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Indian Aurochs-Bos (primigenius) namadicus; Ancestor of Zebu Cattle
Topic Started: Jul 3 2018, 03:52 AM (800 Views)
KRA
Unicellular Organism
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Temporal Range: Middle Pleistocene to Holocene

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Bovinae
Genus: Bos
Species: Bos primigenius
Subspecies: Bos primigenius namadicus

The Indian Aurochs, Bos namadicus, is an extinct species (or subspecies) of bovine in the genus Bos and is the wild ancestor of Zebu cattle. It previously ranged across the Indian subcontinent from Northern to Southern India and as far west as Eastern Iran, however it went extinct across its range during the Holocene.

Evolution
The Indian Aurochs is generally believed to be descended from either Bos planifrons or B.acutiforns, two possibly conspecific fossil bovines best known form deposits of Late Pliocene to Pleistocene age from the Siwalik hills of Pakistan and India. The Indian aurochs probably arose on the Indian subcontinent from one of these progenitors during the Middle Pleistocene.

Taxonomy and Relationships
The Indian Aurochs is variably treated either as its own species with the binomial Bos namadicus, or as a subspecies Bos primigenius, which also includes the Eurasian Aurochs (B. p. primigenius) and the African aurochs (B. p. africanus). When treated as a subspecies the Indian Aurochs is classified trinomially as Bos primigenius namadicus; regardless of taxonomic arrangement "Indian Aurochs" is the colloquial name for the namadicus taxon. The Indian Aurochs was probably the first subspecies of the Aurochs to go extinct.

Zebu cattle, the domestic descendants of the Indian Aurochs, are variably classified as either Bos indicus, Bos namadicus indicus or Bos primigenius indicus.
Regardless of whether or not they are considered conspecific the Indian and Eurasian Aurochs were clearly closely related; this is evinced by the fact that their domestic descendants, zebuine and taurine cattle respectively, are completely inter-fertile (they readily hybridize and both male and female hybrid offspring are fertile)

Fossil record and Anatomy
The Indian aurochs is known from numerous fossil and sub-fossil remains, these remains are especially common on peninsular India. Unfortunately, remains of this species tend to be very fragmentary and only a few well preserved skulls and post-cranial elements are known. For this reason not as much is known with certainty of the anatomy and appearance of the Indian Aurochs as is known for the Eurasian Aurochs. Nevertheless, from what fossil material is known it is clear that, despite their high degree of similarity, the Indian and Eurasian Aurochs differed anatomically from each other in several characteristics, particularly with regards to the skull:
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Skulls of Bos namadicus (left) and Bos primigenius primigenius (right)

The Horns
The horns of the Indian Aurochs are morphologically quite distinct from those of its Eurasian relative. The horn cores are more or less dorsoventrally compressed with an oval cross section as opposed to the circular cross section of Eurasian Aurochs horn cores; additionally, the horn cores of the Indian Aurochs often bear two well expressed keels, one dorsal and one ventral;these keels tend to be found on namadicus horn cores originating from Iran and are sometimes found on Indian horn cores as well. The horns of the Indian Aurochs adults are also proportionally much longer than those of adult Eurasian Aurochs, and they do not curve inwards as strongly; the horns also tend to extend further outwards in front of the face in namadicus than in primigenius.

The Shape of the Skull

Few relatively complete skulls are known from namadicus, and for this reason it is difficult to obtain an accurate picture of the variation in particular skull characters in this species. However the skulls of namadicus generally appear to be somewhat narrow, especially as compared to primigenius skulls of similar sex and age. An additional difference between the two Aurochs forms is the morphology of the bones of the back of the skull: in namadicus the supracristal portion of the occiput overhangs the infracristal part, whereas in primigenius the occipital is always relatively flat.

The Eye Sockets
The orbital rims of the the Indian aurochs were flat in both young and old animals. The eye-sockets may also have been less pronounced on average in the Indian Aurochs than in the Eurasian Aurochs

In many of its skull features, namadicus is interestingly intermediate between Bos primigenius and the members of the subgenus Bibos (the Gaur, Banteng and Kouprey).

Post Cranial Anatomy
The post cranial anatomy of namadicus has not been well studied, possibly due to the lack of well preserved material. The exact size ranges of male and female Indian Aurochs adults are not known, however it is known that both bulls and cow of namadicus were smaller than the respective sexes of primigenius, and namadicus appears to have been one of the smaller members of Bos. It is not possible to make reliable inferences regarding the anatomy of namadicus based solely on comparisons with the anatomy of Zebu. This is because Zebu, being derived domestic animals, have certainly undergone significant changes to their skeletal and soft-tissue morphology due to domestication. It may not be possible to know which anatomical features zebu inherited from their wild ancestor and which arose during the domestication process and were selected for by humans.

The Hump
It is not known whether or not the Indian Aurochs possessed the characteristic hump found nearly universally in its domestic descendants. Even if more post cranial material were available the presence or absence of the hump in namadicus may be difficult or impossible to ascertain on an osteological basis. This is because the hump is a soft tissue structure and thus does not fossilize, and no skeletal elements have been identified which necessarily indicate the presence of a hump in a living animal. It is known that zebu tend to have bifid thoracic vertebrae, however humped cattle without such vertebrae have been recorded, and there are even cases of humpless cattle with bifid vertebrae. Currently, there is no scholarly consensus on whether or not the Indian Aurochs was humped; some authors assert that the zebu hump must be a domestic characteristic selected for by humans while others suggest that the hump was a feature of namadicus which was merely inherited by zebu, possibly with later selection by humans for particular hump shapes. There are examples of petroglyphs from across India which show humped and humpless bovines in various contexts, including in what appear to be scenes depicting the hunting of wild cattle; however in the time period during which most or all of these petroglyphs were created there were a wide range of wild and domestic bovines present in South and Southwest Asia, so they do not unequivocally represent the Indian Aurochs.

Ecology
The Indian Aurochs was a xerophilic species and it is likely to have inhabited arid steppe and semi-desert environments across its range. Modern Zebu cattle possess many adaptations towards living in a hot, arid environment which are not found in taurine cattle, and these adaptations were most likely inherited from the Indian Aurochs; The fact that zebu have physiological traits which allow them to thrive in environments with high temperature and low humidity better than do taurine cattle has led to zebu being introduced in tropical and desertic regions worldwide.

If the Indian Aurochs was possessed of a hump, as are modern zebu cattle, then fat stores located inside this structure may have been used for energy in times of food shortage, the same purpose served by the humps of camels, which are adapted to similar environment. In this way the origin of hump could have been as an adaptation to the ecological niche of namadicus.
The hump, if present, may have also played a role in sexual selection; males of most wild and feral bovine species engage in lateral displays where the size and strength of the forequarters is accentuated in order to intimidate rivals, sometime in lieu of actual sparring; structures such as the large shoulder humps of Bison and Yak and the high shoulder ridges of Gaur and Banteng serve to increase the apparent bulk of the forequarters for this purpose. A shoulder hump in namadicus may have aided males in putting on such lateral displays, though of course this is strictly speculative.

The Great Salt and Lut Deserts in Eastern Iran may have formed formed the western boundary of the range of the Indian Aurochs. The eastern boundary of it range has not yet been conclusively determined but there are not yet any records of Indian Aurochs fossils from East of the Indian subcontinent.

Relationship With Humans
The Indian Aurochs was an important game animal for early South Asian peoples; along with the Asian Elephant it constituted one of the main sources of animal flesh in the diets of paleolithic hunters in Central and Southern Peninsular India. It may also have been an object of worship, and may be one of the animals represented in the petroglyphs found at numerous Indian archaeological sites.

Domestication and Extinction
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Zebu and Sanga cattle are the modern domestic descendants of the extinct Indian Aurochs. Fossil and sub-fossil remains indicate that the Indian aurochs survived into the Holocene, and beginning around 8000 years ago in the Neolithic period it was domesticated into Zebu cattle, Bos Indicus. It is possible that that the first domestic namadicus aurochs were kept mostly for ritualistic purposes, only later being adopted for meat and milk production.

The center of domestication of the Indian Aurochs is usually placed in the Indus Valley area of Pakistan and North Western India, however there may have been at least one other ""recruitment center" were wild Indian Aurochs (typically females) were introgressed into the domestic population. Archaezoological and genetic evidence have confirmed the Indus valley as the first and primary center of domestication, however the precise location of the secondary recruitment center/s is uncertain. Southern India and the Gujarat and the Ganges floodplains have been proposed as possible locations based on genetic studies focused on mtDNA haplotype lineages in modern zebu populations. In any event, all populations of zebu cattle are typified by the presence of a hump composed of muscle and fat and variably positioned over the cervical and thoracic vertebrae. This hump is not found in taurine cattle, which were domesticated independently form the Eurasian Aurochs in the Near East

The earliest evidence of humped domestic cattle comes from Mehrgarh, a village site of Middle Pakistan dated to ca. 6000 BC. Shortly after this time the Indian Aurochs would have co-existed in the region with its early zebu descendants, as well as with imported taurine cattle. The domestication of Indian Aurochs in the Indus valley and subsequent spread of zebu across the surrounding region undoubtedly played a role in the development of pastorialism in South Asia. Zebu were eventually introduced to Africa, where they hybridized with local taurine breeds to produce Sanga cattle. Zebu were also transported around the Near East, reaching Mesopotamia, the Levant, and eventually Southern and Eastern Europe.

However, while Zebu were spreading around the Old World from their centers of domestication, the wild Indian Aurochs underwent a gradual decline throughout its original range. Its exact date of extinction is uncertain, but is believed to have been around 2000 BCE, i.e. roughly 4000 years ago. The youngest known remains which clearly belong to wild Indian aurochs are from Banahalli in Karnataka, southern India, with an age of about 4200 years old. Hunting, habitat loss, as well as as a gradual increase in competition for grazing areas with domestic cattle all probably contributed to its decline; in all likelihood, these factors, along with hybridization with domestic cattle, eventually led to the extinction of the Indian Aurochs.
Here's a link to the related Aurochs topic at Carnivora Forum
Trying again to include the link to the Aurochs topic as a separate post. Unfortunately it keeps merging with the intro post
Edited by KRA, Jul 14 2018, 08:22 PM.
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Dfoidl
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Thanks for the interesting information and especially the photo material. It would be awesome if you could also provide us with the literature references that you used for the post. Could you link them here maybe?
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KRA
Unicellular Organism
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I will include a list of the reference works here, once I track them all down again.
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Roberta


According to this paper, the indicine cattle of China differ strongly from the Indian indicine cattle both in their Y-chromosome haplotypes and their autosomal DNA. The ancestral strains of these two populations diverged roughly 40,000 years ago, i.e. long before domestication. In other words, according to their nuclear DNA these two major zebu strains must be descended from two very distinct Bos namadicus (Indian aurochs) populations.

Regarding their mitochondrial DNA, Chinese and Indian indicine cattle belong to the same haplotype, but to distinct sub-haplotypes. The paper does not state how long ago these sub-haplotypes split.

Two possible explanations come to mind:
  • Either Chinese and Indian indicine cattle derive from two separate domestication events. Both nuclear DNA and mtDNA would then derive from different aurochs populations.
  • Or there was only one domestication event, but that strain of indicine cattle which ended up in China experienced major introgression of wild Bos namadicus during its migration eastwards. Nuclear DNA would then derive from different aurochs populations, while mtDNA would derive from only one aurochs population and differ only because of genetic drift.
The paper stresses that either scenario remains hypothetical, though.

The relevant sections from the paper:
  • “Two types of B. indicus ancestry were clearly supported by autosomal and Y-chromosome evidence and they diverged 36.6–49.6 kya, indicating that Chinese and Indian indicine cattle might be descendants from divergent wild populations. Given our combined results, we suggest the following hypothesis: two genetically differentiated wild B. indicus populations may have contributed to indicine ancestry or Chinese indicine cattle had input from a separate strain of Indian aurochs through eastward migration. Nevertheless, given the complexity of the evolutionary history of bovine species, hybridisation introgression and incomplete nature of the archaeological records, this scenario remains hypothetical. With this in mind, further geographically informed whole-genome analysis of bovine species, coupled with ancient DNA study, will reveal a more clear landscape of the complex cattle domestic histories in East Asia.”
    (p. 10)

    “Similar to earlier analyses that used several loci, three common Y haplogroups (Y1 and Y2 for taurine, and Y3 for indicine cattle) emerged. Additionally, two distinct sub-haplogroups were resolved within each of the Y2 (Y2a and Y2b) and Y3 (Y3a and Y3b) haplogroups. [...] The Y3 haplogroup was unique to B. indicus. The sub-haplogroup Y3a dominated the cattle from South China, whereas the sub-haplotype Y3b was mainly carried by three B. indicus breeds of Indian origin (Fig. 3a). North-Central China breeds admixed with Y2a, Y2b and Y3a (Figs. 2c and 3a).
    We also inferred maternal lineages using complete mitogenomes. [...] Within the B. indicus lineage, Chinese indicine primarily belonged to I1a, a new sub-haplogroup within I1 (Fig. 3c and Supplementary Fig. 8) that diverges in a star-like fashion, suggesting its rapid population expansion from a single founder sequence.”

    (p. 5–6)


See especially Fig. 2 of the paper for the distribution of autosomal DNA (Fig. 2b) and Y-chromosome haplotypes (Fig. 2c).



Assuming that the conclusions put forward by the paper are correct, to some extent inferences can be made about the wild Indian aurochs. At least it seems highly probable that features which are present in both Indian and Chinese indicine cattle but not present in taurine cattle must also have been present in the wild Indian aurochs. Otherwise these features would have to have been developed twice independently in indicine cattle but not in taurine cattle. That does not seem overly likely.
Edited by Roberta, Jul 14 2018, 11:45 AM.
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KRA
Unicellular Organism
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Here's some of the fossil material of the Indian Aurochs (Bos primigenius namadicus) that I was able to find online . All photos are from the internet, and for most I've included links to the web pages where I found them. Pictures of Indian Aurochs fossils, especially well preserved fossils, are very uncommon online. If you come across this page and know of any of pictures of namadicus material not listed here, please consider uploading them or leaving a link to the web-page where they can be found. Thanks!!

Bos Namadicus Skull 1
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To the right are basal (bottom) and apical (top) cross sections of a horn core

Skull 2-May or may not be the same skull as Skull 1
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From Twitter

Skull 3
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From Facebook

Skull 3 alternative view
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Fossil Cranium
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From Here

A fossil left lower jaw (d), horncore (e) and other assorted bits
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From This Paper

And finally some heavily fragmentary fossil material which doesn't lend much insight on the particulars of the animals' morphology (at least not to me)
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From Here

Re- the morphology of this species: I once thought that the zebuine hump was almost certainly a domestic feature that was not present in Bos namadicus, however now I'm not so convinced of that. After combing over some Paleolithic, Chalcolithic and Neolithic rock at from India, and observing the morphology of a number of zebu breeds as well as crosses between zebu and other members of Bos, I now think its possible that Bos namadicus had muscular, triangular hump with a small amount of fat, similar to what what you see in Yak-Zebu crosses and some races of zebu. I'm not saying it's certain-but I no longer think it's unlikely that the ancestor of zebu had a hump-albeit one morphologically distinctive from that possessed by most of its domestic descendants.

Tomorrow I will post the petroglyphs and rock art images I have which might show namadicus.
Edited by KRA, Jul 15 2018, 05:58 AM.
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Roberta


KRA
Jul 3 2018, 03:52 AM
The Indian Aurochs, Bos namadicus, [...] ranged across the Indian subcontinent from Northern to Southern India and as far west as Eastern Iran

[...] these keels tend to be found on namadicus horn cores originating from Iran and are sometimes found on Indian horn cores as well [...]

The Great Salt and Lut Deserts in Eastern Iran may have formed formed the western boundary of the range of the Indian Aurochs. The eastern boundary of it range has not yet been conclusively determined but there are not yet any records of Indian Aurochs fossils from East of the Indian subcontinent.
These facts would massively change the hitherto accepted boundaries of the range of the Indian aurochs.

This map shows the range as it used to be defined (Indian subcontinent in purple), plus the area of the Great Salt and Lut Deserts in Eastern Iran (purple spots to the southeast of the Caspian Sea):

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(Adapted from Christophe cagé, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bos_primigenius_map.jpg)

Presumably the whole swath between these two purple dots and the Indian subcontinent would then be part of the range of the Bos primigenius namadicus, too. This would roughly double the range.
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Claudiu Constantin Nicolaescu
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It is interesting that the aurochs was absent from Ireland and the Mediterranean Islands (except Sicily).
Edited by Claudiu Constantin Nicolaescu, Jul 15 2018, 06:04 PM.
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KRA
Unicellular Organism
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Roberta
Jul 15 2018, 03:53 PM
KRA
Jul 3 2018, 03:52 AM
The Indian Aurochs, Bos namadicus, [...] ranged across the Indian subcontinent from Northern to Southern India and as far west as Eastern Iran

[...] these keels tend to be found on namadicus horn cores originating from Iran and are sometimes found on Indian horn cores as well [...]

The Great Salt and Lut Deserts in Eastern Iran may have formed formed the western boundary of the range of the Indian Aurochs. The eastern boundary of it range has not yet been conclusively determined but there are not yet any records of Indian Aurochs fossils from East of the Indian subcontinent.
These facts would massively change the hitherto accepted boundaries of the range of the Indian aurochs.

This map shows the range as it used to be defined (Indian subcontinent in purple), plus the area of the Great Salt and Lut Deserts in Eastern Iran (purple spots to the southeast of the Caspian Sea):

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(Adapted from Christophe cagé, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bos_primigenius_map.jpg)

Presumably the whole swath between these two purple dots and the Indian subcontinent would then be part of the range of the Bos primigenius namadicus, too. This would roughly double the range.
I don't think that map is correct because the given distribution of namadicus on the map seems to be restricted to India proper, while namadicus seems to have originally been domesticated in the Indus Valley area of Pakistan, meaning it almost certainly occurred there as a wild species.

As for the Iranian part of its range, the main reference I found for the presence of Indian Aurochs fossils in Iran was this paper. In that paper the author argues for the local domestication of zebu from wild Aurochs in Iran, and there are some photos of horn cores from Eastern Iranian sites which were found in association with zebu remains. However, to my knowledge genetic studies have failed to find any direct support for zebu domestication in Iran, so both the leg bones and the horn cores from those Iranian sites could have come from early imported zebus, I suppose.

Also, as I mentioned on the Aurochs topic, bones assigned to namadicus have been found at Anau in Turkmenistan, which is roughly as far East as the Iranian sites but farther North. Those bones seemed to show characters intermediate between primigenius and namadicus though. Overall neither the Western nor the Eastern boundaries of the range of namadicus are well understood, and literature references on the Pleistocene fossil bovine assemblages in each country of South and Southwest Asia are difficult to find for all the relevant countries, save for India.
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KRA
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OK, my apologies for the delay; I was both under-motivated and fairly busy with other things over the past two days, but, I can spare some time now. Here is a post compiling some example of Indian rock art which may show Bos namadicus. Before we begin looking at the images though its important to get some obvious caveats out of the way:

1. Most Indian rock art I have seen is quite minimalistic and done in profile view, and often it is not possible to determine conclusively exactly which species a particular glyph is supposed to represent. Between prehistory and the early neolithic, the time frame during which most of these rock art images were produced, gaur, Indian Aurochs, zebus, taurine cattle, wild water buffalo and domestic water buffalo were all present at least in northern and northwestern India; these animals could all look quite similar when drawn in a crude or stylized fashion and it is often necessary to hazard a guess as to which bovid a particular illustration is supposed to depict. For this reason, and unlike with European cave art depicting the aurochs, the exact identity of the bovines in Indian cave art is rarely strictly unequivocal, and this problem is only exacerbated by the fact that we don't know exactly what the profile of the Indian Aurochs was supposed to have looked like. In this case, guesses are naturally vulnerable to circular logic and special pleading. Whenever possible I will try to make contextual arguments as to why I think certain paintings represent namadicus, or zebu, or gaur, or buffalo etc.

2. This bullet is a corollary of point 1 specifically concerning the issue of using rock art to determine whether the Indian aurochs was humped or not, and if so, what type of hump it had; I believe that many of the rock art images I will post convincingly depict a triangular, zebuine style hump, but one must admit that withers of deer, the convex muscular hump found in the European aurochs and the triangular zebuine hump could be difficult to distinguish in minimalistic or stylized drawings. This can complicate both attempts to identify the animals pictured as well as attempts to deduce particulars of their anatomy.

3 We don't know the stylistic conventions which were prevalent in the artistic cultures that created these drawings. prominent rounded shoulder humps are sometime depicted on animals with horns that look like those of a blackbuck (which have fairly flat backs) or even on animals with antlers. Considering this I think its highly likely that not only were the artistic rendering sometimes not quite anatomically precise, but also that features of one animal were sometimes transposed onto images of another.

4. Zebu cattle are sexually dimorphic and this dimorphism is expressed not only in the size and colour differences between the sexes but also in the shape and size of the hump. Female zebu usually have smaller humps than males and, in some breeds, the hump of females is so small that it is hardly visible if the animal lowers its neck. It is more than likely that the Bos namadicus hump, if present, would also have been a sexually dimorphic trait that was more developed in males.


With these points in mind, lets look at some cave art! Ill start with some images which I believe are very convincing in supporting the Idea that Bos namadicus had a pyramidal zebuine hump of the kind you see in many zebus and zebu hybrids today.
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This first image was posted on Facebook by Aditya Dhopatkar, the caption is not mine. There is another obviously humped bovine to the left of the one with the arrows pointing to it and what may be a giraffe or nilgai and a gaur in the foreground between the two. I didn't find a date for these petroglyphs but the according to the caption they are prehistoric. Strictly speaking, the domestication of zebu happened in the prehistoric era as well, however since the two bovines of interest appear to be surrounded by wild animals I think its fair to assume that they are wild animals themselves. i.e. we can assume that they are representations of Bos namadicus.

The Bhimlat Rock Art Site in Bundi, Rajasthan features many fine examples of Mesolithic and Chalcolithic rock art which likely depict Bos namadicusPosted Image
This panel appears to show a hunting scene; a large humped bovine and some smaller long eared (or horned) animals in the foreground appear to be the hunters quarry. The drawings at this site are somewhat faded, so it may be necessary to enlarge the photo to see the outline of the hump clearly, but it is definitely present and does not at all resemble the long, convex withers hump typical of the Eurasian Aurochs. Its possible that the image of the bovine was not constructed as part of the hunting scene, but given that the Indian Aurochs is known to have been a very common game item for early Indian hunters there is a good chance that it is depicted being hunted here. At the very least it is probably intended as part of the wild "scenery" meant to accompany the depiction of the hunt.

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Another interesting panel, this time the humped bovine appears to be the object of some sort of religious ritual

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In this panel hunters, dancing women and some type of wildcat are found in close association in the foreground, and in the background there is a humped bovine. The author of the linked post where I found this image offered the following interpretation of the foreground scene: "This painting is the clearest. Drawing 3 is of a dead / hunted animal which both the people (drawing 2) and tigress (drawing 1) want to eat. Their pose may be interpreted in two ways – one, they are dancing with joy after the hunt which means food; two, trying to scare off the tigress who has come to eat the hunted animal Again note the height and body structure of the woman right in front of the tigress."

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The same panel as the one above

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In this pannel a humpless bovine (center) is depicted along with a much larger humped one. In the bottom left is a group of bovines which appear to have much squatter bodies, shorter horns and dorsal ridges as opposed to humps. These, I think, are gaur. I had at least one larger image of that section of the panel, but I cant seem to find it now.

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Then you have these paintings. According to one of the webpages where I've found these Images, they are also from the Bundi rock art sites. I'm honestly not quite sure what to make of them. The stylistic conventions are similar to the other Bundi paintings above, but the poses of the animals featured in these four paintings are much more dynamic than in any of the others I've seen. Also the animals here are depicted with three or four legs visible whereas in all the all the other paintings I've seen from from this site, and from many other rock arts sites where this style of red painting is found, the animals are all depicted in lateral view with only two legs visible. In any event, all four pictures obviously show some form of Bos species, but which one they show is not quite clear. The frills on the horns in some images have been interpreted as decoration. They could be depictions of wild namadicus, however the oddly curving asymmetric horns (which remind me quite a bit of Mundari cattle) and the ornamentation on the horns suggest to me that these animals are at the very least tame and possibly even semi domestic. They do seem to have humps, though the humps don't seem to be any more prominent that you would expect if they simply represented the raised withers typical of large bovids (e.g. nilgai. )

Moving on, the Bhimbetka caves in Madhya Pradesh are another rock art site featuring possible depictions of namadicus.
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this panel might feature some superimposition. The outline of the bull appears humpless, but there is clearly a triangular hump over the cervico-thoracic region of the bull's neck located within the outline of the bull itself. When tying to piece together the appearance of namadicus's dorsal profile using cave art this painting is particularly frustrating.

Chaturbhuj Nala is second rock art site in Madhya Pradesh, and this site is particularly interesting, because I believe depictions of namadicus, zebu and water buffalo can all be found here, with each species having a unique representation. Its also possible hat the paintings her span multiple time periods and were produced by several different local clans/cultures, but that's speculation on my part and I wont get into it here.
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I think these large, long horned, very prominently humped bulls represent the Indian aurochs (Bos namadicus)

There are also many images of smaller bulls, often in close association with humans.
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The smaller bulls are usually also humped, but the hump is distinctly different; it is more rounded in profile and is usually clearly demarcated from the rest of the body. I suspect that these are depictions of zebu cattle.

Note* I souced the above images from here, and here; check out those pages for some more neat images from this rock art site.

On some panels both types of bull are depicted:
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Then you have these completely humpless bulls:
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Their completely flat dorsal profile is not a good match for most wild bovines, or for zebu. It could be a good match for buffalo though, or even for taurine cattle. Of course, there's no saying for sure.

Another panel of humped bulls from Chaturbhuj Nala (some of these also have decorated horns):
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According to the sources I've found, both here and at Bhimlat the humped bull motif seems to first appear in the Chalcolithic.


Now here are some depictions of long horned bulls from Southern India

A rock art piece from Kethavaram:
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And some more from Sanganakallu (I recommend looking up more images from this site online, the site dates back to around 3000 BC):
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The bull in the bottom image might be a representations of Bos namadicus, and it is the only piece of rock art I have found which convincingly suggests that that that species may have been humpless.

To round things off, here are a few examples of rock art from across India which almost certainly depict ruminants other that the Indian Aurochs. I'll comment below each image with my guess as to what species each represents:
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Nilgai (centre)

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Gaurs

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Deer (centre)

Edited by KRA, Today, 8:13 AM.
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KRA
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Now that I've uploaded the rock art, Its helpful to look at some examples of living bovines with which morphological comparisons can be made. Firstly, here are some zebus which show shoulder humps quite similar to those of the bovines in the rock art panels

A zebu fighting bull
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Sothern yellow cattle (a zebu breed from China)
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An ongole cow
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And here are some photos of intergeneric hybrids between zebu and other species of Bos; these hybrids often show a similar hump morphology:

Yak-Zebu crosses
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Maduro cattle (A stable hybrid between zebu and banteng)
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Watussi (A stable hybrid between zebu and taurine cattle)
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Now this is a Spanish fighting bull; It has a high, convex, shoulder hump of the type found in the Eurasian aurochs, the type which some authors believe was likely found in the Indian Aurochs as well
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At this point I have been able to find several prehistoric depictions of bovines sporting zebuine humps of the sort in the examples shown above, in addition to known aspects of namadicus such as long horns and large size, and I've scarcely been able to find any depictions that show animals resembling the Eurasian aurochs in dorsal profile with those same accompanying features. I suspect that the long horned, humped bulls drawn alongside wild animals on those rock panels really are namadicus after all, and that that squat, pyramidal hump shape suggested in those drawings is expressed in some zebu today, as well as in zebu hybrids. Of course, It's still not certain, so if anyone has any opposing arguments I'd be happy to hear them. My main interest is in developing as accurate an understanding as possible of the morphology and appearance of the Indian Aurochs. Postcranial material would be really helpful here, but in the absence of that it's necessary to make guesses based on what evidence is available.
One might suggest that, because modern zebu sometimes have humps similar to those in the rock paintings, the paintings themselves most likely represent domestic zebu. However, if correct, that does raise the question of where the real namadicus depictions are. Of course, the art is inexact, and there are probably additional rock art panels beyond those which I have been able to find and upload here, but I'd expect to have at least found one unequivocal depiction of an aurochs like bovid with a convex withers; there doesn't seem to be any shortage of faithful depictions of gaur and nilgai, for comparison.

To provide some background, I myself have an amateur interest in the Indian aurochs, and I was once convinced that there was now way that it could have possessed a zebuine hump; actually I was viscerally opposed to that Idea. The reason I started searching for rock art in the first place was to find some evidence for a humpless Indian Aurochs; I can't say I've found any such evidence yet though, and I have found evidence to the contrary. After considering the rock art, and the morphology of zebu and zebu hybrids, the history of zebu domestication and the possible ethological and ecological functions of a hump I am now quite open to the Idea that that distinctive characteristic of zebu was actually a characteristic of Bos namadicus too.

Well, that's all I have for now. I'm working on an illustration of the Indian Aurochs, but that might not be finished for quite a while. In the meantime, I hope users continue to compile information from outside sources on this page as we could certainly use all the information we can get on this understudied and enigmatic species.

cheers!
Edited by KRA, Jul 20 2018, 11:16 AM.
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brubakej
Unicellular Organism
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The one picture above has me wondering if what is depicted on the rock is not a bos namadicus but rather a kouprey. It shows the frayed horns of the kouprey. How does the kouprey figure in with bos namadicus?
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KRA
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brubakej
Jul 21 2018, 08:14 PM
The one picture above has me wondering if what is depicted on the rock is not a bos namadicus but rather a kouprey. It shows the frayed horns of the kouprey. How does the kouprey figure in with bos namadicus?
Do you mean all the images or just the ones in that four panel composite from Bhimlat? I don think its very likely that any of them are kouprey, that species was never native to India (as far as I know), and they would have to have been imported for quite a long distance away for whatever reason (assuming those drawings really are from Bhimlat, that is). If you look at the images from Chaturbhuj Nala there is another panel where bulls have a kind of tassel like outline on their horns, only in that panel the tassels are depicted elsewhere on the bulls body as well; I think that lends support to the idea that the tassels are decorations.

However, even if the images really do depict bovines with fraying horns, that doesn't necessarily mean that they depict kouprey. The fraying horn condition can occur in other members of Bos as well, as with the gaur in the attached image. Also, if those are male kouprey you'd expect them to have more prominent dewlaps, and a female kouprey would have shorter, more upright and very differently shaped horns than depicted in the pictures.
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Edited by KRA, Today, 6:05 AM.
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