A zebu (//, // or //; Bos primigenius indicus or Bos indicus or Bos taurus indicus), sometimes known as humped cattle or Brahman, is a species or sub-species of domestic cattle originating in South Asia. Zebu are characterised by a fatty hump on their shoulders, drooping ears and a large dewlap. They are well adapted to withstanding high temperatures, and are farmed throughout the tropical countries, both as pure zebu and as hybrids with taurine cattle, the other main type of domestic cattle. Zebu are used as draught oxen, as dairy cattle and as beef cattle, as well as for byproducts such as hides and dung for fuel and manure. In 1999, researchers at Texas A&M University successfully cloned a zebu.
Taxonomy and etymology
The scientific name of zebu cattle was originally Bos indicus, but they are now more commonly classified within the species Bos primigenius, together with taurine cattle (Bos primigenius taurus) and the ancestor of both of them, the extinct aurochs (Bos primigenius). European cattle are descended from the Eurasian subspecies, while zebu are descended from the Indian subspecies. "Zebu" may be either singular or plural, but "zebus" is also an acceptable plural form. The Spanish name, "cebu" or "cebú", is also present in a few English works.
Zebu cattle are thought to be derived from Asian aurochs, sometimes regarded as a subspecies, Bos primigenius namadicus Wild Asian aurochs disappeared during the time of the Indus Valley Civilization from its range in the Indus basin and other parts of the South Asia possibly due to inter-breeding with domestic zebu and resultant fragmentation of wild populations due to loss of habitat.
Breeds and hybrids
There are some 75 known breeds of zebu, split about evenly between African breeds and South Asian ones. The major zebu cattle breeds of the world include Gir, Guzerat, Kankrej, Indo-Brazilian, Brahman, Nelore, Ongole, Sahiwal, Red Sindhi, Butana, Kenana, Boran, Baggara, Tharparkar, Kangayam, Chinese Southern Yellow, Philippine native, Kedah - Kelantan, and local Indian Dairy (LID). Other breeds of zebu are quite local, like the Hariana of Haryana and eastern Punjab or the Rath of Alwar in eastern Rajasthan.
The African Sanga cattle breeds originated from hybridization of zebu with indigenous African humpless cattle; they include the Afrikaner, Red Fulani, Ankole-Watusi, and many other breeds of central and southern Africa. Sanga cattle can be distinguished from pure zebu by having smaller humps located farther forward on the animals.
Zebu were imported to Africa over many hundreds of years, and interbred with taurine cattle there. Genetic analysis of African cattle has found higher concentrations of zebu genes all along the east coast of Africa, with especially pure cattle on the island of Madagascar, either implying that the method of dispersal was cattle transported by ship or alternatively, the Zebu may have reached East Africa via the coastal route (Pakistan, Iran, Southern Arabian coast) much earlier and crossed over to Madagascar. Partial resistance to rinderpest led to another increase in the frequency of zebu in Africa.
Zebu were imported into Brazil in the early twentieth century and crossbred with Charolais cattle, a European taurine breed. The resulting breed, 63% Charolais and 37% Zebu, is called the Canchim. It has a better meat quality than the zebu as well as better heat resistance than Asian cattle. The zebu breeds used were primarily Indo-Brazilian with some Nelore and Guzerat.
Many breeds are complex mixtures of the zebu and various taurine types, and some also have yak, gaur or banteng genes. While zebu are the common cattle in much of Asia, the cattle of Japan, Korea and Mongolia are taurine (although possibly domesticated separately from the other taurine cattle originating from Europe and Africa). Other species of cattle domesticated in parts of Asia include yak, gaur, banteng and water buffalo.
Han-u is a traditional Korean taurine–zebu hybrid breed.
The quality of the meat is not highly regarded. In August 2007 the zebu was described as "notorious for its tough meat and poor eating quality" after imported steaks served in restaurants of two British public house chains tested positive for zebu genes.
- "Cloning gives second chance for bull". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 1999-09-03. Retrieved 2008-10-11.
- van Vuure, Cis (2005). Retracing the Aurochs: History, Morphology and Ecology of an Extinct Wild Ox. Sofia-Moscow: Pensoft Publishers. ISBN 954-642-235-5.
- Rangarajan, Mahesh (2001). India's Wildlife History. Delhi, India: Permanent Black. p. 4. ISBN 978-81-7824-140-1.
- "Hariana — India: Haryana, eastern Punjab" page 245 In Porter, Valerie (1991) Cattle: A Handbook to the Breeds of the World Helm, London, ISBN 0-8160-2640-8
- "Rath — India: Alwar and eastern Rajasthan" page 246 In Porter, Valerie (1991) Cattle: A Handbook to the Breeds of the World Helm, London, ISBN 0-8160-2640-8
- USA (2013-04-25). "Food Ark - Cattle Breeds - Pictures, More From National Geographic Magazine". Ngm.nationalgeographic.com. Retrieved 2013-05-30.
- "Definition: Zebu". Online Medical Dictionary. Retrieved 2007-09-08.
- Undercover Mothers, ITV, 2007-08-21
- "Wales farmers beef about tough steaks". News Wales. August 22, 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-22.
- "Zebu and chips, sir?". Daily Mail. August 20, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-22.
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