (some col.) ; 26 cm. -- Bd. 2. -- S. 175 - . -- Online: -- Zugriff am 2007-09-27]


"Bos gaurus. The Gaur.

Gour, Trail, Edinb. Phil. Jour, xi, p. 334 (1824).
Bos gaurus, Ham. Smith, Griffith's Cuv. An. Kingd. iv, p. 399 (1827) ; Evans, J. A. S. B. vi, p. 223, pi. xvi; Elliot, J. A. S. B. x, p. 579 ; Blyth, J. A. S. B. xi, p. 444, xxi, p. 433, xxxi, p. 336 ; id. Mam. Birds Burma, p. 47 ; W. Blanf. P. Z. S. 1890, p. 592, pl. xlix; W. Sdater, Cat. p. 124.
Bos gour and B. gavseus, Hardivicke, Zool. Jour, iii, p. 233 (1828).
Bibos subhemachalus, Hodgson, J. A. S. B. vi, p. 499 (1837).
Bibos cavifrons, Hodgson, J. A. 8. B. vi, p. 747 (1837), x, p. 449, pi., xvi, p. 706 ; Blyth, J. A. S. B. xi, p. 588 ; Elliot, Mad. Jour. L. S. x, p. 227 ; Horsfield, Cat. p. 181.
Bos gour, Cantor, J. A. S. B. xv, p. 272.
Bibos asseel, Horsfield, Cat. p. 181 (1851).
Gavaeus gaurus, Blyth, J. A. S. B. xxix, p. 282; id. Cat. p. 161 ; Jerdon, Mam. p. 301.

Gaur, Gauri-gai, H. ; Gāyāl, in Orissa, &c. ; Gaor (male) , Gaib (fem.) , in Chutia Nagpur (commonly Ban-boda, Ban-parra, Ran-hila, Ran-pado, Jangli-khulga, and even Ban-bhainsa and Arna, all signifying wild buffalo, in various parts of the Peninsula) ; Sainal, Hokol ; Gaviya, Mahr. ; Pera-Mao, Gond. in the South ; Katu-erimai, Tarn. ; Karkona, Karti, Kardyemme, Kard-korna, Doddu, Can. ; Karthu, Paothu, Mal. ; Mithan, Assam ; Seloi, Chittagong ; Pyoung, Burmese ; Saladang, Malay. The Bison or Indian Bison of European sportsmen.

General form massive ; body deep, limbs and hoofs small. Ears large. A high ridge along the anterior half of the back terminating abruptly about halfway between the shoulder and the tail, and caused by the spinous processes of the dorsal vertebrae being long and those of the lumbar vertebrae short, the change in length taking place suddenly. Skull bearing a high ridge, convex on the vertex between the horn-cores ; in front of this ridge the forehead is deeply concave. Horns considerably flattened towards the base, curved throughout; the tips turned inwards and slightly backwards. Thirteen pairs of ribs. Tail just reaching the hocks. No distinct dewlap. Hair short, very thin on the back in old bulls.

Skulls from the Duars of Bhutan, the Mishmi hills, and the Malay Peninsula are much broader in proportion across the forehead than those from the Indian Peninsula; but I cannot say whether the broad-headed type is alone found east of the Bay of Bengal. I think not. There is in the fine collection presented by Mr. Hume to the British Museum a very broad skull from Salem, South India. The only Mishmi skull I have seen, one in Mr. Hume's collection, has the vertex arched and the forehead broad, but wants the frontal concavity, and thus shows a tendency towards B. frontalis. The horns in all these heads have the normal curve of the gaur (see fig. 159, p. 488).

Colour. Brown, almost black in old males, less dark and sometimes more rufous in females and young males, especially during the cold season, and in those inhabiting drier parts of the country, where there is less shade. Lower parts rather paler, hair about axil and groin golden brown. Legs from above the knees and hocks to the hoofs white. Head from above the eyes to the nape ashy grey, becoming in some animals whity-brown or dirty white. Muzzle pale-coloured. In calves, according to Blyth, there is a dark stripe down the back. Horns pale greenish or yellowish, with black tips.

Dimensions. This appears to be the largest of existing bovines. Large bulls are said to exceed 6 feet in height at the shoulder, but this is rare and exceptional, 5 ft. 8 in. to 5 ft. 10 in. being the usual height. Cows are much smaller, about 5 ft. high. A huge bull measured by Elliot was 6 ft. 1½ in. high, 9 ft. 6 in. from nose to root of tail, tail 2 ft. 10 in. long, girth behind shoulders 8 ft. A cow 4 ft. 10½ in. high measured 7 feet from nose to rump over curves, and 6 ft. 9 in. in girth. A large male skull from the Western Ghats measures 18 inches in basal length and 9.9 in zygomatic breadth. Average male horns measure 20 to 24 inches round the outside curve. Horns from Travancore have been recorded 39 inches in length and 19 inches in girth at the base ; whilst other Travancore horns measure 20-75 in girth, and a pair from the Malay Peninsula 22, though only 32 long. Large cows' horns measure 23 and 24 round the outside curve, with a girth of 13.25. The girth of each horn in freshly killed specimens is about an inch more than in dried skulls.

Distribution. All the great hilly forest-tracts of the Indian Peninsula, Assam, Burma, and the Malay Peninsula. The eastern range of this species is not clearly known except that it is said to extend to Siam and, I believe, to Cochin China. B. gaurus does not exist in Ceylon nor in any of the Malay Islands ; it is said, however, to have inhabited Ceylon up to the commencement of the present century. In India at present its extreme north-western habitat is probably the Rajpipla hills, near Broach ; and west of long. 80 East the river Nerbudda forms approximately, though not absolutely, the northern boundary of its range. It does not inhabit the grass-jungles of the Gangetic plain, except close to the Himalayas ; but it is found in the forests at the foot of those mountains as far west as Nepal. South of the Ganges it exists in suitable tracts in Chutia Nagpur, Orissa, and the northern Circars, the Central Provinces, Hyderabad territories, Mysore, and throughout the "Western Ghats, wherever it has not been exterminated or driven away.

Habits. Excellent accounts are given by Elliot (I. c.), Forsyth ('Highlands of Central India'), Sterndale (Nat. Hist. Indian Mam. and ' Seonee '), Hornaday (' Two Years in the Jungle' ), J. D. Inverarity (Jour. Bombay N. H. Soc. iv, p. 294), and above all by Sanderson ('Thirteen Years &c.'). Hodgson's description is evidently from native reports and is untrustworthy ; whilst Col. Campbell's delightful stories in ' The Old Forest Ranger,' though quoted with approval by many writers, must, I fear, be regarded as works of imagination.

The gaur keeps to forest or high grass, generally but not always near hills, and is found in herds of from five or six to about 20, or occasionally more. Bulls often wander by themselves, and the finest and oldest bulls are said always to occur solitary ; still very large bulls are found with herds, and young bulls are frequently seen alone, or two or three together. All are shy and avoid cultivated tracts as a rule, though instances occur in wild parts of the country of gaur feeding on growing crops. Their food consists chiefly of grasses ; they do not commonly browse, though they occasionally eat the leaves and even the bark of particular trees, and they are fond of the shoots of bamboos. They feed generally in the early morning, and evening, and lie down to rest from about 9 A.M. to about 4 P.M., and at night. They drink as a rule in the afternoon.

These bovines inhabit the hills of the Indian Peninsula to an elevation of 5000 or 6000 feet, or occasionally even higher ; but they do not ascend the Himalayas to nearly the same extent. They are admirable climbers, and ascend or descend steep hills with wonderful facility. They are timid animals, but in wild places, where they are rarely subject to attack and disturbance, they are by no means remarkably wary. "Wounded animals occasionally charge, and solitary bulls have been known to attack without provocation ; but the tales of the gaur's ferocity recorded by some sportsmen are not confirmed by any of the later writers who have had good opportunities of studying the animals. A bull gaur is one of the noblest animals in the world, a model of strength and symmetry, and his formidable appearance has led to his being unjustly credited with a savage disposition.

The period of gestation is not known with any certainty. Breeding is said to take place in the cold season. The calves are mostly born (in the Peninsula of India) in August or September, a few early in April, May, or June. Gaur suffer from the same diseases as domestic cattle.

In India all attempts at domestication of this bovine have been failures. The calves appear always to die in captivity, none it is said having been known to attain their third year. But there can be little doubt that the gaur has been tamed and kept tame in some of the hill-tracts between Assam and Burma (see also under B. frontalis on the next page) ; and quite recently a young male animal, now nearly four years old, has been brought to England from Pahang, in the Malay Peninsula, and is still (1891) living in the Zoological Gardens, Regent's Park.

According to Sanderson, three distinct sounds are uttered by this species. The first is a sonorous bellow, used as a call, and unlike any of the usual bovine sounds. The second is a low "moo," indicative of apprehension or curiosity. The third is the well-known whistling snort of alarm with which the animal dashes off when frightened. I have heard the tame animal in the Regent's Park utter a prolonged call, not very unlike the lowing of Bos taurus, but utterly unlike that of B. indicus.

Bos frontalis. The Gayal or Mithan.

Bos frontalis, Lambert, Tr. L. S, vii, pp. 57, 302, pi. iv (1804) ; Griffith, J. A. S. B. viii, pp. 211, 281 ; Blt/th, J. A. S. B. xxxi, p. 338 ; id. Mam. Birds Burma, p. 48 ; Sclater, P. Z. S. 1866, p. 1, pl. i ; J. Sarbo, P. Z. S. 1883, p. 142 ; W. Blanf. P. Z. S. 1890, p. 593, fig. 2 ; W. Sclater, Cat. p. 126.
Bos gavseus, Colebrooke, As. Res. viii, p. 488, pi. (1805) ; Hodgson, J. A. S. B. x, pp. 453, 470, pl.
Bos sylhetanus, F. Cuvier, Hist. Nat. Mam. pis. 418, 419 (1824).
Gavseus frontalis, Hodgson, J. A. S. B. xvi, p. 705 ; Horsfield, Cat. p. 179 ; Blyth, J. A. S. B. xxix, p. 291 ; id. Cat. p. 162.

Gāyāl, H. ; Mithan, Bunerea-goru, Gavior Gobi, Assam and Chittagong ; Sandung, Manipuri ; Shel, Shio, Kuki ; Jhongnua, Mugh ; Bui-sang, Hut, Naga ; Phu, Aka ; Siba, Daphla ; Nuni, Tsaing, Burmese.

Very similar to B. gaurus but smaller, with proportionally shorter limbs, somewhat less developed dorsal ridge, a well-marked dewlap, and very different skull and horns, as shown in the accompanying figures (p. 438). The head is shorter, with shorter nasals, the forehead quite flat, and the transverse outline of the vertex between the horn-cores straight, not arched. The horns are much less curved, in fact nearly straight, spreading outwards and directed more or less upwards at the tips, but not inwards.

Colour very similar to that of B. gaurus. Head and body dark brown in both sexes, legs from above the knees and hocks white or yellowish. Many tame individuals are mottled and some are white throughout. Horns blackish throughout.

Dimensions. Considerably less than in B. gaurus, especially in height. The skull of an old bull known to be that of a wild animal measures 16.2 inches in basal length, 8.5 in breadth across the orbits, length of nasals 6.5, length of horn 14, girth at base the same. I have seen much longer horns on a tame animal.

Fig. 159. Skull and horns of Bos gaurus. Fig. 160. Skull and horns of Bos frontalis.

Distribution, &c. The history and range of this animal are singularly obscure. Bos frontalis was described by Lambert and Colebrooke as occurring both in the tame and wild state in the hills of Tipperah amongst the Kukis; and Lambert gave a detailed account, furnished by Mr. McRae, of the capture of wild animals and their domestication by these tribes. It has since been ascertained that tame " Mithans" or "gayals" are found in possession of particular tribes both north and south of the Assam valley, around Manipur and Cachar, and in the Tipperah, Chittagong, and Lushai hills as far south as the neighbourhood of Chittagong. But the wild bovine of the area in general was ascertained by Blyth, Sarbo, Anderson, and others to be Bos gaurus. The later evidence is confusing. Peal (' Nature,' Nov. 5th, 1885, p. 7) states that both wild and tame animals are called Mithan in Upper Assam, that they are perfectly distinct, and no intermediate forms ever occur ; whilst Sanderson (' Thirteen Years &c.,' p. 250) declares that in Chittagong the two forms, wild and tame, are similar. Lastly, Mr. E. C. Steuart Baker (< Asian,' March 6th, 1891, p. 358), in the North Cachar hills confirms the old story of the wild mithans being reclaimed and domesticated by the Kukis.

Much confusion has doubtless arisen from the terms Mithan and Gayal being used for both B. frontalis and B. gaurus (Gayal is a word of Sanscrit derivation applied to B. gaurus in parts of India, and not used by the Indo-Chinese tribes who alone own B. frontalis). But it is very probable that some of the domesticated "mithans" are B. gaurus, the domestication of which by the Kukis was described by Blyth on information from a missionary, M. Barbe (J. A. S. B. xxix, p. 294). This would explain the old accounts of Mr. McRae and the recent one by Mr. Baker, both of which have every appearance of authenticity.

Until quite recently there were grounds for supposing that the wild " mithan" of the mishmi hills, Upper Assam, might be Bos frontalis, but, as already mentioned under Bos gaurus, this appears not to be the case. A few days before these pages were sent to press, I saw, in Mr. Hume's private collection, a typical skull of B. frontalis, obtained by Mr. W. Davison in Tenasserim, and distinctly identified by him as that of a wild animal killed in Tenasserim, between Lemyne, 66 miles south by east of Moulmein, and Tenasserim town. This is, I believe, the first distinct record of the occurrence of B. frontalis in the wild state. The range of the species is still a question to be solved.

The tame herds of B. frontalis are kept for food, and according to some authorities for their milk, though this is doubtful, as most of the Indo-Chinese tribes who keep mithans never drink milk. The animals appear never to be employed in agricultural labour, nor as beasts of burden. They roam and feed unattended through the forest during the day, and return to their owner's village at night. They breed at times freely with the common humped cattle, and the progeny has been crossed with other bovines (Bartlett, P. Z. S. 1884, p. 399). The period of gestation is said by one writer to be ten months, by another eleven, but further information on this point is desirable."

[Quelle: Blanford, W. T. <1832 – 1905>: Mammalia. -- 1888 - 1891. -- (Fauna of British India including Ceylon and Burma). -- S. 484 - 489. -- Online: -- Zugriff am 2007-09-06]




THE Indian bison (Gavceus gaurus), or the Gaur, is undoubtedly the finest species of the genus Bos in the world. It differs in appearance from the American bison, commonly called Buffalo (Bison americanus), in being larger, in having no shaggy hair on the neck and shoulders, and in other essential particulars of form ; whilst it lives entirely in dense forests, especially those of hill-tracts, instead of on open prairies like the American bison.

The bison is distributed throughout India and the countries immediately to the east of the Bay of Bengal wherever the conditions necessary to its existence -- viz., heavy forests of large extent, and hilly country -- are found. It prefers high elevations, from 2000 to 5000 feet, but is found also in the low country. I have shot bison within three miles of the coast in Chittagong, at an elevation of under 100 feet. The bison is not found in Ceylon, but is stated by Jerdon (The accuracy of this statement seems doubtful.) to have existed there sixty years ago, and to have become extinct. It would be interesting to know to what cause this is to be attributed, if true, as the wild elephant, the bison's almost invariable contemporary, still nourishes in the island.

The prevailing colour of the bison is a dark coffee-brown amongst the cows, which deepens to black in mature and old bulls. The legs from the knees downwards, as also the forehead, are of a dirty white colour, whilst inside the thighs and fore-arms the hair is of a bright chestnut. The head is somewhat short and square for the size of the animal, particularly in the bulls. The eye is a peculiar feature, the pupil being a pale slaty blue and very large, which gives a solemn appearance to the animal when at rest. The ears are broad, and are like those of the deer tribe rather than the Bovidae. The neck is short, heavy, and immensely powerful. The bison has no hump above the level of the dorsal ridge, but there is an exuberance of flesh in the bulls immediately over the shoulders. The dorsal ridge runs with a slight rise backwards to about the middle of the back, and there ends abruptly with a drop of nearly five inches in large animals. The quarters are plump and the tail somewhat short.

The largest bulls stand eighteen hands (six feet) at the shoulder, and according to Elliot, as quoted by Jerdon, even six feet one and a half inch. I have never myself shot them above eighteen hands fair vertical measurement. The animal when standing certainly does not look its height. The hide of old bulls is frequently almost devoid of hair on the quarters, and after a sharp hunt gives out an oily sweat. In this peculiarity the bison differs from domestic cattle, which never sweat under any exertion.

The cow is considerably lighter in make and colour than the bull, and is more active. The horns are more slender and upright, with more inward curvature, and the frontal ridge is scarcely perceptible. In young animals the horns are smooth and polished ; in old bulls they are rugged and indented at the base, and massive and worn at the points.

In old bulls the vertical form of the cows' and younger bulls' horns is replaced by a much more horizontal growth. The largest bull that I have shot had horns which measured as follows :

  Ft. In.
From tip to tip, round the outer edge and across the forehead 6 2
Across the sweep 0 33
Circumference of horn at base, well clear of forehead 0 19
Between tips 0 19

Horns are seldom found larger than the above in all their dimensions.

The bison's appearance is a strange admixture of that of the genera Bos and Bubalus. In Canarese, and, in some localities, in Hindoostanee, the bison is called the jungle-buffalo. The old bulls with almost hairless hides, and both sexes as to their white foreheads and stockings, and the peculiar habit of holding their noses almost horizontally when staring at any strange object, closely resemble the buffalo. Their legs, too, are short, and their carcasses are heavy, which further assists the likeness. I found some difficulty in getting my Mussulman shikaries to eat bison at first, though their throats were duly cut, as they regarded them as buffaloes, which many Mussulmans in Southern India do not eat ; but I did not find this prejudice regarding buffaloes existing in Bengal.

Bison seldom form herds of more than thirty or forty individuals ; the general number is about twelve. I have, however, seen a collection which, I believe, contained not less than one hundred. It was at the commencement of the early rains whilst pasture was still limited, and this gathering was very temporary. One bull holds undisputed sway in each herd, the other males being younger animals incapable of disputing his authority. On the leading bull's strength declining with age he is ousted by more youthful rivals, and thenceforward invariably, I believe, leads a solitary life, unless he is able to force himself for a season into a herd whose chief is in worse case than himself. I have never found a really aged bull with a herd.

I will first treat of the habits of herd-bison, and then of the solitary bulls ; the latter are noble beasts, and well entitled to a special notice.

Herd-bison are shy and retiring in their habits, and retreat at once if intruded upon by man. They avoid the vicinity of his dwellings, and never visit patches of cultivation in the jungle, as do wild elephants, deer, and wild hog. The bison is thus an animal which would soon become extinct before the advance of civilisation were the latter rapid, or were the jungles which he roams limited in extent ; but his exemption from serious diminution, except in isolated positions, is secured by the existence of the continuous jungles of the Western Ghats and other forest-ranges.

Bison, though found in the low-country jungles, are very partial to high and well-wooded tracts, and their activity in hilly ground is astonishing. A herd scrambles up a steep hillside almost with the facility of a troop of deer, or thunders down a slope into the thicker cover of the valley, when alarmed, at a rapid trot or free gallop.

The food of the bison as of the wild elephant consists chiefly of grasses, and only in a secondary degree of bamboo leaves and twigs, the thick and succulent tuberous shoots of the bamboo which appear during the rains, and of the bark of some trees, particularly one known in Canarese as "Nelly" (Phyllanthus emblica). Bison feed till about nine in the morning, or later in cloudy and rainy weather ; they then rest, lying down in bamboocover or light forest until the afternoon, when they rise to graze and drink ; they also invariably lie down for some hours during the night.

Although certainly quick in detecting an intruder, bison can scarcely be considered naturally wary animals, as they seldom encounter alarms in their native haunts. Unsophisticated herds will frequently allow several shots to be fired at them before making off, and even then probably will not go far. But if subjected to frequent disturbance they quickly become as shy as deer, and if alarmed by the approach of man they retreat without loss of time. In localities exposed to frequent intrusion they are found only in small herds, and when startled retreat rapidly, and usually put a considerable distance between themselves and the apprehended danger before stopping.

I have never known a case of herd-bison attacking man, except such individuals as were wounded, and, being pursued, found themselves unable to escape. Even these more often die without resistance than otherwise. The character of ferocity sometimes given to bison by sportsmen is entirely foreign to their character, and can only have arisen in the hunters' own fears which have led them to mistake for an attack what is really the bewildered rush of a herd misled by fright into the very danger they aim at avoiding.

The habits of bison and wild elephants are very similar in many points. Their requirements in food and cover being almost identical, the same causes influence the movements of both. They are frequently found feeding together ; each are inoffensive and tolerant of the close proximity of the other. The remarks upon the habits of wild elephants in Chapter VI. may be applied with a few modifications to the bison.

Both seek the deep and ever-verdant valleys, watered by perennial streams during the hot months, or from January to May, where they are safe from the jungle-fires which sweep the drier localities. With the early rains of April and May a plentiful crop of succulent young grass springs from beneath the black ashes, and the bison and elephants then roam forth to feed and enjoy their emancipation from the thraldom of the season of scarcity. About September the grass in hill-ranges has become so coarse, and the annoyance from insects during continued rain so great, that the herds move into more open country, and especially into forest-tracts at the foot of hillranges where suitable cover exists. Here the grass is seldom more than two or three feet high, whilst it is as many yards high on the hills, and there are comparatively few insect-pests. The herds have here to be content with somewhat light cover, they usually lie up in bamboo-thickets, and if seriously alarmed retreat at once to the hills.

Almost the only divergence in the habits of bison and wild elephants occurs here. Whilst the former timidly confine themselves to the forest, the elephants roam in herds or singly far out into open and partly-populated country.

When in the low country the bison frequently visit the spots known as salt-licks, where a peculiar kind of earth is found, usually of a greasy consistency when wet, and of a dull-grey colour, of which all wild animals eat considerable quantities at intervals, more commonly in the wet weather. Natives assert that tigers, and the Felidae generally, eat this earth. I have never myself seen traces of their doing so, though I think it probable, as my dogs would frequently eat it. I do not know of any of these salt-licks existing at a great elevation in hill-ranges ; they appear to be found chiefly,if not entirely, in the low-country jungles, below 3000 feet.

It is whilst in the low country that bison sometimes suffer from cattle diseases through feeding in jungles used by infected domestic cattle. These epidemics are exceedingly fatal. The three most dreaded are called in Canarese : Dod-roga The great sickness; Kei-ly-roga Foot-and-mouth disease ; Cheppay-rdoa Shoulder-blade disease. The following are the symptoms of each :

Dod-roga. The beast coughs once, the ears immediately droop, it stands listless, and will not graze. The coat becomes staring, violent purging commences, the evacuations being mixed with bloody mucus ; there is much running at the nose and mouth, and the beast drinks to excess. Flies deposit their eggs about the mouth, eyes, and ears. It becomes rapidly weak and staggers. In from two to four days death generally ensues : some may live for a week. No effectual remedy is known. Of beasts attacked not more than about ten per cent recover ; those in best condition are the chief sufferers ; old and poor cattle occasionally survive an attack. Beasts that have once been attacked are said never to have the disease again. It is highly infectious. Calves drinking infected beasts' milk die. The stench from infected cattle is intolerable. The lowest castes of Hindoos (Holoyas and Madigas), and also wild hogs, eat the flesh of the dead cattle, without any ill effects ; but tigers will not touch it, or even, it is said, kill beasts suffering from the disease. Infected herds are frequently driven into jungles where tigers are known to be, as it is superstitiously believed by the natives that if the tiger can be got to kill a beast the disease will leave the rest. It is probable that the disease is on the wane when the tiger recommences killing amongst them. The tiger, doubtless, discriminates between infected herds and those not infected by the stench of the former.

This disease prevailed among the bison in the Billiga-rungun hills in 1867, and the Sh51agas estimate that it killed two-thirds of them. I saw many of their remains when I first shot in the hills in 1869. Just as I was leaving India in April 1877 it again broke out amongst them, and I have no doubt has decimated them. It was introduced, on the latter occasion, by the famine-stricken cattle driven to the jungles for pasture when there was none elsewhere.

Kei-by-rdga. In this disease the mouth of the infected animal becomes sore, frothy, and suppurates, and thus renders grazing difficult. The beast is observed to limp and lick its feet, which are found to swarm with maggots the hoof having suppurated and become loose. Frequently the hoofs drop off. It is generally severe for a month. It is much less fatal than dod-roga ; like that disease it is most destructive amongst young animals in good condition. Perhaps twenty-five per cent of beasts attacked die. There is no known remedy, but a collar of pieces of wood is occasionally put on to prevent the beast licking its feet. Infected cattle are also kept standing in puddles as a preventive against maggots. I have shot bison suffering from this disease.

Cheppay-roga is confined to beasts under three years of age, especially calves, and is invariably fatal. Beasts quite well one day will be found to have a shoulder or hind-quarter swelled and puffy in the morning. The affected part feels spongy to the touch, and the beast limps. The stomach also swells. Death follows within six or eight hours. The flesh of the dead animal looks black and inflamed.

The bulk of cow-bison calve in September, a few in April and May. The bison-calf when very young resembles the calf of the domestic cow, the colour being a reddish brown, and the future white of the forehead and legs showing but indistinctly as a leaden tinge. The cow-bison separates from the herd when her calf is born, and keeps it in one place for about four days, feeding near it till it is strong enough to accompany the herd, which remains in the locality, and which she then rejoins with her offspring. The habits of bison and elephants differ in this respect : the female elephant does not separate from the herd ; the latter remains with her for about two days after her calf is born.

The bison utters three distinct sounds. The first is hardly like any uttered by the Bovidae, and closely resembles a common sound made by elephants. It is used by bison to call each other at a distance, and can be heard for about a mile in favourable ground. It may be described as a sonorous bellow. The second is a low "moo," indicative of apprehension or curiosity. I heard this from several cow-bison once when they discovered two Sholagas and myself creeping on hands and knees towards them in grass about three feet high ; they probably supposed us to be tigers, as they stood their ground for half an hour, within forty yards, till I got a chance at, and killed, the bull. The third sound is the loud whistling snort of alarm with which they dash off when frightened. I have also heard a bison, held by bull-dogs, roar like a common bull.

The flesh of the bison is somewhat coarse, but is well flavoured. Steaks cut from along the dorsal ridge behind the shoulders are the best. They should be cut thick and grilled when fresh from the animal, with a plentiful dusting of black pepper, which process makes them tender. If the animal is allowed to get cold, or the steaks are cut thin, or are over-cooked, they will be as tough as leather. I have eaten steaks from the oldest bulls, cut out and cooked almost before they had given the last quiver, and found them excellent. The marrow-bones are those above the knees and above the hocks ; the shin and shank bones are almost solid.

In Mysore, except the two lowest castes, Holoyas and Madigas, who eat any dead cattle, and the Kurrabas of Kakenkote, no Hindoos will eat the flesh of the bison ; this is because it is, in their opinion, the same as their sacred cow. As Mussulmans require the throat to be cut before it is dead, it is seldom bison-beef appears in their menu, as few people care to approach a dying bison whilst any doubts remain regarding its demise.

The bison has never been domesticated in Southern India, though I believe it could be under the same circumstances under which it, or its very near relative the gayal or mithun (Gavaeus frontalis), is kept in captivity in the countries to the east of the Brahmapootra, Assam, Tipperah, Chittagong hills, &c. But it is certain that it could never be kept out of its natural wilds, and its domestication would not thus be of much practical value. A strain might possibly be obtained by crossing it with domestic cattle, and by toning down the first result with a further infusion of domestic blood, animals might be produced which would live in the plains, and the bison's enormous strength would be a gain in its progeny. But to a people like the ordinary natives of India such considerations or experiments are of no interest.

No bison-calf has ever, I believe, reached England alive ; and though they have been kept for a year or so in India, they have not survived much longer away from their natural wilds. The domesticated individuals which I saw in the Chittagong hill-tracts were in their native forests ; they merely returned to the villages at nightfall, where they were fed with a little salt, the only tie between them and their owners. They were not secured or housed, but lay about on the village green, and at dawn they were off again to the jungles. Any that were required for milking were detained a few minutes, and then followed their companions. They had no attendants in the jungles. The hillmen informed me that they kept them chiefly for the sake of killing one occasionally for meat at feasts. These animals were thus feral to all intents and purposes, except in their having no dread of man. They seemed very peaceful in disposition. I was assured by the hillmen that they would not live more than a few months in the plains of Bengal. Under similar conditions there is no doubt the bison would live, and probably breed with domestic cattle, upon his own forest ground in Southern India.

I believe the distinction between the bison and the gayal was made by Cuvier, or Blyth ; and Dr Jerdon has quoted them. The difference is, however, exceedingly slight, and from the sportsman or general observer's point of view the two animals are to all intents and purposes identical. Were it not that I should be setting my opinion against that of the above-named eminent naturalists, I should say the animals are the same, and that the distinction has been founded on a comparison of the wild individuals in the one locality, and the domesticated and impure race in the other. The name gayal is merely the local native name in Bengal.

When in the hill-tracts of Chittagong I saw numbers of domesticated gayal, and examined them closely. Jerdon says of this animal : "The gayal or mithun (Gavaeus frontalis) is found in the hilly tracts to the east of the Burrampooter, and at the head of the valley of Assam, the Mishnee hills and their vicinity, probably extending north and east into the borders of China. It is domesticated extensively and easily, and has bred with the common Indian cattle. It is a heavy, clumsy-looking animal compared with the bison, the wild animal similarly coloured and with white legs. It browses more than the bison, and, unlike that, it has a small but distinct dewlap. The domesticated race extends south as far as Tipperah and the Chittagong hills, and northwards has been seen grazing in company with the yak, close to the snows. It is better adapted for rocky and precipitous ground than the bison."

The points which Jerdon here notes seem slight divergencies on which to found a distinction between two animals, when it is seen that the following essential points exist in both : the dorsal ridge ending abruptly in the middle of the back ; the peculiar light-blue full pupil of the eye ; the unmixed brown colour of the hide, with chestnut inside the thighs and on the abdomen : the white forehead and legs ; similar horns.

In the alleged points of difference there seem to be none that may not be the direct result of the bison's (or gayal's) domestication. Heaviness and clumsiness of appearance might follow partial curtailment of the wanderings of the wild animal, whilst its browsing more than the bison of Southern India might be caused by local differences in pasture. I cannot imagine any animal better adapted for rocky and precipitous country than the bison ; but if the domestic gayal is so, that, too, may be a peculiarity arising from the nature of the country. The chief point of difference seems to be in the gayal's having, it is said, a small dewlap which is wanting in the bison. This may have happened to be a peculiarity in certain specimens, and probably caused by crossing with domestic cattle ; but, even if peculiar to the whole species in the north-east of Hindoostan, it is not a more essential difference than that of male elephants in Ceylon being almost all tuskless, though identical with the elephants of continental India, amongst whom a tuskless male is a rarity. I venture to think that, unless the comparison is made between a wild gayal and a wild bison, and some distinction is then established, the very slight difference, if any, that exists between them may be put down to partial domestication alone.

I was determined to see a wild gayal for myself when in the Chittagong hills, and I was fortunate enough to shoot an old solitary bull, a very good specimen. The pursuit of this animal occupied me four days ; the dryness of the ground, and the inexpertness of the trackers, made the hunt a difficult one. I can state that there was not one single point of difference in appearance or size between it and the bison of Southern India, except that the horns were somewhat smaller than what would have been looked for in a bull of its age in Southern India.

I have enjoyed the best opportunities of observing bison in Mysore when mounted on an elephant. As bison and elephants constantly feed together, the presence of an elephant causes them no alarm, nor do they observe the rider if he use ordinary precautions to conceal himself. Whilst some of the herd are lying down peacefully chewing the cud, or affectionately licking each other's ears and cheeks, others are grazing, or browsing on the young shoots of bamboo. The characteristic placidity of their disposition is here seen to advantage ; and I have often wished for a pencil, and the ability to use it, rather than the murderous rifle, that I might carry away with me a representation of these scenes. I have often left the poor beasts undisturbed.

I should think it probable, judging from the cases of two or three Brahminee bulls I have known of, which had entire liberty, the choice of fields to graze in, and no work under the yoke, that bison may live to about fifty years of age.

Unlike solitary elephants, individuals amongst which are frequently young males biding their time till they are able to appropriate a herd, solitary bison are always, as far as my experience goes, old bulls, and invariably scarred with healed cicatrices showing the fights they have been engaged in in their declining days.

The morose and savage disposition frequently ascribed to these solitary animals is rather a traducement of them ; and though jungle-people are occasionally killed by them, these mishaps arise rather through the circumstances under which the solitary bison is often met, than from any change of disposition ascribable to his banishment from the circle of his companions.

In a herd of bison some individuals are generally standing up, and perceive the approach of an intruder ; but with a solitary bull it not unfrequently happens that, whilst lying in long grass which hides him, a jungle-man in search of honey or roots approaches his lair unawares. The bison perhaps imagines that it is a sambur or other animal moving through the grass, and does not rise till the man is nearly upon him, when he jumps up with a suddenness of which such a huge beast would hardly be thought capable, and seeing an intruder almost within horn's reach, rushes at him to dash him from his path. I have not known any instance of an unwounded solitary bison attacking man except under the above circumstances. A gentleman was killed on the Pulney hills in 1874, but this was through incautiously following a wounded bison into thick cover. In the above case the beast went on at once after killing his victim in his rush. Only in one case that I know of has a wounded bison turned and gored his victim. I do not even think the solitary bull is more dangerous when wounded and followed up than a member of a herd. I have seen both die without resistance, and both gave some trouble.

The solitary bull invariably carries the best head, and is a more noble object of pursuit than herd animals. After having shot a good many bison I have latterly given up firing at herds altogether, in favour of old bulls.

In a herd it is always difficult to secure the leader, unless he is a very prominent animal, and even then there are always so many wary cows that the herd may be off before there is time to pick out the bull. It is only the novice who cares to shoot herd-bison ; any one who has killed a fair number must have the instincts of a butcher to continue the useless slaughter of these fine beasts. The solitary bull is the noblest of his race, and his pursuit can never, I imagine, pall on the most successful hunter."

[Quelle: Sanderson, G. P. (George P.):  Thirteen years among the wild beasts of India: their haunts and habits from personal observations; with an account of the modes and capturing and taming elephants.  -- 5th ed.  --  London, W. H. Allen, 1893.  -- xviii, 387 S. : Ill. ;  23 cm. -- S. 243 - 252. -- Online: -- Zugriff am 2007-09-14. -- Dort auch ein weiteres lesenswertes Kapitel über den Gaur. ]