Gaur

This Asiatic bovine is a giant - the largest of all the species of wild cattle. This species lives from Nepal and India to South-east Asia, including the Malay peninsula, inhabiting forested hills.

Once common in hilly, forested areas throughout their range, gaur now only occur in scattered herds. Gaur are legally protected, but this is hard to enforce except in reserves, and the population is still threatened.

The gaur is a strong, heavily built animal, with a massive head, thick horns and a prominent muscular ridge on its shoulders. Females are smaller than males and have shorter, lighter horns. Gaur range in colour from reddish to dark brown or almost black, with white hair on the lower half of the legs. In small herds, they take shelter in the shade and seclusion of forest during the day and at night, but they venture out into the open to feed in the morning and late afternoon, when they graze and also sometimes browse on the leaves and bark of available trees.

When it comes to determining leadership of a herd, male gaurs rarely fight. Instead, the larger male is simply recognized as the dominant individual. Other adult males stay outside the herd, living on their own. These animals’ great bulk also means that they can simply smash their way through the rainforest to escape danger if threatened. In areas where they have been hunted by people, gaurs have become nocturnal in their habits, making them harder to observe.

During the breeding season, the timing of which varies from area to area, bulls roam through the forest searching for females on heat. When a male finds a mate, he defends her from other males. The female moves slightly away from the herd to give birth to her offspring in a safe, secluded spot; they rejoin the herd a few days later.

Distribution: Throughout tropical parts of Asia, including India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar (Burma), south through Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam to peninsula Malaysia, and east to China.

Habitat: Hill forest.

Weight: 700 - 1000 kg (1540 - 2200 lb); cows are generally lighter.

Length: 320 - 430 cm (126 - 169 in), including tail.

Maturity: 2 - 3 years.

Gestation Period: About 275 days; weaning occurs 7-9 months later.

Breeding: Usually 1 calf, occasionally 2.

Food: Herbivorous, eating grass and other vegetation, as well as some fruit.

Lifespan: Potentially up to 30 years.

Horns

Horns are massive and curved, growing to a length of about 80 cm (32 in). They are located on the side, rather than the top of the head.

Height

The shoulder height can exceed 200 cm (79 in), with those in the southeast of the range being the largest.

Social structure

Gaurs generally live in groups, headed by a male.

DEFENSIVE POSTURE

The sheer size of the gaur proves a deterrent to most predators, but tigers will take on these huge mammals. They prefer to prey on weaker calves.

Gallery of Gaur