ANTELOPES, CATTLE, BISON, BUFFALOES, GOATS, AND SHEEP – Bovidae

ANTELOPES, CATTLE, BISON, BUFFALOES, GOATS, AND SHEEP

ANTELOPES, CATTLE, BISON, BUFFALOES, GOATS, AND SHEEP FACTS

Bovids (BOH-vidz) vary in weight, from 6.6 to over 2,867 pounds (3 to over 1,300 kilograms), with a shoulder height range of 9.85 inches to 6.56 feet (25 centimeters to 2 meters). Bodies range from slender with long legs to stocky and muscular. All bovid males have horns, as do many females. Horns are bony and covered with keratin (KARE-ah-tin; protective material that makes up hair and fingernails). Bovids do not shed the keratin layer. They have hooves and four stomach chambers, which allows for efficient digestion.

Bovids have a number of scent glands on different parts of their bodies. They secrete oil from these glands during mating season, when in danger, or to mark territory.

Bovids range in color from white to black to orange-yellow.

Most are some shade of brown.

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE

Found in Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America.

ANTELOPES, CATTLE, BISON, BUFFALOES, GOATS, AND SHEEP HABITAT

Bovids occupy a wide variety of habitats, including grasslands, swamps, tropical forests, arctic tundra, desert, cliff faces, and mountain ledges. Most abundant in tropical forests and grasslands. They occupy different habitats at different times of the year, with migration (seasonal movement from region to region) dependent upon food supply.

ANTELOPES, CATTLE, BISON, BUFFALOES, GOATS, AND SHEEP DIET

Bovids are herbivores (plant eaters) with four stomach chambers. The fact that they have four chambers means they can survive on plants few other animals could digest. They feed mainly on grasses, first by winding them around their tongues and pulling them from the ground, then swallowing them. After some time has passed, bovids will regurgitate (vomit) the swallowed food, chew it, and swallow it again. Bacteria in the stomach breaks down the food and allows digestion to occur.

BEHAVIOR AND REPRODUCTION

Some species are solitary (lone) while others live in herds or groups with complex social structures. Some species are territorial and will defend their ranges year-round or only during the mating season. Others live on ranges that are used each year. Many bovids are vocal, and calls range from lion-like roars to whistles and grunts.

Bovids are primarily polygynous (puh-LIH-juh-nus; one male to several female mates). Males often defend mating territories. Most females give birth to their first young around the age of two or three years. Males usually wait until they are a little older, primarily because they have to compete with other, older males to mate. Gestation (pregnancy) times vary according to species, but usually one, sometimes two, babies are born each year. Females care for their young without the help of the father. Adult males live separately, either alone or in small herds, from the females for most of the year.

Bovid offspring nurse (drink mother’s milk) for at least a month, sometimes until the age of two or three years. Predators include tigers, small cats, wolves, and leopards.

BOVIDAE AND PEOPLE

Bovids have been hunted extensively for meat, sport, and hides, some species to the point of serious threat to the population. Many species—goat, sheep, cattle, buffalo—have been domesticated (tamed) and are raised for their meat and skin.

CONSERVATION STATUS

As of 2004, 114 species are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Loss of habitat is the main reason for threat. Increasing human populations require more land and natural resources. Hunting has affected bovid populations as well, but to a lesser degree.