The Gaur, also called the Indian Bison, is the largest bovine species in existence. It is native to South and South East Asia, and It is reported to be the tallest of all wild cattle species.
The first description of the Gaur was noted by Aylmer Bourke Lambert in 1804. It has been listed as a vulnerable species since 1986. It is native to South east and South areas, and can be found in Vietnam, Laos, Nepal, China, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
The species is listed in CITES Appendix 1 Cryoconservation of animal genetic resources. This is due to the recent declining numbers of the species, due to over hunting and over predation.
In Cambodia there has been a huge decline in numbers between the 1960's and 1990's, it is reported that there are under 1000 left in the wild. This was largely due to overhunting, and numbers are reported to be below 200 since the 1990's.
In Thailand there are currently under 1000 wild Gaur remaining, while in China the 1980's saw numbers drop to between 600-800. The species was also hunted excessively in Bangladesh, which has dramatically affected numbers.
In Nepal, according to the 2016 census, there are currently only 368 Gaur remaining. India remains the only country where populations remain large, it was reported that numbers in India ranged from 12,000 to 22,000 in the mid 1990's.
Gaur are a diurnal animal, meaning they feed during the daytime. They are strong, massive animals with huge horns on the side of their heads. They also have a high convex ridge between horns on their forehead. They also have a noticeably prominent ridge on their back.
Males are usually dark brown in colour, with older animals being black. The lower part of their legs are a white/tan colour. Cow's and young bulls are usually slightly lighter in colour, while the Gaur have large ears and shorter tails than most similar species. Their hooves are narrow and pointed.
The male gaur can become very heavy indeed, averaging at 840 kgs. While the females tend to average in at 700 kgs. Both sexes have horns on the side of their heads, which have an upward curve.
They are among the largest of all land living animals, falling behind only the elephant, rhino, giraffe and hippopotamus. The only other bovine species to compare in size is the water buffalo, yet it is still lighter in mass.
They tend to stick to evergreen forests, or moist deciduous forests. They prefer large undisturbed forests tracts or hilly terrain below 1,500 metres. They need to have plenty of forage and an adequate water supply in order to prosper.
They eat grass a plenty, bamboo, shrubs, bushes and trees. They usually eat leaf blades, stems, flowers and seeds of plants. While they also eat young shoots and stems, they have been reported to eat over 32 different species of plant.
During Monsoon season they stick to eating grass and legumes, as they are highly nutritious at this time of the year. While during summer months they usually eat barks and fruits. They eat bark as it contains nutrients and is full of fibre. Most of a Gaur's day is spent feeding, while they tend to rest during the hottest parts of the day.
Life in the herd:
The Gaur tend to live in small herds of between 8 and 10 animals and one bull. Usually during mating months, more bulls tend to join the herd so they can mate. In May/June these bulls then depart the herd and either live on their own or in small groups. The Gaur and herds can travel as much as 5kms per day in search of food.
A female Gaur usually has one calf, with the occasional twins born. Their gestation period is approximately 9 months or 275 days, a few days less than cows. Calves are weaned at between 7 and 12 months.
Known to be a shy timid animal when in it's own environment, the Gaur can also be aggressive.
When they are alarmed they tend to run away in the forests, but some Gaur have been reported to break into cattle fields and killing some of the cattle. They tend to react boldly and aggressively to humans. During summer months, and extremely hot and insect filled weather, the Gaur's temperament can change very quickly. They have been known to charge without provocation during these times.
For such a large animal it might seem strange that it is preyed upon by other animals, but some do try. Leopards and dhole have been known to target separated calves and older herd animals, though the herd usually tries to protect them as a unit, forming a circle around them.
Tigers and Crocodiles are their main predators, having being the only species to have ever killed an adult Gaur. Though they still tend to target the younger or older animals.
One of the largest bovine species in existence, the Gaur is truly a majestic animal. Let's hope all conservation efforts prove successful and the mighty Gaur remains roaming the wilds of Asia.