Turkey Vulture | Cathartes aura
Turkey vulture info via Wikipedia:
|At Santa Teresa County Park, San Jose, California, US|
|Range of C. aura Summer only range Year-round range|
The turkey vulture (Cathartes aura), also known in some North American regions as the turkey buzzard (or just buzzard), and in some areas of the Caribbean as the John crow or carrion crow, is the most widespread of the New World vultures. One of three species in the genus Cathartes of the family Cathartidae, the turkey vulture ranges from southern Canada to the southernmost tip of South America. It inhabits a variety of open and semi-open areas, including subtropical forests, shrublands, pastures, and deserts.
Like all New World vultures, it is not closely related to the Old World vultures of Europe, Africa, and Asia. The two groups strongly resemble each other because of convergent evolution; natural selection often leads to similar body plans in animals that adapt independently to the same conditions.
The turkey vulture is a scavenger and feeds almost exclusively on carrion. It finds its food using its keen eyes and sense of smell, flying low enough to detect the gases produced by the beginnings of the process of decay in dead animals. In flight, it uses thermals to move through the air, flapping its wings infrequently. It roosts in large community groups. Lacking a syrinx—the vocal organ of birds—its only vocalizations are grunts or low hisses. It nests in caves, hollow trees, or thickets. Each year it generally raises two chicks, which it feeds by regurgitation. It has very few natural predators. In the United States, the vulture receives legal protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.
- Distribution and habitat
- Ecology and behavior
- Relationship with humans
- External links
The turkey vulture received its common name from the resemblance of the adult's bald red head and its dark plumage to that of the male wild turkey, while the name "vulture" is derived from the Latin word vulturus, meaning "tearer", and is a reference to its feeding habits. The word buzzard is used by North Americans to refer to this bird, yet in the Old World that term refers to members of the genus Buteo. The generic term Cathartes means "purifier" and is the Latinized form from the Greek kathartēs/καθαρτης. The turkey vulture was first formally described by Linnaeus as Vultur aura in his Systema Naturae in 1758, and characterised as V. fuscogriseus, remigibus nigris, rostro albo ("brown-gray vulture, with black wings and a white beak"). It is a member of the family Cathartidae, along with the other six species of New World vultures, and included in the genus Cathartes, along with the greater yellow-headed vulture and the lesser yellow-headed vulture. Like other New World vultures, the turkey vulture has a diploid chromosome number of 80.
The taxonomic placement of the turkey vulture and the remaining six species of New World vultures has been in flux. Though both are similar in appearance and have similar ecological roles, the New World and Old World vultures evolved from different ancestors in different parts of the world. Some earlier authorities suggested that the New World vultures were more closely related to storks. More recent authorities maintained their overall position in the order Falconiformes along with the Old World vultures or place them in their own order, Cathartiformes.
However, recent genetic studies have made it clear that neither New World nor Old World vultures are close to falcons, nor are New World vultures close to storks. Both are basal members of the clade Afroaves, with Old World vultures comprising several groups within the family Accipitridae, also containing eagles, kites, and hawks, while New World vultures in Cathartiformes are a sister group to Accipitriformes (containing the osprey and secretarybird along with Accipitridae).
There are five subspecies of turkey vulture:
- C. a. aura is the nominate subspecies. It is found from Mexico south through South America and the Greater Antilles. This subspecies occasionally overlaps its range with other subspecies. It is the smallest of the subspecies but is nearly indistinguishable from C. a. meridionalis in color.
- C. a. jota, the Chilean turkey vulture, is larger, browner, and slightly paler than C. a. ruficollis. The secondary feathers and wing coverts may have gray margins.
- C. a. meridionalis, the western turkey vulture, is a synonym for C. a. teter. C. a. teter was identified as a subspecies by Friedman in 1933, but in 1964 Alexander Wetmore separated the western birds, which took the name meridionalis, which was applied earlier to a migrant from South America. It breeds from southern Manitoba, southern British Columbia, central Alberta and Saskatchewan south to Baja California, south-central Arizona, southeast New Mexico, and south-central Texas. It is the most migratory subspecies, migrating as far as South America, where it overlaps the range of the smaller C. a. aura. It differs from the eastern turkey vulture in color, as the edges of the lesser wing coverts are darker brown and narrower.
- C. a. ruficollis is found in Panama south through Uruguay and Argentina. It is also found on the island of Trinidad. It is darker and more black than C. a. aura, with brown wing edgings which are narrower or absent altogether. The head and neck are dull red with yellow-white or green-white markings. Adults generally have a pale yellow patch on the crown of the head.
- C. a. septentrionalis is known as the eastern turkey vulture. The eastern and western turkey vultures differ in tail and wing proportions. It ranges from southeastern Canada south through the eastern United States. It is less migratory than C. a. meridionalis and rarely migrates to areas south of the United States.
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A large bird, it has a wingspan of 160–183 cm (63–72 in), a length of 62–81 cm (24–32 in), and weight of 0.8 to 2.3 kg (1.8 to 5.1 lb). Birds in the northern limit of the species' range average larger in size than the vulture from the neotropics. 124 birds from Florida averaged 2 kg (4.4 lb) while 65 and 130 birds from Venezuela were found to average 1.22 and 1.45 kg (2.7 and 3.2 lb), respectively. It displays minimal sexual dimorphism; sexes are identical in plumage and in coloration, and are similar in size. The body feathers are mostly brownish-black, but the flight feathers on the wings appear to be silvery-gray beneath, contrasting with the darker wing linings. The adult's head is small in proportion to its body and is red in color with few to no feathers. It also has a relatively short, hooked, ivory-colored beak. The irises of the eyes are gray-brown; legs and feet are pink-skinned, although typically stained white. The eye has a single incomplete row of eyelashes on the upper lid and two rows on the lower lid.
The two front toes of the foot are long and have small webs at their bases. Tracks are large, between 9.5 and 14 cm (3.7 and 5.5 in) in length and 8.2 and 10.2 cm (3.2 and 4.0 in) in width, both measurements including claw marks. Toes are arranged in the classic, anisodactyl pattern. The feet are flat, relatively weak, and poorly adapted to grasping; the talons are also not designed for grasping, as they are relatively blunt. In flight, the tail is long and slim. The black vulture is relatively shorter-tailed and shorter-winged, which makes it appear rather smaller in flight than the turkey vulture, although the body masses of the two species are roughly the same. The nostrils are not divided by a septum, but rather are perforate; from the side one can see through the beak. It undergoes a molt in late winter to early spring. It is a gradual molt, which lasts until early autumn. The immature bird has a gray head with a black beak tip; the colors change to those of the adult as the bird matures. Captive longevity is not well known. As of 2015[update] there are two captive birds over 40 years old: the Gabbert Raptor Center on the University of Minnesota campus is home to a turkey vulture named Nero with a confirmed hatch year of 1974, and another female bird, named Richard, lives at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, CA. Richard hatched in 1974 and arrived at the museum later that year. The oldest wild captured banded bird was 16 years old.
The turkey vulture, like most other vultures, has very few vocalization capabilities. Because it lacks a syrinx, it can only utter hisses and grunts. It usually hisses when it feels threatened, or when fighting with other vultures over a carcass. Grunts are commonly heard from hungry young and from adults in their courtship display.
Distribution and habitat
The turkey vulture has a large range, with an estimated global occurrence of 28,000,000 km2 (11,000,000 sq mi). It is the most abundant vulture in the Americas. Its global population is estimated to be 4,500,000 individuals. It is found in open and semi-open areas throughout the Americas from southern Canada to Cape Horn. It is a permanent resident in the southern United States, though northern birds may migrate as far south as South America. The turkey vulture is widespread over open country, subtropical forests, shrublands, deserts, and foothills. It is also found in pastures, grasslands, and wetlands. It is most commonly found in relatively open areas which provide nearby woods for nesting and it generally avoids heavily forested areas.
This bird with its crow-like aspect gave foot to the naming of the Quebrada de los Cuervos (Crows Ravine) in Uruguay, where they dwell together with the lesser yellow-headed vulture and the black vulture.
Ecology and behavior
The turkey vulture is gregarious and roosts in large community groups, breaking away to forage independently during the day. Several hundred vultures may roost communally in groups which sometimes even include black vultures. It roosts on dead, leafless trees, and will also roost on man-made structures such as water or microwave towers. Though it nests in caves, it does not enter them except during the breeding season. The turkey vulture lowers its night-time body temperature by about 6 degrees Celsius to 34 °C (93 °F), becoming slightly hypothermic.
This vulture is often seen standing in a spread-winged stance. The stance is believed to serve multiple functions: drying the wings, warming the body, and baking off bacteria. It is practiced more often following damp or rainy nights. This same behavior is displayed by other New World vultures, by Old World vultures, and by storks. Like storks, the turkey vulture often defecates on its own legs, using the evaporation of the water in the feces and/or urine to cool itself, a process known as urohidrosis. It cools the blood vessels in the unfeathered tarsi and feet, and causes white uric acid to streak the legs. The turkey vulture has few natural predators. Adult, immature and fledging vultures may fall prey to great horned owls, red-tailed hawks, golden eagles and bald eagles, while eggs and nestlings may be preyed on by mammals such as raccoons and opossums.Foxes can occasionally ambush an adult but species that can climb are more likely to breach and predate nests than adults. Its primary form of defense is regurgitating semi-digested meat, a foul-smelling substance which deters most creatures intent on raiding a vulture nest. It will also sting if the predator is close enough to get the vomit in its face or eyes. In some cases, the vulture must rid its crop of a heavy, undigested meal in order to take flight to flee from a potential predator. Its life expectancy in the wild ranges upward of 16 years, with a captive life span of over 30 years being possible.
The turkey vulture is awkward on the ground with an ungainly, hopping walk. It requires a great deal of effort to take flight, flapping its wings while pushing off the ground and hopping with its feet. While soaring, the turkey vulture holds its wings in a shallow V-shape and often tips from side to side, frequently causing the gray flight feathers to appear silvery as they catch the light. The flight of the turkey vulture is an example of static soaring flight, in which it flaps its wings very infrequently, and takes advantage of rising thermals to stay soaring.
The turkey vulture feeds primarily on a wide variety of carrion, from small mammals to large grazers, preferring those recently dead, and avoiding carcasses that have reached the point of putrefaction. They may rarely feed on plant matter, shoreline vegetation, pumpkin, coconut and other crops, live insects and other invertebrates. In South America, turkey vultures have been photographed feeding on the fruits of the introduced oil palm. They rarely, if ever, kill prey themselves. The turkey vulture can often be seen along roadsides feeding on roadkill, or near bodies of water, feeding on washed-up fish. They also will feed on fish or insects which have become stranded in shallow water. Like other vultures, it plays an important role in the ecosystem by disposing of carrion which would otherwise be a breeding ground for disease.
The turkey vulture forages by smell, an ability that is uncommon in the avian world, often flying low to the ground to pick up the scent of ethyl mercaptan, a gas produced by the beginnings of decay in dead animals. The olfactory lobe of its brain, responsible for processing smells, is particularly large compared to that of other animals. This heightened ability to detect odors allows it to search for carrion below the forest canopy. King vultures, black vultures, and condors, which lack the ability to smell carrion, follow the turkey vulture to carcasses. The turkey vulture arrives first at the carcass, or with greater yellow-headed vultures or lesser yellow-headed vultures, which also share the ability to smell carrion. It displaces the yellow-headed vultures from carcasses due to its larger size, but is displaced in turn by the king vulture and both types of condor, which make the first cut into the skin of the dead animal. This allows the smaller, weaker-billed turkey vulture access to food, because it cannot tear the tough hides of larger animals on its own. This is an example of mutual dependence between species.
The breeding season of the turkey vulture varies according to latitude. In the southern United States, it commences in March, peaks in April to May, and continues into June. In more northerly latitudes, the season starts later and extends into August. Courtship rituals of the turkey vulture involve several individuals gathering in a circle, where they perform hopping movements around the perimeter of the circle with wings partially spread. In the air, one bird closely follows another while flapping and diving.
Eggs are generally laid in the nesting site in a protected location such as a cliff, a cave, a rock crevice, a burrow, inside a hollow tree, or in a thicket. There is little or no construction of a nest; eggs are laid on a bare surface. Females generally lay two eggs, but sometimes one and rarely three. The eggs are cream-colored, with brown or lavender spots around their larger end. Both parents incubate, and the young hatch after 30 to 40 days. Chicks are altricial, or helpless at birth. Both adults feed the chicks by regurgitating food for them, and care for them for 10 to 11 weeks. When adults are threatened while nesting, they may flee, or they may regurgitate on the intruder or feign death. If the chicks are threatened in the nest, they defend themselves by hissing and regurgitating. The young fledge at about nine to ten weeks. Family groups remain together until fall.
Relationship with humans
The turkey vulture is sometimes accused of carrying anthrax or hog cholera, both livestock diseases, on its feet or bill by cattle ranchers and is therefore occasionally perceived as a threat. However, the virus that causes hog cholera is destroyed when it passes through the turkey vulture's digestive tract. This species also may be perceived as a threat by farmers due to the similar black vulture's tendency to attack and kill newborn cattle. The turkey vulture does not kill live animals but will mix with flocks of black vultures and will scavenge what they leave behind. Nonetheless, its appearance at a location where a calf has been killed gives the incorrect impression that the turkey vulture represents a danger to calves. The droppings produced by turkey vultures and other vultures can harm or kill trees and other vegetation. The turkey vulture can be held in captivity, though the Migratory Bird Treaty Act prevents this in the case of uninjured animals or animals capable of returning to the wild. In captivity, it can be fed fresh meat, and younger birds will gorge themselves if given the opportunity.
The turkey vulture species receives special legal protections under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 in the United States, by the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds in Canada, and by the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds and Game Mammals in Mexico. In the US it is illegal to take, kill, or possess turkey vultures, and violation of the law is punishable by a fine of up to $15,000 and imprisonment of up to six months. It is listed as a species of Least Concern by the IUCN Red List. Populations appear to remain stable, and it has not reached the threshold of inclusion as a threatened species, which requires a decline of more than 30 percent in ten years or three generations.
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Bull Shark | Carcharhinus leucas
Bull Shark info via Wikipedia:
(J. P. Müller and Henle, 1839)
|Range of bull shark|
The bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas), also known as the Zambezi shark or, unofficially, as Zambi in Africa and Nicaragua shark in Nicaragua, is a requiem shark commonly found worldwide in warm, shallow waters along coasts and in rivers. The bull shark is known for its aggressive nature, predilection for warm shallow water, and presence in brackish and freshwater systems including estuaries and rivers.
Bull sharks can thrive in both salt and fresh water and can travel far up rivers. They have been known to travel as far up the Mississippi River as Illinois, although few freshwater human-shark interactions have been recorded. They are probably responsible for the majority of near-shore shark attacks, including many bites attributed to other species.
- Anatomy and appearance
- Distribution and habitat
- See also
- External links
The name "bull shark" comes from the shark's stocky shape, broad, flat snout, and aggressive, unpredictable behavior. In India, the bull shark may be confused with the Sundarbans or Ganges shark. In Africa, it is also commonly called the Zambezi River shark or just Zambi. Its wide range and diverse habitats result in many other local names, including Ganges River shark, Fitzroy Creek whaler, van Rooyen's shark, Lake Nicaragua shark, river shark, freshwater whaler, estuary whaler, Swan River whaler, cub shark, and shovelnose shark.
Anatomy and appearance
Bull sharks are large and stout, with females being larger than males. The bull shark can be up to 81 cm (2.66 ft) in length at birth. Adult female bull sharks average 2.4 m (7.9 ft) long and typically weigh 130 kg (290 lb), whereas the slightly smaller adult male averages 2.25 m (7.4 ft) and 95 kg (209 lb). While a maximum size of 3.5 m (11 ft) is commonly reported, a single record exists of a female specimen of exactly 4.0 m (13.1 ft). The maximum recorded weight of a bull shark was 315 kg (694 lb), but may be larger. Bull sharks are wider and heavier than other requiem sharks of comparable length, and are grey on top and white below. The second dorsal fin is smaller than the first. The bull shark's caudal fin is longer and lower than that of the larger sharks, and it has a small snout, and lacks an interdorsal ridge.
Bull sharks have a bite force up to 5,914 newtons (1,330 lbf), weight for weight the highest among all investigated cartilaginous fishes.
A female Carcharhinus leucas at the Shark Reef Marine Reserve, Fiji
Distribution and habitat
The bull shark is commonly found worldwide in coastal areas of warm oceans, in rivers and lakes, and occasionally salt and freshwater streams if they are deep enough. It is found to a depth of 150 m (490 ft), but does not usually swim deeper than 30 m (98 ft). In the Atlantic, it is found from Massachusetts to southern Brazil, and from Morocco to Angola. In the Indian Ocean, it is found from South Africa to Kenya, India, and Vietnam to Australia.
Populations of bull sharks are also found in several major rivers, with more than 500 bull sharks thought to be living in the Brisbane River. One was reportedly seen swimming the flooded streets of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, during the 2010-11 Queensland floods. Several were sighted in one of the main streets of Goodna, Queensland, shortly after the peak of the January 2011, floods. A large bull shark was caught in the canals of Scarborough, just north of Brisbane within Moreton Bay. Still greater numbers are in the canals of the Gold Coast, Queensland. In the Pacific Ocean, it can be found from Baja California to Ecuador. The bull shark has traveled 4,000 km (2,500 mi) up the Amazon River to Iquitos in Peru and north Bolivia. It also lives in freshwater Lake Nicaragua, in the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers of West Bengal, and Assam in Eastern India and adjoining Bangladesh. It can live in water with a high salt content as in St. Lucia Estuary in South Africa. Bull sharks have been recorded in the Tigris River since at least 1924 as far upriver as Baghdad. The bull shark is generally prolific in the warm, coastal waters and estuarine systems of the Mozambique Channel and southward, including Kwa-Zulu Natal and Mozambique. The species has a distinct preference for warm currents.
After Hurricane Katrina, many bull sharks were sighted in Lake Pontchartrain. Bull sharks have occasionally gone up the Mississippi River as far upstream as Alton, Illinois, and up the Ohio River as far as Manchester, Ohio.They have also been found in the Potomac River in Maryland. A golf course lake in Queensland, Australia is the home to several bull sharks. They are believed to have become trapped following a flood in the 1990s. The golf course has capitalized on the novelty and now hosts a monthly tournament called the "Shark Lake Challenge".
The bull shark is the best known of 43 species of elasmobranch in 10 genera and four families to have been reported in fresh water. Other species that enter rivers include the stingrays (Dasyatidae, Potamotrygonidae and others) and sawfish (Pristidae). Some skates (Rajidae), smooth dogfishes (Triakidae), and sandbar sharks (Carcharhinus plumbeus) regularly enter estuaries.
The bull shark is diadromous, meaning they can swim between salt and fresh water with ease. These fish also are euryhaline fish, able to adapt to a wide range of salinities. The bull shark is one of the few cartilaginous fishes that have been reported in freshwater systems. Many of the euryhaline fish are bony fish such as salmon and tilapia and are not closely related to bull sharks. Evolutionary assumptions can be made to help explain this sort of evolutionary disconnect, one being that the bull shark encountered a population bottleneck that occurred during the last ice age. This bottleneck may have separated the bull shark from the rest of the Elasmobranchii subclass and favored the genes for an osmoregulatory system.
Elasmobranchs' ability to enter fresh water is limited because their blood is normally at least as salty (in terms of osmotic strength) as seawater through the accumulation of urea and trimethylamine oxide, but bull sharks living in fresh water show a significantly reduced concentration of urea within their blood. Despite this, the solute composition (i.e. osmolarity) of a bull shark in fresh water is still much higher than that of the external environment. This results in a large influx of water across the gills due to osmosis and loss of sodium and chloride from the shark's body. However, bull sharks in fresh water possess several organs with which to maintain appropriate salt and water balance; these are the rectal gland, kidneys, liver, and gills. All elasmobranchs have a rectal gland which functions in the excretion of excess salts accumulated as a consequence of living in seawater. Bull sharks in freshwater environments decrease the salt-excretory activity of the rectal gland, thereby conserving sodium and chloride. The kidneys produce large amounts of dilute urine, but also play an important role in the active reabsorption of solutes into the blood. The gills of bull sharks are likely to be involved in the uptake of sodium and chloride from the surrounding fresh water, whereas urea is produced in the liver as required with changes in environmental salinity. Recent work also shows that the differences in density of fresh water to that of marine waters result in significantly greater negative buoyancies in sharks occupying fresh water, resulting in increasing costs of living in fresh water. Bull sharks caught in freshwater have subsequently been shown to have lower liver densities than sharks living in marine waters. This may reduce the added cost of greater negative buoyancy.
Bull sharks are able to regulate themselves to live in either fresh or salt water. It can live in fresh water for its entire life, but this does not happen, mostly due to reproduction. Young bull sharks leave the brackish water in which they are born and move out into the sea to breed. While theoretically, bull sharks to live in purely fresh water may be possible, the bull sharks that were being experimented on had died within four years. The stomach was opened and all that was found were two small, unidentifiable fishes. The cause of death could have been starvation since the primary food source for bull sharks resides in salt water.
In a research experiment, the bull sharks were found to be at the mouth of an estuary for the majority of the time. They stayed at the mouth of the river independent of the salinity of the water. The driving factor for a bull shark to be in fresh or salt water, however, is its age; as the bull shark ages, its tolerance for very low or high salinity increases. The majority of the newborn or very young bull sharks were found in the freshwater area, whereas the much older bull sharks were found to be in the saltwater areas, as they had developed a much better tolerance for the salinity. Reproduction is one of the reasons why adult bull sharks travel into the river—it is thought to be a physiological strategy to improve juvenile survival and a way to increase overall fitness of bull sharks. The young are not born with a high tolerance for high salinity, so they are born in fresh water and stay there until they are able to travel out.
Initially, scientists thought the sharks in Lake Nicaragua belonged to an endemic species, the Lake Nicaragua shark (Carcharhinus nicaraguensis). In 1961, following specimen comparisons, taxonomists synonymized them. They can jump along the rapids of the San Juan River (which connects Lake Nicaragua and the Caribbean Sea), almost like salmon. Bull sharks tagged inside the lake have later been caught in the open ocean (and vice versa), with some taking as few as seven to 11 days to complete the journey.
The bull shark's diet consists mainly of bony fish and small sharks, including other bull sharks, but can also include turtles, birds, dolphins, terrestrial mammals, crustaceans, echinoderms, and stingrays. They hunt in murky waters where it is harder for the prey to see the shark coming. Bull sharks have been known to use the bump-and-bite technique to attack their prey. After the first initial contact, they continue to bite and tackle prey until they are unable to flee.
Sharks are known to be opportunistic feeders, and the bull shark is no exception to this, as it is part of the Carcharhinus family of sharks. Normally, sharks eat in short bursts, and when food is scarce, sharks digest for a much longer period of time in order to avoid starvation. As part of their survival mechanism, bull sharks will regurgitate the food in their stomachs in order to escape from a predator. This is a distraction tactic; if the predator moves to eat the regurgitated food the bull shark can use the opportunity to escape.
Bull sharks mate during late summer and early autumn, often in the brackish water of river mouths. After gestating for 12 months, a bull shark may give birth to four to 10 live young. They are viviparous, born live and free-swimming. The young are about 70 cm (27.6 in) at birth and take 10 years to reach maturity. Coastal lagoons, river mouths, and other low-salinity estuaries are common nursery habitats.
The size of a fully matured female bull shark to produce viable eggs for fertilization seems to be 175 cm to 235 cm. The courting routine between bull sharks has not been observed in detail as of yet. The male likely bites the female on the tail until she can turn upside down and the male can copulate at that point. At some points, the harassment of the male can become violent. Seeing scratches and other marks on a mature female from the mating ritual is not uncommon.
Bull sharks have an unusual migratory pattern in comparison to other sharks. They are found in rivers all over the world. They give birth in the fresh water of rivers. The young bull sharks are free from predators while they grow up in the river before they go out to the sea to find mates.
The ability to be able to survive in both fresh and salt water also gives another benefit that has been driven by evolution. Because the majority of sharks are only able to survive in salt water, the bull shark has evolved to have their offspring in the fresh water where other sharks cannot enter. The freshwater acts as a protective area where the young are able to grow and mature without the threat of larger sharks preying on the younger bull sharks. This is an explanation for the behavior that is observed from the Bull sharks as to why there would be any reason for the adult bull shark to ever travel into a freshwater area despite being able to tolerate the high salinity of marine water.
Bull sharks are born alive in freshwater. The size range of a litter for a female bull shark is around 1 to 13 pups. The average time span for a female bull shark to be pregnant is around 10 to 11 months. The male bull shark is able to begin reproducing around the age of 15 years while the female cannot begin reproducing until the age of 18 years. Unlike most sharks though, the bull shark does not rear its young like other sharks, the young bull sharks are born into flat, protected areas. Freshwater presents a natural defense against most larger predators, and the flat land is an added defense as most large predators will not swim in shallow areas. This increases their chance of survival since the parents do not rear the young in the traditional manner. This is also the reason why there is a high mortality rate in young bull sharks. Since the parents do not rear and protect the young, any predator that is able to attack a young bull shark is easily able to kill and eat the young bull shark without much resistance.
Interactions with humans
Since bull sharks often dwell in very shallow waters, are found in many types of habitats, and have virtually no tolerance for provocation, they may be more dangerous to humans than any other species of shark, and along with the Tiger shark and great white shark, are among the three shark species most likely to bite humans.
One or several bull sharks may have been responsible for the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916, which were the inspiration for Peter Benchley's novel Jaws. The speculation of bull sharks possibly being responsible is based on two fatal bites occurring in brackish and fresh water.
The bull shark is responsible for biting swimmers around the Sydney Harbour inlets. Most of these bites were previously attributed to Great White sharks. In India, bull sharks swim up the Ganges River and have bitten bathers. Many of these bite incidents were attributed to the Ganges shark, Glyphis gangeticus, a critically endangered river shark species, although the Sand Tiger shark was also blamed during the 1960s and 1970s.
The bull shark prefers coastal water which is less than 100 feet in depth. This is mostly due to their feeding patterns, since they prefer murky waters. This is also a problem since this gives the most interaction with humans. It is known that bull sharks inhabit areas off the coast of Florida, and there have been reports of bull sharks getting close enough to the coast to bite humans since the bull shark is a territorial animal, which encourages aggressive behavior.
Behavioral studies have confirmed that sharks can take visual cues in order to discriminate between different objects. The bull shark is able to discriminate between colors of mesh netting that is present underwater. It was found that bull sharks tended to avoid mesh netting of bright colors rather than colors that blended in with the water. Bright yellow mesh netting was found to be easily avoided when it was placed in the path of the bull shark. This was found to be the reason that sharks are attracted to bright yellow survival gear rather than ones that were painted black. This is very important because it gives an insight into how bull sharks are able to pick up certain visual keys underwater that might give them an advantage when seeking out certain prey.
In 2008, researchers tagged and recorded the movements of young bull sharks in the Caloosahatchee River estuary. Specifically, they were testing to find out what determined the movement of the young bull sharks. It was found that the young bull sharks synchronously moved downriver when the environmental conditions changed. This large movement of young bull sharks were found to be moving as a response rather than other external factors such as predators. An interesting find was that the movement was directly related to the bull shark conserving energy for itself. One way the bull shark is able to conserve energy is that when the tidal flow changes, the bull shark uses the tidal flow in order to conserve energy as it moves downriver. Another way for the bull shark to conserve energy is to decrease the amount of energy needed to osmoregulate the surrounding environment.
Bull sharks are apex predators and seldom have to fear being attacked by other animals. Humans are their biggest threat. Larger sharks, such as the tiger shark and great white shark, may attack them. Crocodiles may be a threat to bull sharks in rivers. Saltwater crocodiles have been observed preying on bull sharks in the rivers and estuaries of Northern Australia, and a Nile crocodile was reported as consuming a bull shark in South Africa.
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The proportion of mature males with running spermatozoa increased from 7.1% in October to 79 and 80% in January and March, respectively, suggesting that mating activity peaks during late summer and early autumn.
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Domesticated Cow Skull | Bos primigenius
Domesticated Cow info via Wikipedia:
|A Swiss Braunvieh cow wearing a cowbell|
Cattle—colloquially cows[note 1]—are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos taurus. Cattle are raised as livestock for meat (beef and veal), as dairy animals for milk and other dairy products, and as draft animals (oxen or bullocks that pull carts, plows and other implements). Other products include leather and dung for manure or fuel. In some regions, such as parts of India, cattle have significant religious meaning. Around 10,500 years ago, cattle were domesticated from as few as 80 progenitors in southeast Turkey. According to an estimate from 2011, there are 1.4 billion cattle in the world. In 2009, cattle became one of the first livestock animals to have a fully mapped genome. Some consider cattle the oldest form of wealth, and cattle raiding consequently one of the earliest forms of theft.
- Temperament and emotions
- Domestication and husbandry
- Feral cattle
- Environmental impact
- Religion, traditions and folklore
- In heraldry
- See also
- Further reading
Cattle were originally identified as three separate species: Bos taurus, the European or "taurine" cattle (including similar types from Africa and Asia); Bos indicus, the zebu; and the extinct Bos primigenius, the aurochs. The aurochs is ancestral to both zebu and taurine cattle. These have been reclassified as one species, Bos taurus, with three subspecies: Bos taurus primigenius, Bos taurus indicus, and Bos taurus taurus.
Complicating the matter is the ability of cattle to interbreed with other closely related species. Hybrid individuals and even breeds exist, not only between taurine cattle and zebu (such as the sanga cattle, Bos taurus africanus), but also between one or both of these and some other members of the genus Bos – yaks (the dzo or yattle), banteng, and gaur. Hybrids such as the beefalo breed can even occur between taurine cattle and either species of bison, leading some authors to consider them part of the genus Bos, as well. The hybrid origin of some types may not be obvious – for example, genetic testing of the Dwarf Lulu breed, the only taurine-type cattle in Nepal, found them to be a mix of taurine cattle, zebu, and yak. However, cattle cannot successfully be hybridized with more distantly related bovines such as water buffalo or African buffalo.
The aurochs originally ranged throughout Europe, North Africa, and much of Asia. In historical times, its range became restricted to Europe, and the last known individual died in Masovia, Poland, in about 1627. Breeders have attempted to recreate cattle of similar appearance to aurochs by crossing traditional types of domesticated cattle, creating the Heck cattle breed.
A Holstein Fresian cow, a typical member of the Bos taurus taurus sub-species
Cattle did not originate as the term for bovine animals. It was borrowed from Anglo-Norman catel, itself from medieval Latin capitale 'principal sum of money, capital', itself derived in turn from Latin caput 'head'. Cattle originally meant movable personal property, especially livestock of any kind, as opposed to real property (the land, which also included wild or small free-roaming animals such as chickens — they were sold as part of the land). The word is a variant of chattel (a unit of personal property) and closely related to capital in the economic sense. The term replaced earlier Old English feoh 'cattle, property', which survives today as fee (cf. German: Vieh, Dutch: vee, Gothic: faihu).
The word "cow" came via Anglo-Saxon cū (plural cȳ), from Common Indo-European gʷōus (genitive gʷowés) = "a bovine animal", compare Persian gâv, Sanskrit go-, Welsh buwch. The plural cȳ became ki or kie in Middle English, and an additional plural ending was often added, giving kine, kien, but also kies, kuin and others. This is the origin of the now archaic English plural, "kine". The Scots language singular is coo or cou, and the plural is "kye".
In older English sources such as the King James Version of the Bible, "cattle" refers to livestock, as opposed to "deer" which refers to wildlife. "Wild cattle" may refer to feral cattle or to undomesticated species of the genus Bos. Today, when used without any other qualifier, the modern meaning of "cattle" is usually restricted to domesticated bovines.
|Look up cattle or cow in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
In general, the same words are used in different parts of the world, but with minor differences in the definitions. The terminology described here contrasts the differences in definition between the United Kingdom and other British-influenced parts of the world such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the United States.
- An "intact" (i.e., not castrated) adult male is called a bull. A wild, young, unmarked bull is known as a "micky" in Australia. An unbranded bovine of either sex is called a "maverick" in the USA and Canada.
- An adult female that has had a calf (or two, depending on regional usage) is a cow.
- A young female before she has had a calf of her own and is under three years of age is called a heifer (// HEF-ər). A young female that has had only one calf is occasionally called a first-calf heifer.
- Young cattle of both sexes are called calves until they are weaned, then weaners until they are a year old in some areas; in other areas, particularly with male beef cattle, they may be known as feeder calves or simply feeders. After that, they are referred to as yearlings or stirks if between one and two years of age.
- A castrated male is called a steer in the United States; older steers are often called bullocks in other parts of the world, but in North America this term refers to a young bull. Piker bullocks are micky bulls (uncastrated young male bulls) that were caught, castrated and then later lost. In Australia, the term "Japanese ox" is used for grain-fed steers in the weight range of 500 to 650 kg that are destined for the Japanese meat trade. In North America, draft cattle under four years old are called working steers. Improper or late castration on a bull results in it becoming a coarse steer known as a stag in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. In some countries, an incompletely castrated male is known also as a rig.
- A castrated male (occasionally a female or in some areas a bull) kept for draft purposes is called an ox (plural oxen); "ox" may also be used to refer to some carcass products from any adult cattle, such as ox-hide, ox-blood, oxtail, or ox-liver.
- A springer is a cow or heifer close to calving.
- In all cattle species, a female twin of a bull usually becomes an infertile partial intersex, and is called a freemartin.
- Neat (horned oxen, from which neatsfoot oil is derived), beef (young ox) and beefing (young animal fit for slaughtering) are obsolete terms, although poll, pollard or polled cattle are still terms in use for naturally hornless animals, or in some areas also for those that have been disbudded or dehorned.
- Cattle raised for human consumption are called beef cattle. Within the American beef cattle industry, the older term beef (plural beeves) is still used to refer to an animal of either sex. Some Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and British people use the term beast.
- Cattle bred specifically for milk production are called milking or dairy cattle; a cow kept to provide milk for one family may be called a house cow or milker. A "fresh cow" is a dairy term for a cow or first-calf heifer who has recently given birth, or "freshened."
- The adjective applying to cattle in general is usually bovine. The terms "bull", "cow" and "calf" are also used by extension to denote the sex or age of other large animals, including whales, hippopotamuses, camels, elk and elephants.
Singular terminology issue
Cattle can only be used in the plural and not in the singular: it is a plurale tantum. Thus one may refer to "three cattle" or "some cattle", but not "one cattle". No universally used singular form in modern English of "cattle" exists, other than the sex- and age-specific terms such as cow, bull, steer and heifer. Historically, "ox" was not a sex-specific term for adult cattle, but generally this is now used only for draft cattle, especially adult castrated males. The term is also incorporated into the names of other species, such as the musk ox and "grunting ox" (yak), and is used in some areas to describe certain cattle products such as ox-hide and oxtail.
"Cow" is in general use as a singular for the collective "cattle", despite the objections by those who insist it to be a female-specific term. Although the phrase "that cow is a bull" is absurd from a lexicographic standpoint, the word "cow" is easy to use when a singular is needed and the sex is unknown or irrelevant – when "there is a cow in the road", for example. Further, any herd of fully mature cattle in or near a pasture is statistically likely to consist mostly of cows, so the term is probably accurate even in the restrictive sense. Other than the few bulls needed for breeding, the vast majority of male cattle are castrated as calves and slaughtered for meat before the age of three years. Thus, in a pastured herd, any calves or herd bulls usually are clearly distinguishable from the cows due to distinctively different sizes and clear anatomical differences. Merriam-Webster, a US dictionary, recognizes the sex-nonspecific use of "cow" as an alternate definition, whereas Collins, a UK dictionary, does not.
Colloquially, more general nonspecific terms may denote cattle when a singular form is needed. Australian, New Zealand and British farmers use the term "beast" or "cattle beast". "Bovine" is also used in Britain. The term "critter" is common in the western United States and Canada, particularly when referring to young cattle. In some areas of the American South (particularly the Appalachian region), where both dairy and beef cattle are present, an individual animal was once called a "beef critter", though that term is becoming archaic.
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Cattle raised for human consumption are called "beef cattle". Within the beef cattle industry in parts of the United States, the term "beef" (plural "beeves") is still used in its archaic sense to refer to an animal of either sex. Cows of certain breeds that are kept for the milk they give are called "dairy cows" or "milking cows" (formerly "milch cows"). Most young male offspring of dairy cows are sold for veal, and may be referred to as veal calves.
The term "dogies" is used to describe orphaned calves in the context of ranch work in the American West, as in "Keep them dogies moving". In some places, a cow kept to provide milk for one family is called a "house cow". Other obsolete terms for cattle include "neat" (this use survives in "neatsfoot oil", extracted from the feet and legs of cattle), and "beefing" (young animal fit for slaughter).
An onomatopoeic term for one of the most common sounds made by cattle is "moo" (also called lowing). There are a number of other sounds made by cattle, including calves bawling, and bulls bellowing. Bawling is most common for cows after weaning of a calf. The bullroarer makes a sound similar to a bull's territorial call.
Cattle are large quadrupedal ungulate mammals with cloven hooves. Most breeds have horns, which can be as large as the Texas Longhorn or small like a scur. Careful genetic selection has allowed polled (hornless) cattle to become widespread.
Cattle are ruminants, meaning their digestive system is highly specialized to allow the use of poorly digestible plants as food. Cattle have one stomach with four compartments, the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum, with the rumen being the largest compartment. The reticulum, the smallest compartment, is known as the "honeycomb". Cattle sometimes consume metal objects which are deposited in the reticulum and irritation from the metal objects causes hardware disease. The omasum's main function is to absorb water and nutrients from the digestible feed. The omasum is known as the "many plies". The abomasum is like the human stomach; this is why it is known as the "true stomach".
Cattle are known for regurgitating and re-chewing their food, known as cud chewing, like most ruminants. While the animal is feeding, the food is swallowed without being chewed and goes into the rumen for storage until the animal can find a quiet place to continue the digestion process. The food is regurgitated, a mouthful at a time, back up to the mouth, where the food, now called the cud, is chewed by the molars, grinding down the course vegetation to small particles. The cud is then swallowed again and further digested by specialized microorganisms in the rumen. These microbes are primarily responsible for decomposing cellulose and other carbohydrates into volatile fatty acids cattle use as their primary metabolic fuel. The microbes inside the rumen also synthesize amino acids from non-protein nitrogenous sources, such as urea and ammonia. As these microbes reproduce in the rumen, older generations die and their cells continue on through the digestive tract. These cells are then partially digested in the small intestines, allowing cattle to gain a high-quality protein source. These features allow cattle to thrive on grasses and other tough vegetation.
Gestation and size
The gestation period for a cow is about nine months long. A newborn calf's size can vary among breeds, but a typical calf weighs between 25 to 45 kg (55 to 99 lb). Adult size and weight vary significantly among breeds and sex. The world record for the heaviest bull was 1,740 kg (3,840 lb), a Chianina named Donetto, when he was exhibited at the Arezzo show in 1955. The heaviest steer was eight-year-old ‘Old Ben’, a Shorthorn/Hereford cross weighing in at 2,140 kg (4,720 lb) in 1910. Steers are generally killed before reaching 750 kg (1,650 lb). Breeding stock may be allowed a longer lifespan, occasionally living as long as 25 years. The oldest recorded cow, Big Bertha, died at the age of 48 in 1993.
On farms it is very common to use artificial insemination (AI)), a medically assisted reproduction technique consisting of the artificial deposition of semen in the female's genital tract. It is used in cases where the spermatozoa can not reach the fallopian tubes or simply by choice of the owner of the animal. It consists of transferring, to the uterine cavity, spermatozoa previously collected and processed, with the selection of morphologically more normal and mobile spermatozoa.
The gestation period for a cow is about nine months long. A newborn calf's size can vary among breeds, but a typical calf weighs between 25 to 45 kg (55 to 99 lb). Adult size and weight vary significantly among breeds and sex. The world record for the heaviest bull was 1,740 kg (3,840 lb), a Chianina named Donetto, when he was exhibited at the Arezzo show in 1955. The heaviest steer was eight-year-old ‘Old Ben’, a Shorthorn/Hereford cross weighing in at 2,140 kg (4,720 lb) in 1910. Steers are generally killed before reaching 750 kg (1,650 lb). Breeding stock may be allowed a longer lifespan, occasionally living as long as 25 years. The oldest recorded cow, Big Bertha, died at the age of 48 in 1993.
Bulls become fertile at about seven months of age. Their fertility is closely related to the size of their testicles, and one simple test of fertility is to measure the circumference of the scrotum: a young bull is likely to be fertile once this reaches 28 centimetres (11 in); that of a fully adult bull may be over 40 centimetres (16 in).
Bulls have a fibro-elastic penis. Given the small amount of erectile tissue, there is little enlargement after erection. The penis is quite rigid when non-erect, and becomes even more rigid during erection. Protrusion is not affected much by erection, but more by relaxation of the retractor penis muscle and straightening of the sigmoid flexure.
The world record for the heaviest bull was 1,740 kg (3,840 lb), a Chianina named Donetto, when he was exhibited at the Arezzo show in 1955. The heaviest steer was eight-year-old ‘Old Ben’, a Shorthorn/Hereford cross weighing in at 2,140 kg (4,720 lb) in 1910.
The weight of adult cattle varies, depending on the breed. Smaller kinds, such as Dexter and Jersey adults, range between 272 to 454 kg (600 to 1,000 lb). Large Continental breeds, such as Charolais, Marchigiana, Belgian Blue and Chianina, adults range from 635 to 1,134 kg (1,400 to 2,500 lb). British breeds, such as Hereford, Angus, and Shorthorn, mature between 454 to 907 kg (1,000 to 2,000 lb), occasionally higher, particularly with Angus and Hereford.
Bulls will be a bit larger than cows of the same breed by a few hundred kilograms. Chianina bulls can weigh up to 1,500 kg (3,300 lb); British bulls, such as Angus and Hereford, can weigh as little as 907 kg (2,000 lb) to as much as 1,361 kg (3,000 lb).
It is difficult to generalize or average out the weight of all cattle because different kinds have different averages of weights. However, according to some sources, the average weight of all cattle is 753 kg (1,660 lb). Finishing steers in the feedlot average about 640 kg (1,410 lb); cows about 725 kg (1,600 lb), and bulls about 1,090 kg (2,400 lb).
In the United States, the average weight of beef cattle has steadily increased, especially since the 1970s, requiring the building of new slaughterhouses able to handle larger carcasses. New packing plants in the 1980s stimulated a large increase in cattle weights. Before 1790 beef cattle averaged only 160 kg (350 lb) net; and thereafter weights climbed steadily.
In laboratory studies, young cattle are able to memorize the locations of several food sources and retain this memory for at least 8 hours, although this declined after 12 hours. Fifteen-month-old heifers learn more quickly than adult cows which have had either one or two calvings, but their longer-term memory is less stable. Mature cattle perform well in spatial learning tasks and have a good long-term memory in these tests. Cattle tested in a radial arm maze are able to remember the locations of high-quality food for at least 30 days. Although they initially learn to avoid low-quality food, this memory diminishes over the same duration. Under less artificial testing conditions, young cattle showed they were able to remember the location of feed for at least 48 days. Cattle can make an association between a visual stimulus and food within 1 day – memory of this association can be retained for 1 year, despite a slight decay.
They are also able to discriminate between familiar individuals, and among humans. Cattle can tell the difference between familiar and unfamiliar animals of the same species (conspecifics). Studies show they behave less aggressively toward familiar individuals when they are forming a new group. Calves can also discriminate between humans based on previous experience, as shown by approaching those who handled them positively and avoiding those who handled them aversively. Although cattle can discriminate between humans by their faces alone, they also use other cues such as the color of clothes when these are available.
In audio play-back studies, calves prefer their own mother's vocalizations compared to the vocalizations of an unfamiliar mother.
In laboratory studies using images, cattle can discriminate between images of the heads of cattle and other animal species. They are also able to distinguish between familiar and unfamiliar conspecifics. Furthermore, they are able to categorize images as familiar and unfamiliar individuals.
When mixed with other individuals, cloned calves from the same donor form subgroups, indicating that kin discrimination occurs and may be a basis of grouping behaviour. It has also been shown using images of cattle that both artificially inseminated and cloned calves have similar cognitive capacities of kin and non-kin discrimination.
Cattle can recognize familiar individuals. Visual individual recognition is a more complex mental process than visual discrimination. It requires the recollection of the learned idiosyncratic identity of an individual that has been previously encountered and the formation of a mental representation. By using 2-dimensional images of the heads of one cow (face, profiles, ¾ views), all the tested heifers showed individual recognition of familiar and unfamiliar individuals from their own breed. Furthermore, almost all the heifers recognized unknown individuals from different breeds, although this was achieved with greater difficulty. Individual recognition was most difficult when the visual features of the breed being tested were quite different from the breed in the image, for example, the breed being tested had no spots whereas the image was of a spotted breed.
Cattle use visual/brain lateralisation in their visual scanning of novel and familiar stimuli. Domestic cattle prefer to view novel stimuli with the left eye, i.e. using the right brain hemisphere (similar to horses, Australian magpies, chicks, toads and fish) but use the right eye, i.e. using the left hemisphere, for viewing familiar stimuli.
Temperament and emotions
In cattle, temperament can affect production traits such as carcass and meat quality or milk yield as well as affecting the animal's overall health and reproduction. Cattle temperament is defined as "the consistent behavioral and physiological difference observed between individuals in response to a stressor or environmental challenge and is used to describe the relatively stable difference in the behavioral predisposition of an animal, which can be related to psychobiological mechanisms". Generally, cattle temperament is assumed to be multidimensional. Five underlying categories of temperament traits have been proposed:
In a study on Holstein–Friesian heifers learning to press a panel to open a gate for access to a food reward, the researchers also recorded the heart rate and behavior of the heifers when moving along the race towards the food. When the heifers made clear improvements in learning, they had higher heart rates and tended to move more vigorously along the race. The researchers concluded this was an indication that cattle may react emotionally to their own learning improvement.
Negative emotional states are associated with a bias toward negative (pessimistic) responses towards ambiguous cues in judgement tasks – as encapsulated in the question of "is the glass half empty or half full?". After separation from their mothers, Holstein calves showed such a cognitive bias indicative of low mood. A similar study showed that after hot-iron disbudding (dehorning), calves had a similar negative bias indicating that post-operative pain following this routine procedure results in a negative change in emotional state.
In studies of visual discrimination, the position of the ears has been used as an indicator of emotional state. When cattle are stressed, this can be recognised by other cattle as it is communicated by alarm substances in the urine.
Cattle are very gregarious and even short-term isolation is considered to cause severe psychological stress. When Aubrac and Fresian heifers are isolated, they increase their vocalizations and experience increased heart rate and plasma cortisol concentrations. These physiological changes are greater in Aubracs. When visual contact is re-instated, vocalisations rapidly decline, regardless of the familiarity of the returning cattle, however, heart rate decreases are greater if the returning cattle are familiar to the previously-isolated individual. Mirrors have been used to reduce stress in isolated cattle.
Cattle use all of the five widely recognized sensory modalities. These can assist in some complex behavioural patterns, for example, in grazing behaviour. Cattle eat mixed diets, but when given the opportunity, show a partial preference of approximately 70% clover and 30% grass. This preference has a diurnal pattern, with a stronger preference for clover in the morning, and the proportion of grass increasing towards the evening.
Vision is the dominant sense in cattle and they obtain almost 50% of their information visually. 
Cattle are a prey animal and to assist predator detection, their eyes are located on the sides of their head rather than the front. This gives them a wide field of view of 330o but limits binocular vision (and therefore stereopsis) to 30o to 50o compared to 140o in humans. This means they have a blind spot directly behind them. Cattle have good visual acuity (1/20) but compared to humans, the visual accommodation of cattle is poor.
Cattle have two kinds of color receptors in the cone cells of their retinas. This means that cattle are dichromatic, as are most other non-primate land mammals. There are two to three rods per cone in the fovea centralis but five to six near the optic papilla. Cattle can distinguish long wavelength colors (yellow, orange and red) much better than the shorter wavelengths (blue, grey and green). Calves are able to discriminate between long (red) and short (blue) or medium (green) wavelengths, but have limited ability to discriminate between the short and medium. They also approach handlers more quickly under red light. Whilst having good color sensitivity, it is not as good as humans or sheep.
A common misconception about cattle (particularly bulls) is that they are enraged by the color red (something provocative is often said to be "like a red flag to a bull"). This is a myth. In bullfighting, it is the movement of the red flag or cape that irritates the bull and incites it to charge.
Cattle have a well-developed sense of taste and can distinguish the four primary tastes (sweet, salty, bitter and sour). They possess around 20,000 taste buds. The strength of taste perception depends on the individual's current food requirements. They avoid bitter-tasting foods (potentially toxic) and have a marked preference for sweet (high calorific value) and salty foods (electrolyte balance). Their sensitivity to sour-tasting foods helps them to maintain optimal ruminal pH.
Plants have low levels of sodium and cattle have developed the capacity of seeking salt by taste and smell. If cattle become depleted of sodium salts, they show increased locomotion directed to searching for these. To assist in their search, the olfactory and gustatory receptors able to detect minute amounts of sodium salts increase their sensitivity as biochemical disruption develops with sodium salt depletion.
Cattle hearing ranges from 23 Hz to 35 kHz. Their frequency of best sensitivity is 8 kHz and they have a lowest threshold of −21 db (re 20 μN/m−2), which means their hearing is more acute than horses (lowest threshold of 7 db). Sound localization acuity thresholds are an average of 30°. This means that cattle are less able to localise sounds compared to goats (18°), dogs (8°) and humans (0.8°). Because cattle have a broad foveal fields of view covering almost the entire horizon, they may not need very accurate locus information from their auditory systems to direct their gaze to a sound source.
Vocalisations are an important mode of communication amongst cattle and can provide information on the age, sex, dominance status and reproductive status of the caller. Calves can recognize their mothers using vocal and vocal behaviour may play a role by indicating estrus and competitive display by bulls.
Olfaction and gustation
Cattle have a range of odiferous glands over their body including interdigital, infraorbital, inguinal and sebaceous glands, indicating that olfaction probably plays a large role in their social life. Both the primary olfactory system using the olfactory bulbs, and the secondary olfactory system using the vomeronasal organ are used. This latter olfactory system is used in the flehmen response. There is evidence that when cattle are stressed, this can be recognised by other cattle and this is communicated by alarm substances in the urine. The odour of dog faeces induces behavioural changes prior to cattle feeding, whereas the odours of urine from either stressed or non-stressed conspecifics and blood have no effect.
In the laboratory, cattle can be trained to recognise conspecific individuals using olfaction only.
In general, cattle use their sense of smell to "expand" on information detected by other sensory modalities. However, in the case of social and reproductive behaviours, olfaction is a key source of information.
There is conflicting evidence for magnetoreception in cattle. One study reported that resting and grazing cattle tend to align their body axes in the geomagnetic North-South (N-S) direction. In a follow-up study, cattle exposed to various magnetic fields directly beneath or in the vicinity of power lines trending in various magnetic directions exhibited distinct patterns of alignment. However, in 2011, a group of Czech researchers reported their failed attempt to replicate the finding using Google Earth images.
Under natural conditions, calves stay with their mother until weaning at 8 to 11 months. Heifer and bull calves are equally attached to their mothers in the first few months of life. Cattle are considered to be "hider" type animals, but in the artificial environment of small calving pens, close proximity between cow and calf is maintained by the mother at the first three calvings but this changes to being mediated by the calf after these. Primiparous dams show a higher incidence of abnormal maternal behavior.
Beef-calves reared on the range suckle an average of 5.0 times every 24 hours with an average total time of 46 min spent suckling. There is a diurnal rhythm in suckling activity with peaks between 05:00–07:00, 10:00–13:00 and 17:00–21:00.
Studies on the natural weaning of zebu cattle (Bos indicus) have shown that the cow weans her calves over a 2-week period, but after that, she continues to show strong affiliatory behavior with her offspring and preferentially chooses them for grooming and as grazing partners for at least 4–5 years.
Semi-wild Highland cattle heifers first give birth at 2 or 3 years of age and the timing of birth is synchronized with increases in natural food quality. Average calving interval is 391 days, and calving mortality within the first year of life is 5%.
Dominance and leadership
One study showed that over a 4-year period, dominance relationships within a herd of semi-wild highland cattle were very firm. There were few overt aggressive conflicts and the majority of disputes were settled by agonistic (non-aggressive, competitive) behaviors that involved no physical contact between opponents (e.g. threatening and spontaneous withdrawing). Such agonistic behavior reduces the risk of injury. Dominance status depended on age and sex, with older animals generally being dominant to young ones and males dominant to females. Young bulls gained superior dominance status over adult cows when they reached about 2 years of age.
As with many animal dominance hierarchies, dominance-associated aggressiveness does not correlate with rank position, but is closely related to rank distance between individuals.
Dominance is maintained in several ways. Cattle often engage in mock fights where they test each other's strength in a non-aggressive way. Licking is primarily performed by subordinates and received by dominant animals. Mounting is a playful behavior shown by calves of both sexes and by bulls and sometimes by cows in estrus, however, this is not a dominance related behavior as has been found in other species.
The horns of cattle are "honest signals" used in mate selection. Furthermore, horned cattle attempt to keep greater distances between themselves and have fewer physical interactions than hornless cattle. This leads to more stable social relationships.
In calves, the frequency of agonistic behavior decreases as space allowance increases, but this does not occur for changes in group size. However, in adult cattle, the number of agonistic encounters increases as the group size increases.
When grazing, cattle vary several aspects of their bite, i.e. tongue and jaw movements, depending on characteristics of the plant they are eating. Bite area decreases with the density of the plants but increases with their height. Bite area is determined by the sweep of the tongue; in one study observing 750-kilogram (1,650 lb) steers, bite area reached a maximum of approximately 170 cm2 (30 sq in). Bite depth increases with the height of the plants. By adjusting their behavior, cattle obtain heavier bites in swards that are tall and sparse compared with short, dense swards of equal mass/area. Cattle adjust other aspects of their grazing behavior in relation to the available food; foraging velocity decreases and intake rate increases in areas of abundant palatable forage.
In the 24 April 2009, edition of the journal Science, a team of researchers led by the National Institutes of Health and the US Department of Agriculture reported having mapped the bovine genome. The scientists found cattle have about 22,000 genes, and 80% of their genes are shared with humans, and they share about 1000 genes with dogs and rodents, but are not found in humans. Using this bovine "HapMap", researchers can track the differences between the breeds that affect the quality of meat and milk yields.
Behavioral traits of cattle can be as heritable as some production traits, and often, the two can be related. The heritability of fear varies markedly in cattle from low (0.1) to high (0.53); such high variation is also found in pigs and sheep, probably due to differences in the methods used. The heritability of temperament (response to isolation during handling) has been calculated as 0.36 and 0.46 for habituation to handling. Rangeland assessments show that the heritability of aggressiveness in cattle is around 0.36.
Domestication and husbandry
Archeozoological and genetic data indicate that cattle were first domesticated from wild aurochs (Bos primigenius) approximately 10,500 years ago. There were two major areas of domestication: one in the area that is now Turkey, giving rise to the taurine line, and a second in the area that is now Pakistan, resulting in the indicine line. Modern mitochondrial DNA variation indicates the taurine line may have arisen from as few as 80 aurochs tamed in the upper reaches of Mesopotamia near the villages of Çayönü Tepesi in southeastern Turkey and Dja'de el-Mughara in northern Iraq.
Although European cattle are largely descended from the taurine lineage, gene flow from African cattle (partially of indicine origin) contributed substantial genomic components to both southern European cattle breeds and their New World descendants. A study on 134 breeds showed that modern taurine cattle originated from Africa, Asia, North and South America, Australia, and Europe. Some researchers have suggested that African taurine cattle are derived from a third independent domestication from North African aurochsen.
Usage as money
As early as 9000 BC both grain and cattle were used as money or as barter (Davies) (the first grain remains found, considered to be evidence of pre-agricultural practice date to 17,000 BC). Some evidence also exists to suggest that other animals, such as camels and goats, may have been used as currency in some parts of the world. One of the advantages of using cattle as currency is that it allows the seller to set a fixed price. It even created the standard pricing. For example, two chickens were traded for one cow as cows were deemed to be more valuable than chickens.
Cattle are often raised by allowing herds to graze on the grasses of large tracts of rangeland. Raising cattle in this manner allows the use of land that might be unsuitable for growing crops. The most common interactions with cattle involve daily feeding, cleaning and milking. Many routine husbandry practices involve ear tagging, dehorning, loading, medical operations, vaccinations and hoof care, as well as training for agricultural shows and preparations. Also, some cultural differences occur in working with cattle; the cattle husbandry of Fulani men rests on behavioural techniques, whereas in Europe, cattle are controlled primarily by physical means, such as fences. Breeders use cattle husbandry to reduce M. bovis infection susceptibility by selective breeding and maintaining herd health to avoid concurrent disease.
Cattle are farmed for beef, veal, dairy, and leather, and they are less commonly used for conservation grazing, simply to maintain grassland for wildlife – for example, in Epping Forest, England. They are often used in some of the most wild places for livestock. Depending on the breed, cattle can survive on hill grazing, heaths, marshes, moors and semidesert. Modern cattle are more commercial than older breeds and, having become more specialized, are less versatile. For this reason, many smaller farmers still favor old breeds, such as the Jersey dairy breed. In Portugal, Spain, southern France and some Latin American countries, bulls are used in the activity of bullfighting; Jallikattu in India is a bull taming sport radically different from European bullfighting, humans are unarmed and bulls are not killed. In many other countries bullfighting is illegal. Other activities such as bull riding are seen as part of a rodeo, especially in North America. Bull-leaping, a central ritual in Bronze Age Minoan culture (see Bull (mythology)), still exists in southwestern France. In modern times, cattle are also entered into agricultural competitions. These competitions can involve live cattle or cattle carcases in hoof and hook events.
In terms of food intake by humans, consumption of cattle is less efficient than of grain or vegetables with regard to land use, and hence cattle grazing consumes more area than such other agricultural production when raised on grains. Nonetheless, cattle and other forms of domesticated animals can sometimes help to use plant resources in areas not easily amenable to other forms of agriculture.
The average sleep time of a domestic cow is about four hours a day. Cattle do have a stay apparatus, but do not sleep standing up, they lie down to sleep deeply. In spite of the urban legend, cows cannot be tipped over by people pushing on them.
The meat of adult cattle is known as beef, and that of calves is veal. Other animal parts are also used as food products, including blood, liver, kidney, heart and oxtail. Cattle also produce milk, and dairy cattle are specifically bred to produce the large quantities of milk processed and sold for human consumption. Cattle today are the basis of a multibillion-dollar industry worldwide. The international trade in beef for 2000 was over $30 billion and represented only 23% of world beef production. The production of milk, which is also made into cheese, butter, yogurt, and other dairy products, is comparable in economic size to beef production, and provides an important part of the food supply for many of the world's people. Cattle hides, used for leather to make shoes, couches and clothing, are another widespread product. Cattle remain broadly used as draft animals in many developing countries, such as India. Cattle are also used in some sporting games, including rodeo and bullfighting.
Cattle meat production
Source: Helgi Library, World Bank, FAOSTAT
About half the world's meat comes from cattle.
Certain breeds of cattle, such as the Holstein-Friesian, are used to produce milk, which can be processed into dairy products such as milk, cheese or yogurt. Dairy cattle are usually kept on specialized dairy farms designed for milk production. Most cows are milked twice per day, with milk processed at a dairy, which may be onsite at the farm or the milk may be shipped to a dairy plant for eventual sale of a dairy product. For dairy cattle to continue producing milk, they must give birth to one calf per year. If the calf is male, it generally is slaughtered at a young age to produce veal. They will continue to produce milk until three weeks before birth. Over the last fifty years, dairy farming has become more intensive to increase the yield of milk produced by each cow. The Holstein-Friesian is the breed of dairy cow most common in the UK, Europe and the United States. It has been bred selectively to produce the highest yields of milk of any cow. Around 22 litres per day is average in the UK.
Most cattle are not kept solely for hides, which are usually a by-product of beef production. Hides are most commonly used for leather which can be made into a variety of product including shoes. In 2012 India was the world's largest producer of cattle hides.
Feral cattle are defined as being 'cattle that are not domesticated or cultivated'. Populations of feral cattle are known to come from and exist in: Australia, United States of America, Colombia, Argentina, Spain, France and many islands, including New Guinea, Hawaii, Galapagos, Juan Fernández Islands, Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti), Tristan da Cunha and Île Amsterdam, two islands of Kuchinoshima and Kazura Island next to Naru Island in Japan.Chillingham cattle is sometimes regarded as a feral breed.Aleutian wild cattles can be found on Aleutian Islands. The "Kinmen cattle" which is dominantly found on Kinmen Island, Taiwan is mostly domesticated while smaller portion of the population is believed to live in the wild due to accidental releases.
A report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that the livestock sector is "responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions". The report concludes, unless changes are made, the damage thought to be linked to livestock may more than double by 2050, as demand for meat increases. Another concern is manure, which if not well-managed, can lead to adverse environmental consequences. However, manure also is a valuable source of nutrients and organic matter when used as a fertilizer. Manure was used as a fertilizer on about 15.8 million acres of US cropland in 2006, with manure from cattle accounting for nearly 70% of manure applications to soybeans and about 80% or more of manure applications to corn, wheat, barley, oats and sorghum. Substitution of manure for synthetic fertilizers in crop production can be environmentally significant, as between 43 and 88 megajoules of fossil fuel energy would be used per kg of nitrogen in manufacture of synthetic nitrogenous fertilizers. A cow does on overage release between 70 and 120 kg of Methane per year. Methane is a greenhouse gas like carbon dioxide (CO2). But the negative effect on the climate of Methane is 23 times higher than the effect of CO2.
One of the cited changes suggested to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is intensification of the livestock industry, since intensification leads to less land for a given level of production. This assertion is supported by studies of the US beef production system, suggesting practices prevailing in 2007 involved 8.6% less fossil fuel use, 16.3% less greenhouse gas emissions, 12.1% less water use, and 33.0% less land use, per unit mass of beef produced, than those used in 1977. The analysis took into account not only practices in feedlots, but also feed production (with less feed needed in more intensive production systems), forage-based cow-calf operations and back-grounding before cattle enter a feedlot (with more beef produced per head of cattle from those sources, in more intensive systems), and beef from animals derived from the dairy industry.
The number of American cattle kept in confined feedlot conditions fluctuates. From 1 January 2002 through 1 January 2012, there was no significant overall upward or downward trend in the number of US cattle on feed for slaughter, which averaged about 14.046 million head over that period. Previously, the number had increased; it was 12.453 million in 1985. Cattle on feed (for slaughter) numbered about 14.121 million on 1 January 2012, i.e. about 15.5% of the estimated inventory of 90.8 million US cattle (including calves) on that date. Of the 14.121 million, US cattle on feed (for slaughter) in operations with 1000 head or more were estimated to number 11.9 million. Cattle feedlots in this size category correspond to the regulatory definition of "large" concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) for cattle other than mature dairy cows or veal calves. Significant numbers of dairy, as well as beef cattle, are confined in CAFOs, defined as "new and existing operations which stable or confine and feed or maintain for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period more than the number of animals specified" where "[c]rops, vegetation, forage growth, or post-harvest residues are not sustained in the normal growing season over any portion of the lot or facility." They may be designated as small, medium and large. Such designation of cattle CAFOs is according to cattle type (mature dairy cows, veal calves or other) and cattle numbers, but medium CAFOs are so designated only if they meet certain discharge criteria, and small CAFOs are designated only on a case-by-case basis.
A CAFO that discharges pollutants is required to obtain a permit, which requires a plan to manage nutrient runoff, manure, chemicals, contaminants, and other wastewater pursuant to the US Clean Water Act. The regulations involving CAFO permitting have been extensively litigated. Commonly, CAFO wastewater and manure nutrients are applied to land at agronomic rates for use by forages or crops, and it is often assumed that various constituents of wastewater and manure, e.g. organic contaminants and pathogens, will be retained, inactivated or degraded on the land with application at such rates; however, additional evidence is needed to test reliability of such assumptions . Concerns raised by opponents of CAFOs have included risks of contaminated water due to feedlot runoff, soil erosion, human and animal exposure to toxic chemicals, development of antibiotic resistant bacteria and an increase in E. coli contamination. While research suggests some of these impacts can be mitigated by developing wastewater treatment systems and planting cover crops in larger setback zones, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report in 2008 concluding that CAFOs are generally unsustainable and externalize costs.
An estimated 935,000 cattle operations were operating in the USA in 2010. In 2001, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tallied 5,990 cattle CAFOs then regulated, consisting of beef (2,200), dairy (3,150), heifer (620) and veal operations (20). Since that time, the EPA has established CAFOs as an enforcement priority. EPA enforcement highlights for fiscal year 2010 indicated enforcement actions against 12 cattle CAFOs for violations that included failures to obtain a permit, failures to meet the terms of a permit, and discharges of contaminated water.
Grazing by cattle at low intensities can create a favourable environment for native herbs and forbs; in many world regions, though, cattle are reducing biodiversity due to overgrazing. A survey of refuge managers on 123 National Wildlife Refuges in the US tallied 86 species of wildlife considered positively affected and 82 considered negatively affected by refuge cattle grazing or haying. Proper management of pastures, notably managed intensive rotational grazing and grazing at low intensities can lead to less use of fossil fuel energy, increased recapture of carbon dioxide, fewer ammonia emissions into the atmosphere, reduced soil erosion, better air quality, and less water pollution.
Some microbes in the cattle gut carry out anaerobic process known as methanogenesis, which produces methane. Cattle and other livestock emit about 80 to 93 Tg[clarification needed] of methane per year, accounting for an estimated 37% of anthropogenic methane emissions, and additional methane is produced by anaerobic fermentation of manure in manure lagoons and other manure storage structures. The 100-year global warming potential of methane, including effects on ozone and stratospheric water vapor, is 25 times as great as that of carbon dioxide. Methane's effect on global warming is correlated with changes in atmospheric methane content, not with emissions. The net change in atmospheric methane content was recently about 1 Tg per year, and in some recent years there has been no increase in atmospheric methane content. Mitigation options for reducing methane emission from ruminant enteric fermentation include genetic selection, immunization, rumen defaunation, diet modification and grazing management, among others. While cattle fed forage actually produce more methane than grain-fed cattle, the increase may be offset by the increased carbon recapture of pastures, which recapture three times the CO2 of cropland used for grain.
The veterinary discipline dealing with cattle and cattle diseases (bovine veterinary) is called buiatrics. Veterinarians and professionals working on cattle health issues are pooled in the World Association for Buiatrics, founded in 1960. National associations and affiliates also exist.
Cattle diseases were in the center of attention in the 1980s and 1990s when the Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease, was of concern. Cattle might catch and develop various other diseases, like blackleg, bluetongue, foot rot too.
In most states, as cattle health is not only a veterinarian issue, but also a public health issue, public health and food safety standards and farming regulations directly affect the daily work of farmers who keep cattle. However, said rules change frequently and are often debated. For instance, in the U.K., it was proposed in 2011 that milk from tuberculosis-infected cattle should be allowed to enter the food chain. Internal food safety regulations might affect a country's trade policy as well. For example, the United States has just reviewed its beef import rules according to the "mad cow standards"; while Mexico forbids the entry of cattle who are older than 30 months.
Cow urine is commonly used in India for internal medical purposes. It is distilled and then consumed by patients seeking treatment for a wide variety of illnesses. At present, no conclusive medical evidence shows this has any effect. However, an Indian medicine containing cow urine has already obtained U.S. patents.
Digital dermatitis is caused by the bacteria from the genus Treponema. It differs from foot rot and can appear under unsanitary conditions such as poor hygiene or inadequate hoof trimming, among other causes. It primarily affects dairy cattle and has been known to lower the quantity of milk produced, however the milk quality remains unaffected. Cattle are also susceptible to ringworm caused by the fungus, Trichophyton verrucosum, a contagious skin disease which may be transferred to humans exposed to infected cows.
Effect of high stocking density
Stocking density refers to the number of animals within a specified area. When stocking density reaches high levels, the behavioural needs of the animals may not be met. This can negatively influence health, welfare and production performance.
The effect of overstocking in cows can have a negative effect on milk production and reproduction rates which are two very important traits for dairy farmers. Overcrowding of cows in barns has been found to reduced feeding, resting and rumination. Although they consume the same amount of dry matter within the span of a day, they consume the food at a much more rapid rate, and this behaviour in cows can lead to further complications. The feeding behaviour of cows during their post-milking period is very important as it has been proven that the longer animals can eat after milking, the longer they will be standing up and therefore causing less contamination to the teat ends. This is necessary to reduce the risk of mastitis as infection has been shown to increase the chances of embryonic loss. Sufficient rest is important for dairy cows because it is during this period that their resting blood flow increases up to 50%, this is directly proportionate to milk production. Each additional hour of rest can be seen to translate to 2 to 3.5 more pounds of milk per cow daily. Stocking densities of anything over 120% have been shown to decrease the amount of time cows spend lying down.
Cortisol is an important stress hormone; its plasma concentrations increase greatly when subjected to high levels of stress. Increased concentration levels of cortisol have been associated with significant increases in gonadotrophin levels and lowered progestin levels. Reduction of stress is important in the reproductive state of cows as an increase in gonadotrophin and lowered progesterone levels may impinge on the ovulatory and lutenization process and to reduce the chances of successful implantation. A high cortisol level will also stimulate the degradation of fats and proteins which may make it difficult for the animal to sustain its pregnancy if implanted successfully.
Oxen (singular ox) are cattle trained as draft animals. Often they are adult, castrated males of larger breeds, although females and bulls are also used in some areas. Usually, an ox is over four years old due to the need for training and to allow it to grow to full size. Oxen are used for plowing, transport, hauling cargo, grain-grinding by trampling or by powering machines, irrigation by powering pumps, and wagon drawing. Oxen were commonly used to skid logs in forests, and sometimes still are, in low-impact, select-cut logging. Oxen are most often used in teams of two, paired, for light work such as carting, with additional pairs added when more power is required, sometimes up to a total of 20 or more.
An ox is a mature bovine which has learned to respond appropriately to a teamster's signals. These signals are given by verbal commands or by noise (whip cracks). Verbal commands vary according to dialect and local tradition. In one tradition in North America, the commands are:
- "Back up": go backwards
- "Gee": turn right
- "Get up": walk forward
- "Haw": turn left
- "Whoa": stop
Oxen can pull harder and longer than horses. Though not as fast as horses, they are less prone to injury because they are more sure-footed.
Many oxen are used worldwide, especially in developing countries. About 11.3 million draft oxen are used in sub-Saharan Africa. In India, the number of draft cattle in 1998 was estimated at 65.7 million head. About half the world's crop production is thought to depend on land preparation (such as plowing) made possible by animal traction.
Religion, traditions and folklore
Cattle are venerated within the Hindu religion of India. In the Vedic period they were a symbol of plenty :130 and were frequently slaughtered. In later times they gradually acquired their present status. According to the Mahabharata they are to be treated with the same respect 'as one's mother'. In the middle of the first millennium, the consumption of beef began to be disfavoured by lawgivers.:144 Although there has never been any cow-goddesses or temples dedicated to them,:146 cows appear in numerous stories from the Vedas and Puranas. The deity Krishna was brought up in a family of cowherders, and given the name Govinda (protector of the cows). Also, Shiva is traditionally said to ride on the back of a bull named Nandi.
Milk and milk products were used in Vedic rituals.:130 In the postvedic period products of the cow – milk, curd, ghee, but also cow dung and urine (gomutra), or the combination of these five (panchagavya) – began to assume an increasingly important role in ritual purification and expiation.:130–1
Veneration of the cow has become a symbol of the identity of Hindus as a community,:20 especially since the end of the 19th century. Slaughter of cows (including oxen, bulls and calves) is forbidden by law in several states of the Indian Union. McDonald's outlets in India do not serve any beef burgers. In Maharaja Ranjit Singh's empire of the early 19th century, the killing of a cow was punishable by death.
- The Evangelist St. Luke is depicted as an ox in Christian art.
- In Judaism, as described in Numbers 19:2, the ashes of a sacrificed unblemished red heifer that has never been yoked can be used for ritual purification of people who came into contact with a corpse.
- The ox is one of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. See: Ox (Zodiac).
- The constellation Taurus represents a bull.
- An apocryphal story has it that a cow started the Great Chicago Fire by kicking over a kerosene lamp. Michael Ahern, the reporter who created the cow story, admitted in 1893 that he had fabricated it for more colorful copy.
- On 18 February 1930, Elm Farm Ollie became the first cow to fly in an airplane and also the first cow to be milked in an airplane.
- The first known law requiring branding in North America was enacted on 5 February 1644, by Connecticut. It said that all cattle and pigs had to have a registered brand or earmark by 1 May 1644.
- The akabeko (赤べこ?, red cow) is a traditional toy from the Aizu region of Japan that is thought to ward off illness.
- The case of Sherwood v. Walker—involving a supposedly barren heifer that was actually pregnant—-first enunciated the concept of mutual mistake as a means of destroying the meeting of the minds in contract law.
- The Fulani of West Africa are the world's largest nomadic cattle-herders.
- The Maasai tribe of East Africa traditionally believe their god Engai entitled them to divine rights to the ownership of all cattle on earth.
Cattle are typically represented in heraldry by the bull.
For 2013, the FAO estimated global cattle numbers at 1.47 billion. Regionally, the FAO estimate for 2013 includes: Asia 495 million; South America 348 million; Africa 305 million; Europe 122 million; North America 102 million; Central America 46 million; Oceania 42 million; and Caribbean 9 million. The following table shows the cattle population in 2009.
|India||285,000,000 (By 2003)||194,655,285|
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Eastern Cottontail info via Wikipedia:
(J. A. Allen, 1890)
|Eastern cottontail range|
- Home range
- Cover requirements
- External links
The eastern cottontail can be found in meadows and shrubby areas in the eastern and south-central United States, southern Canada, eastern Mexico, Central America and northernmost South America. It is abundant in Midwest North America, and has been found in New Mexico and Arizona. Its range expanded north as forests were cleared by settlers. Originally, it was not found in New England, but it has been introduced there and now competes for habitat there with the native New England cottontail. It has also been introduced into parts of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. In the mid-1960s, the eastern cottontail was introduced to Cuba, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Barbados, Bahamas, Haiti, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Saint Croix and northern Italy, where it displayed a rapid territorial expansion and increase in population density.
Optimal eastern cottontail habitat includes open grassy areas, clearings, and old fields supporting abundant green grasses and herbs, with shrubs in the area or edges for cover. The essential components of eastern cottontail habitat are an abundance of well-distributed escape cover (dense shrubs) interspersed with more open foraging areas such as grasslands and pastures. Habitat parameters important for eastern cottontails in ponderosa pine, mixed species, and pinyon (Pinus spp.)-juniper (Juniperus spp.) woodlands include woody debris, herbaceous and shrubby understories, and patchiness. Typically eastern cottontails occupy habitats in and around farms including fields, pastures, open woods, thickets associated with fencerows, wooded thickets, forest edges, and suburban areas with adequate food and cover. They are also found in swamps and marshes and usually avoid dense woods. They are seldom found in deep woods.
The eastern cottontail home range is roughly circular in uniform habitats. Eastern cottontails typically inhabit one home range throughout their lifetime, but home range shifts in response to vegetation changes and weather are common. In New England eastern cottontail home ranges average 1.4 acres (0.57 hectares) for adult males and 1.2 acres (0.49 hectares) for adult females but vary in size from 0.5 to 40 acres (0.20 to 16.19 hectares), depending on season, habitat quality, and individual. The largest ranges are occupied by adult males during the breeding season. In southwestern Wisconsin adult male home ranges averaged 6.9 acres (2.8 hectares) in spring, increased to 10 acres (4.0 hectares) in early summer, and decreased to 3.7 acres (1.5 hectares) by late summer. Daily activity is usually restricted to 10% to 20% of the overall home range.
In southeastern Wisconsin home ranges of males overlapped by up to 50%, but female home ranges did not overlap by more than 25% and actual defense of range by females occurred only in the immediate area of the nest. Males fight each other to establish dominance hierarchy and mating priority.
Eastern cottontails forage in open areas and use brush piles, stone walls with shrubs around them, herbaceous and shrubby plants, and burrows or dens for escape cover, shelter, and resting cover. Woody cover is extremely important for the survival and abundance of eastern cottontails. Eastern cottontails do not dig their own dens (other than nest holes) but use burrows dug by other species such as woodchucks. In winter when deciduous plants are bare eastern cottontails forage in less secure cover and travel greater distances. Eastern cottontails probably use woody cover more during the winter, particularly in areas where cover is provided by herbaceous vegetation in summer. In Florida slash pine flatwoods, eastern cottontails use low saw-palmetto (Serenoa repens) patches for cover within grassy areas.
Most nest holes are constructed in grasslands (including hayfields). The nest is concealed in grasses or weeds. Nests are also constructed in thickets, orchards, and scrubby woods. In southeastern Illinois tall-grass prairie, eastern cottontail nests were more common in undisturbed prairie grasses than in high-mowed or hayed plots. In Iowa most nests were within 70 yd (64 m) of brush cover in herbaceous vegetation at least 4 in (10 cm) tall. Nests in hayfields were in vegetation less than 8 in (20 cm) tall. Average depth of nest holes is 5 in (13 cm), average width 5 in (13 cm), and average length 7 in (18 cm). The nest is lined with grass and fur.
The eastern cottontail is chunky, red-brown or gray-brown in appearance, with large hind feet, long ears, and a short, fluffy white tail. Its underside fur is white. There is a rusty patch on the tail. Its appearance differs from that of a hare in that it has a brownish-gray coloring around the head and neck. The body is lighter color with a white underside on the tail. It has large brown eyes and large ears to see and listen for danger. In winter the cottontail's pelage is more gray than brown. The kits develop the same coloring after a few weeks, but they also have a white blaze that goes down their forehead; this marking eventually disappears. This rabbit is medium-sized, measuring 36–48 cm (14–19 in) in total length, including a small tail that averages 5.3 cm (2.1 in). Weight can range from 1.8 to 4.4 lb (800 to 2,000 g), with an average of around 2.6 lb (1,200 g). The female tends to be heavier, although the sexes broadly overlap in size. There may be some slight variation in the body size of eastern cottontails, with weights seeming to increase from south to north, in accordance with Bergmann's rule. Adult specimens from the Florida Museum of Natural History, collected in Florida, have a mean weight of 2.244 lb (1,018 g). Meanwhile, 346 adult cottontails from Michigan were found to have averaged 3.186 lb (1,445 g) in mass.
The eastern cottontail is a very territorial animal. When chased, it runs in a zigzag pattern, running up to 18 mph (29 km/h). The cottontail prefers an area where it can hide quickly but be out in the open. Forests, swamps, thickets, bushes, or open areas where shelter is close by are optimal habitation sites for this species. Cottontails do not dig burrows, but rather rest in a form, a shallow, scratched-out depression in a clump of grass or under brush. It may use the dens of groundhogs as a temporary home or during heavy snow.
Eastern cottontails are crepuscular to nocturnal feeders; although they usually spend most of the daylight hours resting in shallow depressions under vegetative cover or other shelter, they can be seen at any time of day. Eastern cottontails are most active when visibility is limited, such as rainy or foggy nights. Eastern cottontails usually move only short distances, and they may remain sitting very still for up to 15 minutes at a time. Eastern cottontails are active year-round.
The onset of breeding varies between populations and within populations from year to year. The eastern cottontail breeding season begins later with higher latitudes and elevations. Temperature rather than diet has been suggested as a primary factor controlling onset of breeding; many studies correlate severe weather with delays in the onset of breeding. In New England breeding occurs from March to September. In New York the breeding season occurs from February to September, in Connecticut from mid-March to mid-September. In Alabama the breeding season begins in January. In Georgia the breeding season lasts nine months and in Texas breeding occurs year-round. Populations in western Oregon breed from late January to early September. Mating is promiscuous.
The nest is a slanting hole dug in soft soil and lined with vegetation and fur. The average measurements are: length 7.09 in (18 cm), width 4.9 in (12 cm), and depth 4.71 in (12 cm). The average period of gestation is 28 days, ranging from 25 to 35 days. Eastern cottontail young are born with a very fine coat of hair and are blind. Their eyes begin to open by four to seven days. Young begin to move out of the nest for short trips by 12 to 16 days and are completely weaned and independent by four to five weeks. Litters disperse at about seven weeks. Females do not stay in the nest with the young but return to the opening of the nest to nurse, usually twice a day.
Reproductive maturity occurs at about two to three months of age. A majority of females first breed the spring following birth; but 10% to 36% of females breed as juveniles (i.e., summer of the year they were born). Males will mate with more than one female. Female rabbits can have one to seven litters of one to twelve young, called kits, in a year; however, they average three to four litters per year, and the average number of kits is five. In the South female eastern cottontails have more litters per year (up to seven) but fewer young per litter. In New England female eastern cottontails have three or four litters per year. The annual productivity of females may be as high as 35 young.
The diet of eastern cottontails is varied and largely dependent on availability. Eastern cottontails eat vegetation almost exclusively; arthropods have occasionally been found in pellets. Some studies list as many as 70 to 145 plant species in local diets. Food items include bark, twigs, leaves, fruit, buds, flowers, grass seeds, sedge fruits, and rush seeds. There is a preference for small material: branches, twigs, and stems up to 0.25 in (0.64 cm). Leporids including eastern cottontails are coprophagous, producing two types of fecal pellets, one of which is consumed. The redigestion of pellets greatly increases the nutritional value of dietary items.
In summer, eastern cottontails consume tender green herbaceous vegetation when it is available. In many areas Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratense) and Canada bluegrass (P. compressa) are important dietary components. Other favored species include clovers (Trifolium spp.) and crabgrasses (Digitaria spp.). In Connecticut important summer foods include clovers, alfalfa, timothy (Phleum pratense), bluegrasses (Poa spp.), quackgrass (Elytrigia repens), crabgrasses, redtop (Agrostis alba), ragweed (Ambrosia psilostachya), goldenrods (Solidago spp.), plantains (Plantago spp.), chickweed (Stellaria media), and dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). Eastern cottontails also consume many domestic crops.
During the dormant season, or when green vegetation is covered with snow, eastern cottontails consume twigs, buds, and bark of woody vegetation. In Connecticut important winter foods include gray birch (Betula populifolia), red maple, and smooth sumac (Rhus glabra).
In Kansas, the largest cause of mortality of radiotracked eastern cottontails was predation (43%), followed by research mortalities[clarification needed] (19%), and tularemia (18%). A major cause of eastern cottontail mortality is collision with automobiles. In Missouri, it was estimated that ten eastern cottontails are killed annually per mile of road. The peak period of highway mortality is in spring (March through May); roadside vegetation greens up before adjacent fields and is highly attractive to eastern cottontails.
Annual adult survival is estimated at 20%. Average longevity is 15 months in the wild; the longest-lived wild individual on record was five years old. Captive eastern cottontails have lived to at least nine years of age.
Eastern cottontails are hosts to fleas, ticks, lice, cestodes, nematodes, trematodes, gray flesh fly larvae, botfly larvae, tularemia, shopes fibroma, torticollis, and streptothricosis cutaneous. Further summary of diseases and pests is available.
The eastern cottontail has to contend with many predators, both natural and introduced. Due to their often large populations in Eastern North America, they form a major component of several predators' diets. Major predators of eastern cottontail include domestic cats and dogs, foxes (Vulpes and Urocyon spp.), coyote (C. latrans), bobcat (Lynx rufus), weasels (Mustela spp.), raccoon (Procyon lotor), mink (M. vison), great horned owl (Bubo virginianus), barred owl (Strix varia), hawks (principally Buteo spp.), corvids (Corvus spp.), and snakes.
Predators that take nestlings include raccoon, badger (Taxidea taxus), skunks (Mephitis and Spilogale spp.), and Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana). In central Missouri, eastern cottontails comprised the majority of biomass in the diet of red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) during the nesting season. In Pennsylvania, the chief predator of eastern cottontails is the great horned owl. In the Southwest cottontails including eastern cottontail comprise 7 to 25% of the diets of northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis). In Texas, eastern cottontails are preyed on by coyotes more heavily in early spring and in fall than in summer or winter. In southwestern North Dakota, cottontails (both eastern and desert cottontail Sylvilagus auduboni) were major prey items in the diets of bobcats.
Recognized subspecies of Sylvilagus floridanus
- North of Mexico
- Sylvilagus floridanus alacer
- Sylvilagus floridanus holzneri
- Sylvilagus floridanus chapmani
- Sylvilagus floridanus floridanus
- Sylvilagus floridanus mallurus
- Mexico and Central America
- Sylvilagus floridanus aztecus
- Sylvilagus floridanus connectens
- Sylvilagus floridanus hondurensis
- Sylvilagus floridanus macrocorpus
- Sylvilagus floridanus orizabae
- Sylvilagus floridanus yucatanicus
- South of Isthmus of Panama
- Sylvilagus floridanus avius
- Sylvilagus floridanus cumanicus
- Sylvilagus floridanus margaritae
- Sylvilagus floridanus nigronuchalis
- Sylvilagus floridanus orinoci
- Sylvilagus floridanus purgatus
- Sylvilagus floridanus superciliaris
- Hoffman, R.S.; Smith, A.T. (2005). "Order Lagomorpha". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 209–210. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Mexican Association for Conservation and Study of Lagomorphs (AMCELA); Romero Malpica, F.J. & Rangel Cordero, H. (2008). "Sylvilagus floridanus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
- Godin, Alfred J. (1977). Wild mammals of New England. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press
- Reid, Fiona (2006). A Field Guide to Mammals of North America. New York, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.
- Silvano, Fabrizio; Acquarone, Camilla; Cucco, Marco (2000). "Distribution of the eastern cottontail Sylvilagus floridanus in the province of Alessandria" (PDF). Hystrix. 11: 75–78.
- Hon, Tip. (1981). "Effects of prescribed fire on furbearers in the South", pp. 121–128 in: Wood, Gene W. (ed.) Prescribed fire and wildlife in southern forests: Proceedings of a symposium; 1981 April 6–8; Myrtle Beach, SC. Georgetown, SC: Clemson University, Belle W. Baruch Forest Science Institute
- Allen, A. W. (1984). Habitat suitability index models: eastern cottontail. FWS/OBS 0197-6087. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Biological Sciences, Western Energy Land Use Team
- Trent, Tracey T.; Rongstad, Orrin J (1974). "Home range and survival of cottontail rabbits in southwestern Wisconsin". Journal of Wildlife Management. 38 (3): 459–472. doi:10.2307/3800877. JSTOR 3800877.
- Chapman, Joseph A.; Hockman, J. Gregory; Edwards, William R. 1982. Cottontails: Sylvilagus floridanus and allies. In: Chapman, Joseph A.; Feldhamer, George A., eds. Wild mammals of North America. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press: 83–123
- Komarek, Roy. (1963). "Fire and the changing wildlife habitat", pp. 35–43 in: Proceedings of 2nd annual Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1963 March 14–15; Tallahassee, FL. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station
- Nowak, Ronald M.; Paradiso, John L. (1983). Walker's mammals of the world. 4th edition. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press
- GAWW: Species Description. Naturalhistory.uga.edu. Retrieved 2012-12-20.
- Mikita, K. (1999). Sylvilagus floridanus. Animal Diversity Web.
- Elder, William H.; Lyle K. Sowls (1942). "Body Weight and Sex Ratio of Cottontail Rabbits". The Journal of Wildlife Management. 6 (3): 203–207. doi:10.2307/3795902. JSTOR 3795902.
- Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus). Nsrl.ttu.edu. Retrieved 2012-12-20.
- "FLMNH Mammal Master Database- Sylvilagus floridanus". Florida Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 2014-01-22.
- Craighead, J.J. & Craighead, F.C. (1956) Hawks, Owls and Wildlife. Wildlife Management Institute, ISBN 0-486-22123-7.
- Merritt, Joseph E. (1987) Guide to the Mammals of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh Press, p. 123, ISBN 0822953935.
- Chapman, Joseph A.; Hockman, J. Gregory; Ojeda C.; Magaly M (1980). "Sylvilagus floridanus" (PDF). Mammalian Species. 136 (136): 1–8. doi:10.2307/3504055. JSTOR 3504055.
- Wainright, Larry C. (1969). "A literature review on cottontail reproduction". Special Report 19. Denver, CO: Colorado Department of Game, Fish and Parks
- Rue, Leonard Lee, III. (1965). Cottontail. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company
- Dalke, Paul D.; Sime, Palmer R (1941). "Food habits of the eastern and New England cottontails". Journal of Wildlife Management. 5 (2): 216–228. doi:10.2307/3795589. JSTOR 3795589.
- Trevor, John T.; Seabloom, Robert W.; Allen, Stephen H. (1989). "Food habits in relation to sex and age of bobcats from southwestern North Dakota". Prairie Naturalist. 21 (3): 163–168.
- Hellgren, Eric C.; Vaughan, Michael R. (1988). "Seasonal food habits of black bears in Great Dismal Swamp, Virginia – North Carolina". Proceedings of the Annual Conference of Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. 42: 295–305
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sylvilagus floridanus.|
|Wikispecies has information related to: Sylvilagus floridanus|
- Cotton Tail Rabbit, World Wide Outreach Program of The Rouge Foundation
- Eastern Cottontail, Fletcher Wildlife Garden
Extant Lagomorpha species
Pig info via Wikipedia:
Temporal range: Early Pleistocene–Holocene
|Male Central European boar
(S. s. scrofa)
|Reconstructed range of wild boar (green) and introduced populations (blue): Not shown are smaller introduced populations in the Caribbean, New Zealand, sub-Saharan Africa, and elsewhere.|
The wild boar (Sus scrofa), also known as the wild swine or Eurasian wild pig, is a suid native to much of Eurasia, North Africa, and the Greater Sunda Islands. Human intervention has spread its range further, making the species one of the widest-ranging mammals in the world, as well as the most widely spread suiform. Its wide range, high numbers, and adaptability mean that it is classed as least concern by the IUCN and it has become an invasive species in part of its introduced range. The animal probably originated in Southeast Asia during the Early Pleistocene, and outcompeted other suid species as it spread throughout the Old World.
As of 1990, up to 16 subspecies are recognised, which are divided into four regional groupings based on skull height and lacrimal bone length. The species lives in matriarchal societies consisting of interrelated females and their young (both male and female). Fully grown males are usually solitary outside the breeding season. The grey wolf is the wild boar's main predator throughout most of its range except in the Far East and the Lesser Sunda Islands, where it is replaced by the tiger and Komodo dragon respectively. It has a long history of association with humans, having been the ancestor of most domestic pig breeds and a big-game animal for millennia.
- Taxonomy and evolution
- Physical description
- Social behaviour and life cycle
- Diseases and parasites
- Relationships with humans
- See also
- Further reading
- External links
As true wild boars became extinct in Britain before the development of modern English, the same terms are often used for both true wild boar and pigs, especially large or semiwild ones. The English 'boar' stems from the Old English bar, which is thought to be derived from the West Germanic *bairaz, of unknown origin. Boar is sometimes used specifically to refer to males, and may also be used to refer to male domesticated pigs, especially breeding males that have not been castrated.
'Sow', the traditional name for a female, again comes from Old English and Germanic; it stems from Proto-Indo-European, and is related to the Latin sus and Greek hus and more closely to the modern German Sau. The young may be called 'piglets'.
In hunting terminology, boars are given different designations according to their age:
|Pig of the sounder||Two years|
|Boar of the 4th/5th/6th year||3–5 years|
|Old boar||Six years|
|Grand old boar||Over seven years|
Taxonomy and evolution
MtDNA studies indicate that the wild boar originated from islands in Southeast Asia such as Indonesia and the Philippines, and subsequently spread onto mainland Eurasia and North Africa. The earliest fossil finds of the species come from both Europe and Asia, and date back to the Early Pleistocene. By the late Villafranchian, S. scrofa largely displaced the related S. strozzii, a large, possibly swamp-adapted suid ancestral to the modern S. verrucosus throughout the Eurasian mainland, restricting it to insular Asia. Its closest wild relative is the bearded pig of Malacca and surrounding islands.
- Western: Includes S. s. scrofa, S. s. meridionalis, S. s. algira, S. s. attila, S. s. lybicus, and S. s. nigripes. These subspecies are typically high-skulled (though lybicus and some scrofa are low-skulled), with thick underwool and (excepting scrofa and attila) poorly developed manes.
- Indian: Includes S. s. davidi and S. s. cristatus. These subspecies have sparse or absent underwool, with long manes and prominent bands on the snout and mouth. While S. s. cristatus is high-skulled, S. s. davidi is low-skulled.
- Eastern: Includes S. s. sibiricus, S. s. ussuricus, S. s. leucomystax, S. s. riukiuanus, S. s. taivanus, and S. s. moupinensis. These subspecies are characterised by a whitish streak extending from the corners of the mouth to the lower jaw. With the exception of S. s. ussuricus, most are high-skulled. The underwool is thick, except in S. s. moupinensis, and the mane is largely absent.
- Indonesian: Represented solely by S. s. vittatus, it is characterised by its sparse body hair, lack of underwool, fairly long mane, a broad reddish band extending from the muzzle to the sides of the neck. It is the most basal of the four groups, having the smallest relative brain size, more primitive dentition and unspecialised cranial structure.
|Central European boar
S. s. scrofa
|Linnaeus, 1758||A medium-sized, dark to rusty-brown haired subspecies with long and relatively narrow lacrimal bones||Northern Spain, northern Italy, France, Germany, Benelux, Croatia, Belarus, Denmark, Sweden, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and possibly Albania||anglicus (Reichenbach, 1846), aper (Erxleben, 1777), asiaticus (Sanson, 1878), bavaricus (Reichenbach, 1846), campanogallicus (Reichenbach, 1846), capensis (Reichenbach, 1846), castilianus (Thomas, 1911), celticus (Sanson, 1878), chinensis (Linnaeus, 1758), crispus (Fitzinger, 1858), deliciosus (Reichenbach, 1846), domesticus (Erxleben, 1777), europaeus (Pallas, 1811), fasciatus (von Schreber, 1790), ferox (Moore, 1870), ferus (Gmelin, 1788), gambianus (Gray, 1847), hispidus (von Schreber, 1790), hungaricus (Reichenbach, 1846), ibericus (Sanson, 1878), italicus (Reichenbach, 1846), juticus (Fitzinger, 1858), lusitanicus (Reichenbach, 1846), macrotis (Fitzinger, 1858), monungulus (G. Fischer [von Waldheim], 1814), moravicus (Reichenbach, 1846), nanus (Nehring, 1884), palustris (Rütimeyer, 1862), pliciceps (Gray, 1862), polonicus (Reichenbach, 1846), sardous (Reichenbach, 1846), scropha (Gray, 1827), sennaarensis (Fitzinger, 1858), sennaarensis (Gray, 1868), sennaariensis (Fitzinger, 1860), setosus (Boddaert, 1785), siamensis (von Schreber, 1790), sinensis (Erxleben, 1777), suevicus (Reichenbach, 1846), syrmiensis (Reichenbach, 1846), turcicus (Reichenbach, 1846), variegatus (Reichenbach, 1846), vulgaris (S. D. W., 1836), wittei (Reichenbach, 1846)|
|North African boar
S. s. algira
|Loche, 1867||Sometimes considered a junior synonym of S. s. scrofa, but smaller and with proportionally longer tusks||Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco||barbarus (Sclater, 1860)
sahariensis (Heim de Balzac, 1937)
S. s. attila
|Thomas, 1912||A large-sized subspecies with long lacrimal bones and dark hair, though lighter-coloured than S. s. scrofa||Romania, Hungary, Ukraine, Balkans, Caucasus, Transcaucasia, Caspian coast, Asia Minor and northern Iran||falzfeini (Matschie, 1918)|
S. s. cristatus
|Wagner, 1839||A long-maned subspecies with a coat that is brindled black unlike S. s. davidi, it is more lightly built than S. s. scrofa. Its head is larger and more pointed than that of S. s. scrofa, and its ears smaller and more pointed. The plane of the forehead is straight, while it is concave in S. s. scrofa.||India, Nepal, Burma, western Thailand and Sri Lanka||affinis (Gray, 1847), aipomus (Gray, 1868), aipomus (Hodgson, 1842), bengalensis (Blyth, 1860), indicus (Gray, 1843), isonotus (Gray, 1868), isonotus (Hodgson, 1842), jubatus (Miller, 1906), typicus (Lydekker, 1900), zeylonensis (Blyth, 1851)|
|Central Asian boar
S. s. davidi
|Groves, 1981||A small, long-maned and light brown subspecies||Pakistan and northwest India to southeastern Iran|
S. s. leucomystax
|Temminck, 1842||A small, almost maneless, yellowish-brown subspecies||All of Japan, save for Hokkaido and the Ryukyu Islands||japonica (Nehring, 1885)
nipponicus (Heude, 1899)
S. s. libycus
|Gray, 1868||A small, pale and almost maneless subspecies||Transcaucasia, Turkey, Levant, Israel and former Yugoslavia||lybicus (Groves, 1981)
mediterraneus (Ulmansky, 1911)
S. s. majori
|De Beaux and Festa, 1927||Smaller than S. s. scrofa, with a higher and wider skull, since the 1950s, it has crossed extensively with S. s. scrofa, largely due to the two being kept together in meat farms and artificial introductions by hunters of S. s. scrofa specimens into S. s. majori habitats. Its separation from S. s. scrofa is doubtful.||Maremma (central Italy)|
S. s. meriodionalis
|Forsyth Major, 1882||Andalusia, Corsica and Sardinia||baeticus (Thomas, 1912)
sardous (Ströbel, 1882)
|Northern Chinese boar
S. s. moupinensis
|Milne-Edwards, 1871||There are significant variations within this subspecies, and it is possible there actually are several subspecies involved.||Coastal China south to Vietnam and west to Sichuan||acrocranius (Heude, 1892), chirodontus (Heude, 1888), chirodonticus (Heude, 1899), collinus (Heude, 1892), curtidens (Heude, 1892), dicrurus (Heude, 1888), flavescens (Heude, 1899), frontosus (Heude, 1892), laticeps (Heude, 1892), leucorhinus (Heude, 1888), melas (Heude, 1892), microdontus (Heude, 1892), oxyodontus (Heude, 1888), paludosus (Heude, 1892), palustris (Heude, 1888), planiceps (Heude, 1892), scrofoides (Heude, 1892), spatharius (Heude, 1892), taininensis (Heude, 1888)|
|Middle Asian boar
S. s. nigripes
|Blanford, 1875||A light coloured subspecies with black legs which, though varied in size, it is generally quite large, the lacrimal bones and facial region of the skull are shorter than those of S. s. scrofa and S. s. attila.||Middle Asia, Kazakhstan, eastern Tien Shan, western Mongolia, Kashgar and possibly Afghanistan and southern Iran|
S. s. riukiuanus
|Kuroda, 1924||A small subspecies||Ryukyu Islands|
S. s. sibiricus
|Staffe, 1922||The smallest subspecies of the former Soviet region, it has dark brown, almost black hair and a light grey patch extending from the cheeks to the ears. The skull is squarish and the lacrimal bones short.||Baikal, Transbaikalia, northern and northeastern Mongolia||raddeanus (Adlerberg, 1930)|
S. s. taivanus
|Swinhoe, 1863||A small blackish subspecies||Taiwan|
S. s. ussuricus
|Heude, 1888||The largest subspecies, it has usually dark hair and a white band extending from the corners of the mouth to the ears. The lacrimal bones are shortened, but longer than those of S. s. sibiricus.||Eastern China, Ussuri and Amur bay||canescens (Heude, 1888), continentalis (Nehring, 1889), coreanus (Heude, 1897), gigas (Heude, 1892), mandchuricus (Heude, 1897), songaricus (Heude, 1897)|
S. s. vittatus
|Boie, 1828||A small, short-faced and sparsely furred subspecies with a white band on the muzzle, it might be a separate species, and shows some similarities with some other suid species in Southeast Asia.||From Peninsular Malaysia, and in Indonesia from Sumatra and Java east to Komodo||andersoni (Thomas and Wroughton, 1909), jubatulus (Miller, 1906), milleri (Jentink, 1905), pallidiloris (Mees, 1957), peninsularis (Miller, 1906), rhionis (Miller, 1906), typicus (Heude, 1899)|
With the exception of domestic pigs in Timor and Papua New Guinea (which appear to be of Sulawesi warty pig stock), the wild boar is the ancestor of most pig breeds. Archaeological evidence suggests that pigs were domesticated from wild boar as early as 13,000–12,700 BC in the Near East in the Tigris Basin being managed in the wild in a way similar to the way they are managed by some modern New Guineans. Remains of pigs have been dated to earlier than 11,400 BC in Cyprus. Those animals must have been introduced from the mainland, which suggests domestication in the adjacent mainland by then. There was also a separate domestication in China which took place about 8000 years ago.DNA evidence from sub-fossil remains of teeth and jawbones of Neolithic pigs shows that the first domestic pigs in Europe had been brought from the Near East. This stimulated the domestication of local European wild boar resulting in a third domestication event with the Near Eastern genes dying out in European pig stock. Modern domesticated pigs have involved complex exchanges, with European domesticated lines being exported in turn to the ancient Near East. Historical records indicate that Asian pigs were introduced into Europe during the 18th and early 19th centuries. Domestic pigs tend to have much more developed hindquarters than their wild boar ancestors, to the point where 70% of their body weight is concentrated in the posterior, which is the opposite of wild boar, where most of the muscles are concentrated on the head and shoulders.
The wild boar is a bulky, massively built suid with short and relatively thin legs. The trunk is short and massive, while the hindquarters are comparatively underdeveloped. The region behind the shoulder blades rises into a hump, and the neck is short and thick, to the point of being nearly immobile. The animal's head is very large, taking up to one third of the body's entire length. The structure of the head is well suited for digging. The head acts as a plow, while the powerful neck muscles allow the animal to upturn considerable amounts of soil: it is capable of digging 8–10 cm (3.1–3.9 in) into frozen ground and can upturn rocks weighing 40–50 kg (88–110 lb). The eyes are small and deep-set, and the ears long and broad. The species has well developed canine teeth, which protrude from the mouths of adult males. The middle hooves are larger and more elongated than the lateral ones, and are capable of quick movements. The animal can run at a maximum speed of 40 km/h and jump at a height of 140–150 cm (55–59 in).Sexual dimorphism is very pronounced in the species, with males being typically 5-10% larger and 20-30% heavier than females. Males also sport a mane running down the back, which is particularly apparent during autumn and winter. The canine teeth are also much more prominent in males, and grow throughout life. The upper canines are relatively short and grow sideways early in life, though gradually curve upwards. The lower canines are much sharper and longer, with the exposed parts measuring 10–12 cm (3.9–4.7 in) in length. In the breeding period, males develop a coating of subcutaneous tissue, which may be 2–3 cm (0.79–1.18 in) thick, extending from the shoulder blades to the rump, thus protecting vital organs during fights. Males sport a roughly egg-sized sack near the opening of the penis, which collects urine and emits a sharp odour. The purpose of this is not fully understood.
Adult size and weight is largely determined by environmental factors; boars living in arid areas with little productivity tend to attain smaller sizes than their counterparts inhabiting areas with abundant food and water. In most of Europe, males average 75–100 kg (165–220 lb) in weight, 75–80 cm (30–31 in) in shoulder height and 150 cm (59 in) in body length, whereas females average 60–80 kg (130–180 lb) in weight, 70 cm (28 in) in shoulder height and 140 cm (55 in) in body length. In Europe's Mediterranean regions, males may reach average weights as low as 50 kg (110 lb) and females 45 kg (99 lb), with shoulder heights of 63–65 cm (25–26 in). In the more productive areas of Eastern Europe, males average 110–130 kg (240–290 lb) in weight, 95 cm (37 in) in shoulder height and 160 cm (63 in) in body length, while females weigh 95 kg (209 lb), reach 85–90 cm (33–35 in) in shoulder height and 145 cm (57 in) in body length. In Western and Central Europe, the largest males weigh 200 kg (440 lb) and females 120 kg (260 lb). In Eastern Europe, large males can reach brown bear-like sizes, weighing 270 kg (600 lb) and measuring 110–118 cm (43–46 in) in shoulder height. Some adult males in Ussuriland and Manchuria have been recorded to weigh 300–350 kg (660–770 lb) and measure 125 cm (49 in) in shoulder height. Adults of this size are generally immune from wolf predation. Such giants are rare in modern times, due to past overhunting preventing animals from attaining their full growth.
The winter coat consists of long, coarse bristles underlaid with short brown downy fur. The length of these bristles varies along the body, with the shortest being around the face and limbs and the longest running along the back. These back bristles form the aforementioned mane prominent in males, and stand erect when the animal is agitated. Colour is highly variable; specimens around Lake Balkhash are very lightly coloured, and can even be white, while some boars from Belarus and Ussuriland can be black. Some subspecies sport a light coloured patch running backwards from the corners of the mouth. Coat colour also varies with age, with piglets having light brown or rusty-brown fur with pale bands extending from the flanks and back.
The wild boar produces a number of different sounds which are divided into three categories:
- Contact calls: Grunting noises which differ in intensity according to the situation. Adult males are usually silent, while females frequently grunt and piglets whine. When feeding, boars express their contentment through purring. Studies have shown that piglets imitate the sounds of their mother, thus different litters may have unique vocalisations.
- Alarm calls: Warning cries emitted in response to threats. When frightened, boars make loud huffing ukh! ukh! sounds or emit screeches transcribed as gu-gu-gu.
- Combat calls: High-pitched, piercing cries.
Its sense of smell is very well developed, to the point that the animal is used for drug detection in Germany. Its hearing is also acute, though its eyesight is comparatively weak, lacking colour vision and being unable to recognise a standing human 10–15 metres away.
Pigs are one of four known mammalian species which possess mutations in the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor that protect against snake venom. Mongooses, honey badgers, hedgehogs, and pigs all have modifications to the receptor pocket which prevents the snake venom α-neurotoxin from binding. These represent four separate, independent mutations.
Social behaviour and life cycle
Boars are typically social animals, living in female-dominated sounders consisting of barren sows and mothers with young led by an old matriarch. Male boars leave their sounder at the age of 8–15 months, while females either remain with their mothers or establish new territories nearby. Subadult males may live in loosely knit groups, while adult and elderly males tend to be solitary outside the breeding season.[a]
The breeding period in most areas lasts from November to January, though most mating only lasts a month and a half. Prior to mating, the males develop their subcutaneous armour, in preparation for confronting rivals. The testicles double in size and the glands secrete a foamy yellowish liquid. Once ready to reproduce, males travel long distances in search of a sounder of sows, eating little on the way. Once a sounder has been located, the male drives off all young animals and persistently chases the sows. At this point, the male fiercely fights potential rivals, A single male can mate with 5–10 sows. By the end of the rut, males are often badly mauled and have lost 20% of their body weight, with bite-induced injuries to the penis being common. The gestation period varies according to the age of the expecting mother. For first time breeders, it lasts 114–130 days, while it lasts 133–140 days in older sows. Farrowing occurs between March and May, with litter sizes depending on the age and nutrition of the mother. The average litter consists of 4–6 piglets, with the maximum being 10–12.[b] The piglets are whelped in a nest constructed from twigs, grasses and leaves. Should the mother die prematurely, the piglets are adopted by the other sows in the sounder.
Newborn piglets weigh around 600–1,000 grams, lacking underfur and bearing a single milk incisor and canine on each half of the jaw. There is intense competition between the piglets over the most milk-rich nipples, as the best fed young grow faster and have stronger constitutions. The piglets do not leave the lair for their first week of life. Should the mother be absent, the piglets lie closely pressed to each other. By two weeks of age, the piglets begin accompanying their mother on her journeys. Should danger be detected, the piglets take cover or stand immobile, relying on their camouflage to keep them hidden. The neonatal coat fades after three months, with adult colouration being attained at eight months. Although the lactation period lasts 2.5–3.5 months, the piglets begin displaying adult feeding behaviours at the age of 2–3 weeks. The permanent dentition is fully formed by 1–2 years. With the exception of the canines in males, the teeth stop growing during the middle of the fourth year. The canines in old males continue to grow throughout their lives, curving strongly as they age. Sows attain sexual maturity at the age of one year, with males attaining it a year later. However, estrus usually first occurs after two years in sows, while males begin participating in the rut after 4–5 years, as they are not permitted to mate by the older males. The maximum lifespan in the wild is 10–14 years, though few specimens survive past 4–5 years. Boars in captivity have lived for 20 years.
Habitat and sheltering behaviour
The wild boar inhabits a diverse array of habitats from boreal taigas to deserts. In mountainous regions, it can even occupy alpine zones, occurring up to 1,900 metres in the Carpathians, 2,600 metres in the Caucasus and up to 3,600–4,000 metres in the mountains in Central Asia and Kazakhstan. In order to survive in a given area, wild boars require a habitat fulfilling three conditions: heavily brushed areas providing shelter from predators, water for drinking and bathing purposes and an absence of regular snowfall. The main habitats favoured by boars in Europe are deciduous and mixed forests, with the most favourable areas consisting of forest composed of oak and beech enclosing marshes and meadows. In the Białowieża Forest, the animal's primary habitat consists of well developed, broad-leaved and mixed forests, along with marshy mixed forests, with coniferous forests and undergrowths being of secondary importance. Forests made up entirely of oak groves and beech are used only during the fruit-bearing season. This is in contrast to the Caucasian and Transcaucasian mountain areas, where boars will occupy such fruit-bearing forests year-round. In the mountainous areas of the Russian Far East, the species inhabits nutpine groves, hilly mixed forests where Mongolian oak and Korean pine are present, swampy mixed taiga and coastal oak forests. In Transbaikalia, boars are restricted to river valleys with nutpine and shrubs. Boars are regularly encountered in pistachio groves in winter in some areas of Tajikistan and Turkmenia, while in spring they migrate to open deserts; boar have also colonised deserts in several areas they have been introduced to. On the islands of Komodo and Rinca, the boar mostly inhabits savanna or open monsoon forests, avoiding heavily forested areas unless pursued by humans. Wild boar are known to be competent swimmers, capable of covering long distances. In 2013, one boar was reported to have completed the seven mile swim from France to Alderney in the Channel Islands. Due to concerns about disease it was shot and incinerated.
Wild boar rest in shelters, which contain insulating material like spruce branches and dry hay. These resting places are occupied by whole families (though males lie separately), and are often located in the vicinity of streams, in swamp forests, in tall grass or shrub thickets. Boars never defecate in their shelters, and will cover themselves with soil and pine needles when irritated by insects.
- Rhizomes, roots, tubers and bulbs, all of which are dug up throughout the year in the animal's whole range.
- Nuts, berries, and seeds, which are consumed when ripened and are dug up from the snow when abundant.
- Leaves, bark, twigs, and shoots, along with garbage.
- Earthworms, insects, mollusks, fish, rodents, insectivores, bird eggs, lizards, snakes, frogs, and carrion. Most of these prey items are taken in warm periods.
A 50 kg (110 lb) boar needs around 4,000–4,500 calories of food per day, though this required amount increases during winter and pregnancy, with the majority of its diet consisting of food items dug from the ground like underground plant material and burrowing animals.Acorns and beechnuts are invariably its most important food items in temperate zones, as they are rich in the carbohydrates necessary for the buildup of fat reserves needed to survive lean periods. In Western Europe, underground plant material favoured by boars includes bracken, willow herb, bulbs, meadow herb roots and bulbs, and the bulbs of cultivated crops. Such food is favoured in early spring and summer, but may also be eaten in autumn and winter during beechnut and acorn crop failures. Should regular wild foods become scarce, boars will eat tree bark and fungi, as well as visit cultivated potato and artichoke fields. Boar soil disturbance and foraging have been shown to facilitate invasive plants. Boars of the vittatus subspecies in Ujung Kulon National Park in Java differ from most other populations by their primarily frugivorous diet, which consists of 50 different fruit species, especially figs, thus making them important seed dispersers. The wild boar can consume numerous genera of poisonous plants without ill effect, including Aconitum, Anemone, Calla, Caltha, Ferula, and Pteridium.
Boars may occasionally prey on small vertebrates like newborn deer fawns, leporids and galliform chicks. Boars inhabiting the Volga Delta and near some lakes and rivers of Kazakhstan have been recorded to feed extensively on fish like carp and Caspian roach. Boars in the former area will also feed on cormorant and heron chicks, bivalved molluscs, trapped muskrats and mice. There is at least one record of a boar killing and eating a bonnet macaque in southern India's Bandipur National Park, though this may have been a case of intraguild predation, brought on by interspecific competition for human handouts.
The grey wolf is the main predator of wild boar throughout most of its range. A single wolf can kill around 50–80 boars of differing ages in one year. In Italy and Belarus' Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park, boars are the wolf's primary prey, despite an abundance of alternative, less powerful ungulates. Wolves are particularly threatening during the winter, when deep snow impedes the boars' movements. In the Baltic regions, heavy snowfall can allow wolves to eliminate boars from an area almost completely. Wolves primarily target piglets and subadults, and only rarely attack adult sows. Adult males are usually avoided entirely.Dholes may also prey on boars, to the point of keeping their numbers down in northwestern Bhutan, despite there being many more cattle in the area.
Leopards are predators of wild boar in the Caucasus, Transcaucasia, the Russian Far East, India, China, and Iran. In most areas, boars constitute only a small part of the leopard's diet. However, in Iran's Sarigol National Park, boars are the second most frequently targeted prey species after mouflon, though adult individuals are generally avoided, as they are above the leopard's preferred weight range of 10–40 kg (22–88 lb). This dependence on wild boar is largely due in part to the local leopard subspecies' large size.
Boars of all ages were once the primary prey of tigers in Transcaucasia, Kazakhstan, Middle Asia and the Far East up until the late 19th century. In modern times, tiger numbers are too low to have a limiting effect on boar populations. A single tiger can systematically destroy an entire sounder by preying on its members one by one, before moving on to another herd. Tigers have been noted to chase boars for longer distances than with other prey. In two rare cases, boars were reported to gore a small tiger and a tigress to death in self-defense. In the Amur region, wild boars are one of the two most important prey species for tigers alongside the Manchurian wapiti, with the two species collectively comprising roughly 80% of the felid's prey. In Sikhote Alin, a tiger can kill 30–34 boars a year. Studies of tigers in India indicate that boars are usually secondary in preference to various cervids and bovids, though when boars are targeted, healthy adults are caught more frequently than young and sick specimens.
The species originally occurred in North Africa and much of Eurasia; from the British Isles to Korea and the Sunda Islands. The northern limit of its range extended from southern Scandinavia to southern Siberia and Japan. Within this range, it was only absent in extremely dry deserts and alpine zones. It was once found in North Africa along the Nile valley up to Khartum and north of the Sahara. The species occurs on a few Ionian and Aegean Islands, sometimes swimming between islands. The reconstructed northern boundary of the animal's Asian range ran from Lake Ladoga (at 60°N) through the area of Novgorod and Moscow into the southern Urals, where it reached 52°N. From there, the boundary passed Ishim and farther east the Irtysh at 56°N. In the eastern Baraba steppe (near Novosibirsk) the boundary turned steep south, encircled the Altai Mountains, and went again eastward including the Tannu-Ola Mountains and Lake Baikal. From here the boundary went slightly north of the Amur River eastward to its lower reaches at the Sea of Okhotsk. On Sakhalin, there are only fossil reports of wild boar. The southern boundaries in Europe and Asia were almost invariably identical to the sea shores of these continents. It is absent in the dry regions of Mongolia from 44–46°N southward, in China westward of Sichuan and in India north of the Himalayas. It is absent in the higher elevations of Pamir and Tien Shan, though they do occur in the Tarim basin and on the lower slopes of the Tien Shan.
In recent centuries, the range of wild boar has changed dramatically, largely due to hunting by humans and more recently because of captive wild boar escaping into the wild. Prior to the 20th century, boar populations had declined in numerous areas, with British populations probably becoming extinct during the 13th century. In Denmark, the last boar was shot at the beginning of the 19th century, and in 1900 they were absent in Tunisia and Sudan and large areas of Germany, Austria, and Italy. In Russia they were extirpated in wide areas in the 1930s. The last boar in Egypt reportedly died on 20 December 1912 in the Giza Zoo, with wild populations having disappeared around 1894–1902. Prince Kamal el Dine Hussein attempted to repopulate Wadi El Natrun with boars of Hungarian stock, but they were quickly exterminated by poachers.
A revival of boar populations began in the middle of the 20th century. By 1950 wild boar had once again reached their original northern boundary in many parts of their Asiatic range. By 1960, they reached Leningrad and Moscow, and by 1975 they were to be found in Archangelsk and Astrakhan. In the 1970s they again occurred in Denmark and Sweden, where captive animals escaped and now survive in the wild. In England, wild boar populations re-established themselves in the 1990s, after escaping from specialist farms that had imported European stock.
Status in Britain
Wild boar were apparently already becoming rare by the 11th century, since a 1087 forestry law enacted by William the Conqueror punishes through blinding the unlawful killing of boar. Charles I attempted to reintroduce the species into the New Forest, though this population was exterminated during the Civil War.
Between their medieval extinction and the 1980s, when wild boar farming began, only a handful of captive wild boar, imported from the continent, were present in Britain. Occasional escapes of wild boar from wildlife parks have occurred as early as the 1970s, but since the early 1990s significant populations have re-established themselves after escapes from farms, the number of which has increased as the demand for meat from the species has grown. A 1998 MAFF (now DEFRA) study on wild boar living wild in Britain confirmed the presence of two populations of wild boar living in Britain; one in Kent/East Sussex and another in Dorset. Another DEFRA report, in February 2008, confirmed the existence of these two sites as 'established breeding areas' and identified a third in Gloucestershire/Herefordshire; in the Forest of Dean/Ross on Wye area. A 'new breeding population' was also identified in Devon. There is another significant population in Dumfries and Galloway. Populations estimates were as follows:
- The largest population, in Kent/East Sussex, was then estimated at approximately 200 animals in the core distribution area.
- The second largest, in Gloucestershire/Herefordshire, was first estimated to be in excess of 100 animals. Legally classified as dangerous wild animals, the group is known to be feral descendants of domestic (Tamworth) pigs abandoned nearby. Their numbers grew by 2016 to at least 1500 and the Forestry Commission planned to reduce the total to a manageable 400. "Adult males can reach twenty stone (125 kg), run at thirty miles an hour, and can jump or barge through all but the strongest of fences. Also they are not afraid of humans, so (unlike deer) you can't just shoo them out of your garden."
- The smallest, in west Dorset, was estimated to be fewer than 50 animals.
- Since winter 2005/6 significant escapes/releases have also resulted in animals colonising areas around the fringes of Dartmoor, in Devon. These are considered as an additional single 'new breeding population' and currently estimated to be up to 100 animals.
Population estimates for the Forest of Dean are disputed as at the time that the DEFRA population estimate was 100, a photo of a boar sounder in the forest near Staunton with over 33 animals visible was published, and at about the same time over 30 boar were seen in a field near the original escape location of Weston under Penyard many miles away. In early 2010 the Forestry Commission embarked on a cull, with the aim of reducing the boar population from an estimated 150 animals to 100. By August it was stated that efforts were being made to reduce the population from 200 to 90, but that only 25 had been killed. The failure to meet cull targets was confirmed in February 2011.
Wild boar have crossed the River Wye into Monmouthshire, Wales. Iolo Williams, the BBC Wales wildlife expert, attempted to film Welsh boar in late 2012. Many other sightings, across the UK, have also been reported. The effects of wild boar on the UK's woodlands were discussed with Ralph Harmer of the Forestry Commission on the BBC Radio's Farming Today radio programme in 2011. The programme prompted activist writer George Monbiot to propose a thorough population study, followed by the introduction of permit-controlled culling.
Introduction to North America
Wild boars are an invasive species in the Americas, and cause problems including outcompeting native species for food, destroying the nests of ground-nesting species, killing fawns and young domestic livestock, destroying agricultural crops, eating tree seeds and seedlings, destroying native vegetation and wetlands through wallowing, damaging water quality, coming into violent conflict with humans and pets, and carrying pig and human diseases including brucellosis, trichinosis, and pseudorabies. In some jurisdictions, it is illegal to import, breed, release, possess, sell, distribute, trade, transport, hunt, or trap Eurasian boars. Hunting and trapping is done systematically, to increase the chance of eradication and to remove the incentive to illegally release boars, which have mostly been spread deliberately by sport hunters.
While domestic pigs, both captive and feral (popularly termed "razorbacks"), have been in North America since the earliest days of European colonization, pure wild boar were not introduced into the New World until the 19th century. The suids were released into the wild by wealthy landowners as big game animals. The initial introductions took place in fenced enclosures, though several escapes occurred, with the escapees sometimes intermixing with already established feral pig populations.
The first of these introductions occurred in New Hampshire in 1890. Thirteen wild boar from Germany were purchased by Austin Corbin from Carl Hagenbeck, and released into a 9,500 hectare game preserve in Sullivan County. Several of these boars escaped, though they were quickly hunted down by locals. Two further introductions were made since the original stocking, with several escapes taking place due to breaches in the game preserve's fencing. These escapees have ranged widely, with some specimens having been observed crossing into Vermont.
In 1902, 15–20 wild boar from Germany were released into a 3,200 hectare estate in Hamilton County, New York. Several specimens escaped six years later, dispersing into the William C. Whitney Wilderness Area, with their descendants surviving for at least 20 years.
The most extensive boar introduction in the US took place in western North Carolina in 1912, when 13 boars of undetermined European origin were released into two fenced enclosures in a game preserve in Hooper Bald, Graham County. Most of the specimens remained in the preserve for the next decade, until a large-scale hunt caused the remaining animals to break through their confines and escape. Some of the boars migrated to Tennessee, where they intermixed with both free ranging and feral pigs in the area. In 1924, a dozen Hooper Bald wild pigs were shipped to California and released in a property between Carmel Valley and the Los Padres National Forest. These hybrid boar were later used as breeding stock on various private and public lands throughout the state, as well as in other states like Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, West Virginia and Mississippi.
Several wild boars from Leon Springs and the San Antonio, Saint Louis and San Diego Zoos were released in the Powder Horn Ranch in Calhoun County, Texas, in 1939. These specimens escaped and established themselves in surrounding ranchlands and coastal areas, with some crossing the Espiritu Santo Bay and colonising Matagorda Island. Descendants of the Powder Horn Ranch boars were later released onto San José Island and the coast of Chalmette, Louisiana.
Wild boar of unknown origin were stocked in a ranch in the Edwards Plateau in the 1940s, only to escape during a storm and hybridise with local feral pig populations, later spreading into neighbouring counties.
Starting in the mid-80s, several boars purchased from the San Diego Zoo and Tierpark Berlin were released into the United States. A decade later, more specimens from farms in Canada and Białowieża Forest were let loose. In recent years, wild pig populations have been reported in 44 states within the US, most of which are likely wild boar-feral hog hybrids. Pure wild boar populations may still be present, but are extremely localised.
Diseases and parasites
Wild boars are known to host at least 20 different parasitic worm species, with maximum infections occurring in summer. Young animals are vulnerable to helminths like Metastrongylus, which are consumed by boars through earthworms, and cause death by parasitising the lungs. Wild boar also carry parasites known to infect humans, including Gastrodiscoides, Trichinella spiralis, Taenia solium, and Balantidium coli. Wild boar in southern regions are frequently infested with ticks (Dermacentor, Rhipicephalus, and Hyalomma) and hog lice. The species also suffers from blood-sucking flies, which it escapes by bathing frequently or hiding in dense shrubs.
Swine plague spreads very quickly in wild boar, with epizootics being recorded in Germany, Poland, Hungary, Belarus, the Caucasus, the Far East, Kazakhstan, and other regions. Foot-and-mouth disease can also take on epidemic proportions in boar populations. The species occasionally, but rarely contracts Pasteurellosis, hemorrhagic septicemia, tularemia and anthrax. Wild boar may on occasion contract swine erysipelas through rodents or hog lice and ticks.
Relationships with humans
The wild boar features prominently in the cultures of Indo-European people, many of which saw the animal as embodying warrior virtues. Cultures throughout Europe and Asia Minor saw the killing of a boar as proof of one's valor and strength. Neolithic hunter gatherers depicted reliefs of ferocious wild boars on their temple pillars at Göbekli Tepe some 11,600 years ago. Virtually all heroes in Greek mythology fight or kill a boar at one point. The demigod Herakles' third labour involves the capture of the Erymanthian Boar, Theseus slays the wild sow Phaea, and a disguised Odysseus is recognised by his handmaiden Eurycleia by the scars inflicted on him by a boar during a hunt in his youth. To the mythical Hyperboreans, the boar represented spiritual authority. Several Greek myths use the boar as a symbol of darkness, death and winter. One example is the story of the youthful Adonis, who is killed by a boar and is permitted by Zeus to depart from Hades only during the spring and summer period. This theme also occurs in Irish and Egyptian mythology, where the animal is explicitly linked to the month of October, therefore autumn. This association likely arose from aspects of the boar's actual nature. Its dark colour was linked to the night, while its solitary habits, proclivity to consume crops and nocturnal nature were associated with evil. The foundation myth of Ephesus has the city being built over the site where prince Androklos of Athens killed a boar. Boars were frequently depicted on Greek funerary monuments alongside lions, representing gallant losers who have finally met their match, as opposed to victorious hunters as lions are. The theme of the doomed, yet valorous boar warrior also occurred in Hittite culture, where it was traditional to sacrifice a boar alongside a dog and a prisoner of war after a military defeat.
The boar as a warrior also appears in Scandinavian, Germanic and Anglo-Saxon culture, with its image having been frequently engraved on helmets, shields and swords. According to Tacitus, the Baltic Aesti featured boars on their helmets, and may have also worn boar masks. The boar and pig were held in particularly high esteem by the Celts, who considered them to be their most important sacred animal. Some Celtic deities linked to boars include Moccus and Veteris. It has been suggested that some early myths surrounding the Welsh hero Culhwch involved the character being the son of a boar god. Nevertheless, the importance of the boar as a culinary item among Celtic tribes may have been exaggerated in popular culture by the Asterix series, as wild boar bones are rare among Celtic archaeological sites, and the few that occur show no signs of butchery, having probably been used in sacrificial rituals. The boar also appears in Vedic mythology. A story present in the Brāhmaṇas has Indra slaying an avaricious boar, who has stolen the treasure of the asuras, then giving its carcass to Vishnu, who offered it as a sacrifice to the gods. In the story's retelling in the Charaka Samhita, the boar is described as a form of Prajāpti, and is credited with having raised the earth from the primeval waters. In the Rāmāyaṇa and the Purāṇas, the same boar is portrayed as an avatar of Vishnu.
In Japanese culture, the boar is widely seen as a fearsome and reckless animal, to the point that several words and expressions in Japanese referring to recklessness include references to boars. The boar is the last animal of the oriental zodiac, with people born during the year of the Pig being said to embody the boar-like traits of determination and impetuosity. Among Japanese hunters, the boar's courage and defiance is a source of admiration, and it is not uncommon for hunters and mountain people to name their sons after the animal inoshishi (猪). Boars are also seen as symbols of fertility and prosperity; in some regions, it is thought that boars are drawn to fields owned by families including pregnant women, and hunters with pregnant wives are thought to have greater chances of success when boarhunting. The animal's link to prosperity was illustrated by its inclusion on the ¥10 note during the Meiji period, and it was once believed that a man could become wealthy by keeping a clump of boar hair in his wallet.
In the folklore of the Mongol Altai Uriankhai tribe, the wild boar was associated with the watery underworld, as it was thought that the spirits of the dead entered the animal's head, to be ultimately transported to the water. Prior to the conversion to Islam, the Kyrgyz people believed that they were descended from boars, and thus did not eat pork. In Buryat mythology, the forefathers of the Buryats descended from heaven and were nourished by a boar. In China, the boar is the emblem of the Miao people.
The boar (sanglier) is frequently displayed in English, Scottish and Welsh heraldry. As with the lion, the boar is often shown as armed and langued. As with the bear, Scottish and Welsh heraldry displays the boar's head with the neck cropped, unlike the English version, which retains the neck. The white boar served as the badge of King Richard III of England, who distributed it among his northern retainers during his tenure as Duke of Gloucester.
As a game animal and food source
Humans have been hunting boar for millennia, with the earliest artistic depictions of such activities dating back to the Upper Paleolithic. The animal was seen as a source of food among the Ancient Greeks, as well as a sporting challenge and source of epic narratives. The Romans inherited this tradition, with one of its first practitioners being Scipio Aemilianus. Boar hunting became particularly popular among the young nobility during the 3rd century BC as preparation for manhood and battle. A typical Roman boarhunting tactic involved surrounding a given area with large nets, then flushing the boar with dogs and immobilising it with smaller nets. The animal would then be dispatched with a venabulum, a short spear with a crossguard at the base of the blade. More than their Greek predecessors, the Romans extensively took inspiration from boarhunting in their art and sculpture. With the ascension of Constantine the Great, boarhunting took on Christian allegorical themes, with the animal being portrayed as a "black beast" analogous to the dragon of Saint George. Boarhunting continued after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, though the Germanic tribes considered the red deer to be a more noble and worthy quarry. The post-Roman nobility hunted boar as their predecessors did, but primarily as training for battle rather than sport. It was not uncommon for medieval hunters to deliberately hunt boars during the breeding season, when the animals were more aggressive. During the Renaissance, when deforestation and the introduction of firearms reduced boar numbers, boarhunting became the sole prerogative of the nobility, one of many charges brought up against the rich during the German Peasants' War and the French Revolution. During the mid-20th century, 7,000–8,000 boars were caught in the Caucasus, 6,000–7,000 in Kazakhstan, and about 5,000 in Central Asia during the Soviet period, primarily through use of dogs and beats. In Nepal, farmers and poachers eliminate boars by baiting balls of wheat flour containing explosives with kerosene oil, with the animals' chewing motions triggering the devices.
Wild boar can thrive in captivity, though piglets grow slowly and poorly without their mothers. Products derived from wild boar include meat, hide and bristles.Apicius devotes a whole chapter to the cooking of boar meat, providing ten recipes involving roasting, boiling and what sauces to use. The Romans usually served boar meat with garum.Boar's head was the centrepiece of most medieval Christmas celebrations among the nobility. Although growing in popularity as a captive-bred source of food, the wild boar takes longer to mature than most domestic pigs, and is usually smaller and produces less meat. Nevertheless, wild boar meat is leaner and healthier than pork, being of higher nutritional value and having a much higher concentration of essential amino acids. Most meat-dressing organisations agree that a boar carcass should yield 50 kg (110 lb) of meat on average. Large specimens can yield 15–20 kg (33–44 lb) of fat, with some giants yielding 30 kg (66 lb) or more. A boar hide can measure 300 dm2, and can yield 350–1000 grams of bristle and 400 grams of underwool.
Roman relief of a dog confronting a boar, Cologne
Pigsticking in British India
The Boar Hunt – Hans Wertinger, c. 1530, Danube Valley
Crop and garbage raiding
Boars can be damaging to agriculture. Populations living on the outskirts of towns or farms can dig up potatoes and damage melons, watermelons and maize. They generally only encroach upon farms when natural food is scarce. In the Belovezh forest for example, 34–47% of the local boar population will enter fields in years of moderate availability of natural foods. While the role of boars in damaging crops is often exaggerated, cases are known of boar depredations causing famines, as was the case in Hachinohe, Japan in 1749, where 3,000 people died of what became known as the 'wild boar famine'. Still within Japanese culture, the boar's status as vermin is expressed through its title as "king of pests" and the popular saying (addressed to young men in rural areas) "When you get married, choose a place with no wild boar." In Central Europe, farmers typically repel boars through distraction or fright, while in Kazakhstan it is usual to employ guard dogs in plantations. Although large boar populations can play an important role in limiting forest growth, they are also useful in keeping pest populations such as June bugs under control. The growth of urban areas and corresponding decline in natural boar habitats has led to some sounders entering human habitations in search of food. As in natural conditions, sounders in peri-urban areas are matriarchal, though males tend to be much less represented, and adults of both sexes can be up to 35% heavier than their forest-dwelling counterparts. As of 2010, at least 44 cities in 15 countries have experienced problems of some kind relating to the presence of habituated wild boar.
Attacks on humans
Actual attacks on humans are rare, but can be serious, resulting in multiple penetrating injuries to the lower part of the body. They generally occur during the boars' rutting season from November–January, in agricultural areas bordering forests or on paths leading through forests. The animal typically attacks by charging and pointing its tusks towards the intended victim, with most injuries occurring on the thigh region. Once the initial attack is over, the boar steps back, takes position and attacks again if the victim is still moving, only ending once the victim is completely incapacitated.
Boar attacks on humans have been documented since the Stone Age, with one of the oldest depictions being a cave painting in Bhimbetaka, India. The Romans and Ancient Greeks wrote of these attacks (Odysseus was wounded by a boar, and Adonis killed by one), and several attacks are shown on the headstones of England's 12th century Severn Temple graveyard. A 2012 study compiling recorded attacks from 1825–2012 found accounts of 665 human victims of both wild boars and feral pigs, with the majority (19%) of attacks in the animal's native range occurring in India. Most of the attacks occurred in rural areas during the winter months in non-hunting contexts, and were committed by solitary males.
- It is from the male boar's solitary habits that the species gets its name in numerous Romance languages. Although the Latin word for "boar" was aper, the French sanglier and Italian cinghiale derive from singularis porcus, which is Latin for "solitary pig".
- Thirteen has been observed in a captive specimen.
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