The Gaur, Seledang, or Indian Bison is a breed of wild cattle native to the tropical forests in South and Southeast Asia, ranging from India to the Malay Peninsula. These bovines have been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 1986 with an estimated population of 21,000 individuals remaining in the wild.
But what exactly is a gaur? It is the largest existing bovid with the most impressive documented male being 10’ 10” in length, 7’ 3” in height, and 3,300 lbs in weight. Fullblood gaurs and many of their hybrid variants also possess two distinguishing attributes: a unique convex dome atop their skull from which sprout great curving horns that can vary from 24” to 45” in length AND a bony ridge which extends from the top of their neck, over the shoulders, and subsides into the middle of their back.
Gaurs have also adopted a number of specialized adaptations for jungle life. They excrete bovidic acid from their pores which renders them highly resistant to ticks, lice, and biting flies. They have very large and often protruding eyes with a prominent tapetum lucidum* that can be easily seen in twilight. In addition to this, their dewlap – though covered with thick, sensitive whisker hairs – is almost non-existent while their tail is quite short, with neither of these two parts (nor the testicles in the case of males) extending below the knees of the front legs nor the hocks of the back legs. This clearance presumably aids the creatures in navigating thick, entangling brush. Another interesting woodland feature found in gaurs are their high and extremely tight hooves – feet that can easily fit between fallen branches and trailing vines while simultaneously keeping sticks from becoming caught in the interdigital cleft. As far as coloration goes, fullblood gaurs tend to be quite dark in hue while hybrids can exhibit a great range. No matter whether fullblood or hybrid, though, all types of gaur-influenced cattle sport a highlight color along the crest of their head, neck, and back ridge. Some gaurs also carry this highlight on the shin-portion of their legs.
(Above) King Gaur "Elray", the first Master Blend Cattle Company Gaur-Angus Hybrid.
(Below) #7128, a Brahman-Gaur hybrid that leans markedly more toward the Gaur side of the genetic equation.
(Above) Prometheus, the first Master Blend Cattle Company Gaur-Belgian Blue Hybrid.
(Below) #7164, a Simental-Gaur hybrid that looked like it came straight from the wilds of the Malaysian peninsula.
Gaurs are not only unique in physical attributes; their behavior is intriguing as well. They exhibit incredible speed and agility with one of our female gaurs clearing a 5’ fence without a single hoof touching the top strand. These cattle also have far greater intelligence and a much higher propensity for observation than typical domesticated cattle. They are always on the lookout for threats, and instead of merely looking on and doing nothing, they act, with us having witnessed them chase after any coyotes or black-headed vultures that stray too close to the herd. This active behavior goes for the converse, as well, with them being especially observant when it comes time for treats. Some of our gaurs have even gone so far as to peer intently into the window of our house, just waiting for their next apple or handful of nutgrass. Indeed, due to their intelligence, this breed of cattle are as trainable if not more trainable than typical domesticated bovines, with a small number of our gaurs having been taught to approach at a whistle.
Now, at this point, one may wonder how these magnificent creatures have come all the way across the globe to reside on a ranch in Central Florida. The idea to induct Gaur into Master Blend’s repertoire began as we researched the possibility of incorporating American Bison into our breeding program**. It was during this time that we learned there had been some Gaur semen collected in a university study over thirty years ago – a small amount of which still remained cryogenically preserved. Having discovered this, we decided to purchase a few straws, and once we had the Gaur genetics in hand, we utilized them across several breeds of cattle including Angus, Brahman, and even Belgian Blue. At this time, we have nearly twenty Gaurs wandering about the farm, which means outside of the setting of a few zoos – which, as a whole, appear to be phasing out Gaurs – we at Master Blend have the only herd in the United States that appears to be increasing in size and availability.
That brings us to the final question in regard to these bovines. What is to become of the Master Blend Gaurs? Aside from carrying on the experiment and increasing our herd’s size, we intend to harvest some of these animals for beef. According to the few genetic tests that we have already taken, they can be expected to yield exceptionally lean meat similar to that of the American Bison (which makes sense because another name for the Gaur is the “Indian Bison”). This means that Gaur beef is like to be an excellent source of protein that carries more conjugated linoleic acid than typical beef as well as high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids.
*Fancy word for the reflectors that nocturnal animals exhibit in the back of their eyes.
** Incorporating American Bison into our herd is still a work in progress.
This is all speculation, of course; only time can tell what the Gaur will bring to the: