The mammals is one of the larger of the wild cattle, and individuals can reach over two metres at the shoulder (2). The sleek, dark coat is black in mature males and dark brown in females and juveniles (4). The legs are light coloured and, unusually amongst cattle, there is a ridge of grey between the horns (2). These cattle are extremely heavyset and bulky; they have a large shoulder hump and a dewlap of skin under the chin reaching between the forelegs (4). Both sexes bear horns that are yellow with black tips; the horns leave at the side of the head and curve upwards growing up to 80 centimetres in length (2).
These cattle live in small herds of up to 40 individuals, led by a mature bull (2). Usually active during the day, in areas of extensive human contact mammalss have developed more nocturnal habits (2). During the mating season the males' loud bellowing call may be heard over 1.6 kilometres away. Solitary males wander widely in search of potential mates but aggressive encounters are rare, with size tending to determinate dominance (2). Gestation lasts about 275 days with births take place mainly between December and June although they can occur all year round; a female usually gives birth to a single calf (2).
Gaurs graze preferentially on green grasses although they will also consume fruit and leaves (2). These cattle have been domesticated and used for both food and work in India (2).
Although Indian populations of the mammals have remained fairly stable in recent years, elsewhere the species has shown a worrying decline, especially in Indochina (1). Hunting, particularly for the horns, remains a serious threat to survival and is particularly pertinent when coupled with the widespread habitat loss that is sweeping through much of Asia (1). In addition, gaurs are at risk from diseases that are transmitted by domestic cattle, such as rinderpest and foot-and-mouth (1).
The gaur is protected in all of the countries within which it occurs, international trade is also banned by the listing of this species on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (1). Gaurs are found in a number of protected reserves such as the Royal Chitwan National Park in Nepal and a large captive population exists (1). With careful monitoring of population trends and the protection of remaining habitat, the future of these formidable cattle is relatively stable at present.
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