I. Akimushkin. Pigs true and false. The mammal with the longest neck. Bovidae. The educational history of the wisent. Bison - the ally of the natives. The grey bull. Antelopes. Gazelles. One upon a time...
Eight species of wild pigs exist on planet Earth. Three belong to the same genus as the wild boar: the dwarf pig (South Asia), the Javanese boar (Java, Celebes, Philippines), and the Borneo boar (Borneo and Philippines). The babirusa wild pig lives in Asia (on the Celebes islands). The warthog, the brush-eared and the giant forest pigs live in Africa. The Asian relatives of the wild boar (except for the babirusa) resemble it a lot. The African wild pigs are generally similar to it as well, but a number of morphological and biological features speak about their general independence.
The warthog is unusual in that its long snout is mutilated (or, possibly, decorated, if one looks at that object from a different point of view) with bumps and knobs that resemble warts. Through the entire length of its back, from the back of its head to the start of its tail, a long loose mane stretches out along the backbone. Light sideburns are on the snout. And the tusks of their males are quite big - up to 30 centimetres and more (67 centimetres is the record). The sows - that are less warty than the boars - have only four nipples, because their piglets usually number no more than four as well.
Plenty of warthogs still live in the African tropics, primarily on the shrubby plains. They browse during the day, lean towards a vegetarian diet than the other pigs. They hide at night (from lions) in burrows. When they flew, they carry they upturned tails high, as if they were banners. The lion and the leopard are their eternal and bitterest enemies.
'The living space of the warthog's burrow consists of a spacious chamber, where the parents and the juveniles sleep. From there the corridor slopes into the next chamber, where during the fall, from September to November, the pretty piglets are born. If one chases a sow with piglets, then the young often fall to the ground and pretend to be dead. But just try to pick up only one of them! It will squeal as if it is being sliced, and then the sow immediately runs up to it. A leopard pursued a female warthog and its piglet. The female suddenly turned and attacked the leopard: it immediately fled. Another time a warthog somehow had irritated an elephant. The elephant trumpeted loudly and attacked. The warthog turned around and came straight at the elephant. The elephant even retreated from the unexpectedness'. (Bernard Grzhimek)
The brush-eared pig is a nocturnal animal that avoids open spaces, lives in dense forests (usually near bodies of water), and is an excellent swimmer. Its tusks are smaller than the warthog's up to fifteen centimetres. The tips of the ears bear brushes made from elongated, light-coloured hairs. The coloration is very varied - from bright red (of the western subspecies) to blackish-brown and black, but with big, brighter spots on the snout, the cheeks and on the forehead. Only sows with piglets live in burrows. The boars are solitary, living deep within the woods.
The Madagascar subspecies of the brush-eared pig, earlier considered to be a separate species, is the only hoofed mammal on this island (the hippopotamuses that lived here earlier are now extinct.)
The giant forest pig was discovered at the beginning of the 20th century, in 1904, in damp, mostly mountainous forests of Kenya and Congo. It is, perhaps, the biggest of the wild pigs, it has brownish-black, bristly fur, sparse and quite long, and the snout is quite wide. This pig is also distinguished by a bulging forehead and big bumps before the eyes.
The forest pigs feed early in the morning and during the evenings. They willingly consume small mammals and birds, artfully stalking and ambushing them with the entire herd.
The babirusa, the wild pig of the Celebes, has many peculiarities. Firstly, there are the tusks: huge, up to forty centimetres, bent upwards and to the rear. At that, the tusks of the upper jaw pierce the upper lip! For what are such decorations? Perhaps not to damage the muzzle against the branches in the dense undergrowth: the tusks form a peculiar chain-link cage over the eyes. Then why the females lack such protection? Most likely the weird tusks of the babirusa are one of the known examples (like the peacock's tail) of the adaptive uselessness and unwholesomeness of certain morphological traits of animals.
Furthermore: the babirusa is absolutely furless; the females have only two nipples and unbelievably low fertility rate for pigs: one or two piglets (stripeless!) per year. The babirusas live in dense forests, in swamps, near rivers and lakes. The coastal vegetation is their food. They swim a lot and very well.
The peccaries are not real pigs. Externally they resemble the pigs, but they have a number of traits that caused the zoologists to separate the peccaries into a special family. For example, the tusks in the upper jaws grow not upwards, as in case of the real pigs, but downwards. The hind legs have not four, but three toes, the stomach is more complex and a big gland is located on the back. When the peccary is excited by something, the fur, going up, releases the gland and a powerful smell is spread around. In dense undergrowth, at the waterside and in the water shallows the gland leaves its particular 'aroma' on branches and bulrushes, serving as a guide to the other peccaries. Thus its position on the back is fully explained by the life in the swamps: the higher are the smelly marks located, the better they will be preserved, and water will not wash them away during floods.
There are two species of peccaries: the collared (with a wide yellowish stripe shaped as a collar on its shoulders) peccary is spread from the south of USA to Argentina, and the white-lipped peccary, who is bigger and who lives in more numerous herds in the American forests - from Mexico to Paraguay.
THE MAMMAL WITH THE LONGEST NECK
In April of 1901, London's 'Times' wrote approximately so about one zoological sensation: 'A helladotherium lives in Congo'.
Helladotheriums, and closely related to them beasts, once dwelled in Europe, and as for Africa - from Libya to Transvaal - they lived there even more recently, if judged by cave paintings. They were 'giraffes', but not with truly long necks. They lived, and they all died out...
And then 'Times' proclaimed to the world that not all of them died out: the Ugandan governor Johnston sent to London's zoologists a hide and two skulls of a helladotherium. The skin and the skulls were attentively examined: it turned out not to be a helladotherium, but a close relative of it. It was named 'okapi'.
The bambuti tribe in the jungles of the North-East Congo have eaten the meat of what they called the 'o'api' for centuries, and dressed in its skins. Admittedly, the latter term is not quite appropriate: in the tropics, you do not need hides for clothing, it is hot there already, but the na-tives do wear beautiful belts made from the okapi skins. The okapi's coloration is chocolate-brown and on its' legs are horizontal white stripes that form a very particular design. Each speci-men has its' own individual pattern and it happens sometimes that each side of an okapi body has a different striped pattern.
The true, big giraffes live in more or less open places, in the savannas, where the acacias, baobabs and other trees grow sparsely. Meanwhile, the okapi prefer the inaccessible tropical forests. Not in herds, but on their own they wander in the sea of foliage and lianas, but always close to the water--forest rivers and streams. They love water, and usually bathe in the morning: they leap into the water running. Then, on the shore, they take their time licking and massaging their gleaming hide. The tongue of an okapi is almost 50 cm long and the neck isn't short either, therefore, when grooming, this animal can reach with its' tongue any part of its' body.
They also rip leaves off branches with their tongue. The plants that the okapi prefer above all others, (the euphorbias), are quite toxic, but, apparently, this mammal is not affected by their poison. The vocal capabilities of the okapi, just as of the giraffe, are not great: they snort when angry, and quietly cry, and their cry resembles a cough with a croaking whistle. The calf, which is hid-den by the mother in the jungle for the first few days of its' life, quietly moos, when it sees its' mother. The okapi females willingly adopt each other's calves. In captivity these animals quickly get used to people, are submissive, obedient, and you can as easily brush them as a domestic horse. The first okapi entertained the public with its' odd appearance in the Antverpen zoo back in 1919. Now they live in many zoos of Europe and America.
The horns--or rather, the ossicones--appear only in the male okapi. The females have only little bumps under the forehead's skin. True, the males' ossicones are also almost covered by skin, but their very tips are bare. As they are worn down, new tips grow.
The true big giraffes' ossicones, (in both females and males), are completely covered by skin and fur. Usually they number two, but sometimes three. The Masai giraffe has two ossicones in their usual place, and the third, a smaller one-in the middle between them. In Uganda, the old giraffes often have five ossicones! (It is a record for the modern world). They have three ossicones as the Masai giraffes do, and another two smallish ones in front of the third ossicone.
Is it really need to be said that the giraffe is the most long-necked mammal on the planet? (However, it only has seven vertebrae in its neck, as all the other mammals do). The giraffe is also the tallest mammal on Earth. The old males can raise their heads to the height of 5 m 80 cm! Surveying the neighborhood from the height of their excellent size, a giraffe sees foes from afar. Therefore, zebras, ostriches, antelopes like to hang around such observation 'towers'. Only hungry lions and humans are dangerous to the giraffes, they do not have other foes. When defending themselves, they kick lions with their hind hooves. The blow is very strong: a giraffe weighs a tonne! When fighting each other, the giraffes never kick, but butt heads, or strike each other with their long necks, whipping them through the air. It is an astonishing sight; it is worth watching, (for example in the movie 'Drums of fate'). In the zoos, if a giraffe dislikes the guard, it can kick the person, and that is deadly dangerous. If the giraffe is usually benevolent, but in a bad mood for some reason, it will head-butt instead.
The giraffes, like everything else on the planet, also sleep. In addition, they sleep lying. Here comes an interesting question: where does the giraffe put away its' long neck when it is asleep?
These days, the armies of many countries are armed with cunning devices that emit infrared rays. With their help, you can see at night as if it was daytime. Armed with such devices, the zoologists stalked during an African night a giraffe herd to see what they do with their unwieldy necks when they go to sleep.
It turns out that the 'unwieldy' necks fold just fine: bending them into a bow, the giraffes put their head onto their arse, pushing with their muzzle against it, (the younger), or against the ground behind it, (the older). However, some just stretch their neck into the sky as if it was a skyscraper and fall asleep just like that. A special design of neck bones and muscles allows them to hold it over their bodies without any particular tension.
As it is known, the giraffes are spotted, but there are some that are purely white too! A white giraffe in the savanna is supposedly a fantastical sight, unearthly and heartstirring.
On occasion, it is told about the giraffes, (even in print!), that they do not drink at all and are completely silent. However, no, the giraffes do drink, and they have a voice, though it is rarely herd, it is a quiet, rather whistling, grumbling.
In case of the bovids, both males and females (except for the rare exceptions) bear a pair, or even two pairs of horns. That their horns are hollow, i.e. empty inside should not cause any reason to doubt, and yet that is not quite so: their horns are 'positioned' upon axes, which bulge from the forehead bone.
The form and size? Here, as the writers said in the ancient times, 'the quill falls from the hand'. Bumped, folded, polished, smooth, twisting, bagel-shaped, simply straight - in short, there are all sorts. The length and the width differ too: from miniature awls to huge rapiers. The width of the argali horns at the bases, for example, is about 50 cm.
The bovids' horns grow throughout their lives, but they never branch. They consist of a substance of an epidemeric origin, an excellent material to make glue from (the Chinese, as usual, make medicine from them as well). Strongly civilized hunters (for example those who decimated Africa's fauna) use the hollow horns for... Well, this question was answered by E. Hemmingway for one African: 'Tell him that according to the customs of our tribe we gift the horns to our richest friends. Also tell him that this is a very exciting event and sometimes our tribesmen get chased by people with unloaded pistols.'
The bovids are called 'horned' by some zoologists. The horns are present in every case. The horns differ: straight and sharp meter-long bayonets; twisted as the sabers are, curled into cork-screws; twisted into 'sheep's horns'; small as the awls are - a great variety. The horns are present in both males and females, more rarely - in males only. Some are born with rudimentary horns, many are hornless from birth.
And why the horns are needed? Supposedly a pointless question: for attack and defense. This was thought always. But lately doubts have appeared.
If for defense, then why in females, who need the horns most of all in this case, often lack them at all, or have only small ones? Previously it was taken as a given that the females with offspring are protected by strong and horned males. But the males of many bovids do not even think of protecting their females and offspring. If the predator is strong and a fight is pointless, usually they flee first. But even if the predator is small and the horns could be used to chase it away, people noticed events that even look strange at a first sight: the male runs not to help the female, but onto her. When, for example, a female Thompson's gazelle happens to wound and chase away a jackal from its calf and the female begins to pursue the predator, the male immediately runs after her and makes her go back. What for? Because the male is afraid that the female may leave its harem. This belonging - or rather sexual - instinct suppresses the male's instinct regarding taking care of offspring.
This is done not by all, but by many. Admittedly, the muskoxen and the American mountain goats, when the wolves attack, have their males join forces to keep the predators at bay. Big cattle, for example the buffalos, do not give up even before lions. This is true. But here is the interesting part: the buffalos, the muskoxen, the mountain goats - i.e. those that use their horns most actively, do not have the best versions of them. They are either too small, as in the case of the mountain goat, or too curved. And here straight, sword-like horns would be needed.
But maybe the horns are necessary for fights between each other for females and territory? Indeed, the male gazelles, for example, and many other bovids, lock horns with each other ten times a day. But the horns are used with great caution, not to inflict injuries, but for a ritual fight. It happens, of course, and quite often, when the mortal wounds are inflicted into a side, the most vulnerable place. But it is rather an exception. Usually the males, before a battle, according to rules that the evolution had input into their heads, stand in a particular poise: head to head. Here the blows are inflicted by the horns straight on. Such fencing, a better word is unnecessary, are usual among the antelopes. At that some of them even kneel (roan antelopes and nilgai) and undertake an effort to push away or topple the rival. The roan antelopes, at that, push in this strength test with the middles of their curved back horns, and the nilgai - with their foreheads. The nilgai, twisting their necks, try to topple each other. And all of that is done kneeling!
Incidentally, fighting with the neck is one of the initial ritual forms. The same goes for bites. During evolution many species replaced by it by fencing and wrestling with interlocked horns. It is interesting that the females and calves, which have no horns or they are small, a more ancient ritual tactic of fighting has remained as a peculiar atavism: bites, kicks, neck locks, goring into sides.
It is precisely the hornless females that go more often not head to head, but head to side. The males - almost never: otherwise they would have killed each other off in the first confrontations. The ritual rules of fighting (of course, not consciously kept but instinctual), designed during millions of years of evolution, are made to save the opponents from serious injuries and death in battle. That is wonderful!
The rams' duels are quite dangerous at the first sight: they charge and butt heads very loudly.
But they can allow themselves such amusements because their horns, necks and skull bones are firm and well endure such blows. But the goats' foreheads cannot be battering rams. They fight hitting horns with horns with descending blows and this is why they stand on their rear legs before striking. A goat must not be kept in the same enclosure with a sheep. The goat's arrogant, tends to overestimate its strength, and the sheep got an armored skull. And if a ram, after taking a running start, will strike the billy goat right into forehead, then the latter might die from a broken neck or a caved in skull.
Aside from the particular rules of battle that restrict the possibility of wounding, all animals, including the bovids, have particular poises of submission and pacification that allow the weaker animal to avoid a fight. In case of Thompson's gazelles it is to lie down with the neck outstretched on the ground. In other species it is to fall onto their knees. Therefore the bull on the area freezes and does not charge the matador when the latter, standing on his knees before the very muzzle of the bull, does his tricks. The healthy instincts of the animal paralyze its aggressiveness, and the man with the sword, breaking the nature's moral, behaves as a sadist does in this case: the sequel is well known to everyone.
So far this is it for the horns. Now about those who carries them on their heads.
It is a large family. All of its members are ruminants, all are artiodactyls: 128 species. They are divided differently, into a various number of subfamilies. Let us take, for example, a subdivision that is probably the least complex:
1. The bovines: 13 wild and domesticated species of cattle (buffalos, zebu, gaur, gayal, kouprey, bison, wisent, yak and etc); 9 species of African Tragelaphini antelopes (kudu, nyala, sitatunga, eland, bongo, and etc) and 2 species of Asian antelopes (nilgai and the four-horned antelope).
2. The duikers: the smallest of the antelopes, 17 species, all African.
3. The Hippotragini antelopes: waterbucks, reedbucks, oryxes, beisas, black and roan antelopes, the cow-like antelopes (topi, kongoni, wildebeest) - 24 species, all African, except for the Arabian oryx, which is almost extinct.
4. The gazelles: impalas, dik-diks, oribis, beiras, the gerenuk (the giraffe gazelle), Thompson's gazelle, the goitered gazelle, the Mongolian gazelle - 37 primarily African and partially Asian species.
5. The goats: goats, sheep, chamois, gorals, saiga, takins, muskoxen - 26 mostly Asian, European, partially North American and African species.
There are no wild bovids in South America, just as there are not any in Australia.
So, about the cattle. But before we begin, let us step aside for one necessary specification. It concerns the word 'antelope' that is rather a literature and lay term than a zoological one in a proper scientific meaning. In general, the antelopes are considered to be bovines that are not cattle, sheep or goats. Antelopes of middle size are also called gazelles, and the smallest are called the duikers.
'The beast is like a horse, terrible and undefeatable, between the ears there is a great horn, the body is honey-colored, in the horn is all of its' strength. It has no mate, lives for 532 years. And then it sheds its' horn at the edge of the sea and from it grows a worm; and from the worm rises the unicorn beast. And the old beast has no strength without its horn, it goes away and dies.'
Thus the Russian literati talked about the unicorn, in general they spoke in a too 'literature-rich' language, for the unicorn's prototype, as it was found-out, were... cattle.
The archaeologists, doing excavations at the sites of the ancient cities of Middle East, found Assyrian and Babylonian bas-reliefs and inscriptions from which it was discovered that the ancient Hebrew word 'reem', translated by the creators of the Greek bible as 'the unicorn' in reality meant the wild aurochs cattle, with two horns.
So, the aurochs. Height-wise (in the nape) it was up to two meters, weighted a ton! It was colored black, the females and calves were reddish. But the color information is dubious... Remember the legends: 'Dobrynia became a roan aurochs', 'Where nine roan aurochs are roaming'... Our ancestors were not color-blind to confuse black and roan! And yet the aurochs assumed to be black, or rather 'it was black', where the short 'was' prevents us fully from learning the truth.
For now those cattle are gone. They were exterminated. And though it happened quite recently, the aurochs was fully forgotten everywhere. It remained in legends, proverbs, some ancient customs (for example an aurochs dress was used for Christmas) and in the names of places and family names: Turovo, Turi, Turov meadow, Turov wasteland, Turjets, Turov. The Uri canton in Switzerland, whose citizen Dostoevsky's Stavrogin was proclaimed to be, also owns its name to the wild cattle: 'urus' in Latin, 'ur' in Germany are the names of the aurochs.
But still the supposition that the aurochs bulls were black has serious bases. We have various depictions of the aurochs, and the best of them is the famous Augsburg painting. British zoologist Smith has found in a pawnshop. It was painted in the beginning of XVI century by some Polish artist (and the last of the aurochs vanished from the face of the Earth over three hundred years ago by now). This, then, is the 'post-mortem' portrait (it is gone, only the copy made by Smith remains) depicted the aurochs as black - probably not for the mourning reason.
But of course, however its' condition is, a depiction cannot serve as a significantly serious proof, for the artists in all the time periods were very inclined in their works for various artistic licenses (the Assyrian and Babylonian bas-reliefs, for example, with the unicorn aurochs, also have 'bipedal' horses: the latter have only two legs).
The proof lies elsewhere. In 1921, the German zoologist-brothers Lutz and Heinz Hek, having driven through Europe in search of 'aurochs-like' bulls and cows (and succeeding at that), began a wonderful experiment: by the method of reverse engineering they decided to reincarnate the aurochs.
The 'reincarnated' aurochs have everything as in case of the extinct animal: black coloration, big sharp horns. And the cows with the calves are roan - ergo, the geneticists have achieved that hardest bit: sexual and age dimorphism, i.e. the different coloration and appearance of the females, males and calves. And finally: the 'reincarnated' aurochs is so similar to the one depicted on the Augsburg painting that it seems that it was the painting's model.
And even in the 19th century some, even quite prominent, naturalists did not believe that the wild cattle called aurochs existed on the planet. All that the ancients told about it was associated with the wisent. Even V.I. Dal synonymised the words 'aurochs' and 'wisent' even though he shouldn't have done it, for by that time, when he was making his famous dictionary, the French anatomist and paleontologist George Cuvier had already proven that once a long-horned large cattle, called the aurochs, did live.
In the historical times the aurochs lived throughout Europe, even in England and Southern Sweden, in North Africa, Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Turkey. Among us - in Lithuania and Belarus, throughout Ukraine, on Don and Transcaucasia. And in the north - up to Novgorod and the southern shore of Lake Ladoga, in the current Yaroslavskaya, Moskovskaya and Ryazanskaya regions.
The aurochs is long gone, and its descendants are everywhere, wherever they could reach by their own power, train wagons, ships and even planes. Our common cow and breeding bull with the iron ring in the nose - are the direct descendants of the beast, of which it was said: 'The beast is like a horse, terrible and undefeatable.'
THE EDUCATIONAL HISTORY OF THE WISENT
The wisent got a different attitude from the aurochs, though in size, strength and speed it was the aurochs' equal. If the aurochs, according to the tales, after meeting people, stayed where it was, then the wisent, in such situations, always gave-in: after meeting a biped it hurriedly hid.
Between themselves the wisents fight rarely as well. Usually the confrontation begins and ends only with a demonstration of strength. After the first exchanged blows the weaker competitor prefers not to let things get extreme and retreats.
The wisents live in small groups: cows, calves of both genders - in six-eight member herds. And the bulls, meanwhile, wander separately, but also in companies, which consist of three to four bulls. Only in August-September, when Hymineus must be given his due, the bulls join - each to its' favorite herd, after first getting rid of all the younger bulls there.
The calves are born in spring and in the beginning of summer; they can walk in an hour, and in another 30 minutes they can run, albeit not very steadily, after their mom.
The wisents feed on food plain and healthy: grasses, branches and leaves, the bark of elms, aspens, firs, spruces, rowans, pines. From the ground they pick up acorns, wild pears, apples and mushrooms.
On the dawn of history of the European nations the wisents lived everywhere: in the homelands of the Gauls, Germans, Swedes, Romanians, and Slavs. Only in Greece, northern Spain and England the wisents were exterminated already by the prehistoric time.
And here again is that unpleasant word - 'exterminated'! It, so to say, 'kept up' with the wisents for many centuries. Already tsar Peter I, after ordering Voronezh's vice-governor Kolychev to catch and deliver to Petersburg five wisents, received the reply: on the Don the wisents were seen last in 1709. But that wasn't yet the end. The wisents remained in Northern Caucasus and in Belovezhye for the tsars' hunts. By the beginning of WWI there were 727 wisents in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha. On Caucasus - around 500 of them.
Then then wisents began to vanish with a dizzying speed. The Pushcha got occupied by the Germans. In 1916 there were no more than 200 wisents and after a year - only 120, after two more - only... nine. Only one cow survived to the end of 1920. It was shot by the Pushcha's ex-forester Bartolomeus Shpakovich. On Caucasus, even the national park, established in 1924, failed to save the wisents. In 1926, on the Alous mountain, herders met three - probably, the last - wisents. And killed them.
But the International community of saving the wisents was starting to work. It possessed 56 live wisents in parks and zoos of fifteen countries, 80 stuffed animals and 120 skulls in the museums. They began with that.
The first breeding book (dated 1932) listed only 30 pureblood wisents in the entire world! But here it was decided that the most trustworthy and quick method of saving the wisent would be the continuous interbreeding with the American bison. Time showed: the hybrid bison that each generation got interbred with the wisents are indistinguishable from the real deal.
The WWII got endured by the wisents easily enough. In 1947 they numbered 100, and after eight years more - 200.
In 1940 five hybrid bison were brought into the Caucasian national park (from Askania-Nova). After four years they numbered 11, and after twelve years more - 106. Protected by herders on horse the animals each year go up high in into the mountains to the alpine meadows, and they winter in fir forests on the mountainsides, where people provide hay for them.
Since 1946 the wisents began to be bred on the territory of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha, and in two years more - in the Central wisent breeding under Serpuhovo. In 1955 they appeared in Hopersky national park, in 1956 - in Mordovsky.
According to the estimates of Mikhail Zabolotsky, who dedicated many years to saving the wi-sent, in January of 1958, in the various zoos and national parks of the USSR lived: 79 pureblood wisents, 182 bison hybrids and metis versions.
Ergo, multiply and prosper!
THE BISON - THE ALLY OF THE NATIVES
By the path of the earliest settlers did the bison come to America: from Chukotka to Alaska and onwards to the south. They found there spacious virgin steppes and forests. When the Europeans arrived there, the bison in America were so numerous, that it is unbelievable: sixty million, apparently!
The bison are travellers. During winter they went to the south, during summer they returned to more northern countries. Million-wise armadas went over the frozen rivers and the ice would not hold beneath them. They say that many islands on the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers were initially formed from the mounds of bison skeletons. The paths made by the bison were used by topographers because there were no convenient paths that went around lakes and rivers.
But the railroads brought death to the bison. During the sixties the Transcontinental Pacific railroad was built. Teams of builders, hunters, vagabonds, adventurers streamed into the prairies. Two hundred and ten thousand of bison were killed there in two months. And a hundred thousand more - during the winter of 1877. 'Buffalo Bill', renowned William Cody, had shot 4280 bison in eighteen months. Another 'champion' had shot 250 bison during the 'working' hours.
The animals that were migrating to the south of the central railroad were considered the southern herd, while those, which were to the north - the northern one. When a train approached bison grazing near its tracks, the driver slowed the machine and the passengers began to fire from all sorts of firearms. Some amateur 'sportsmen' even purposefully drove through the prairies, only to shoot. The train left leaving hundreds of corpses to the coyotes. It was calculated that 5,373,730 bison were shot in less than three years.
At beginning of the nineties of the nineteenth century the American bison stopped existing in the USA as a free-ranging beast (forest bison still lived in Canada). The silence that followed made the cries of their few defenders - 'Spare them!' - audible. Then laws aimed to protect the bison were planned to be issued in the USA.
The lawmakers of Texas met. General Sheridan spoke. The bison hunters, he said, deserve a re-ward. They should be given medals with images of pacified natives: 'Buffalo hunters in a few months made more to pacify the natives than our entire army in thirty years'. For the native tribes fed on bison.
The law did not pass. And not just in Texas. The USA congress had a powerful party that shared Sheridan's opinion.
In 1873 a native named Wandering Coyote caught a bull and a cow. He treated them, hid from vagabonds and ambitious hunters. In 23 years he had a herd 300 strong. The government of the USA bought it and moved to Yellowstone Park. They bought the bison from many other people as well (many owned the bison on farms and half-free ranges).
The Society of bison saving became very active during Theodore Roosevelt's time. By 1910 the number of bison doubled, and in 1933 they numbered 4404. Nowadays they number twenty thousand, perhaps even more.
'THE GREY BULL'
Even by the early 1930s, Europe heard rumours than the forests of Indochina hide a wild bull unknown to science. Few believed these tales. The local hunters, however, could tell all the signs of the mysterious bull. They called it the kouprey - the 'grey bull'.
They were asked:
'Is this bull the banteng?'
'No, we call it the kouprey. It is a giant bull - taller than the tallest man is and it lacks the white spot in the back that the banteng has.'
'Maybe it's the gaur?'
'No, it's not the gaur. It is another bull. The gaur is almost without a dewlap, and the kouprey has a big dewlap. It is humpless. The gaur has a hump. The gaur bulls and caws are dark brown. The kouprey bulls are black and the cows are grey.'
And so in 1937 a live kouprey arrived in Europe, into the Parisian zoo.
It all began when Professor A. Urben, the director of the Parisian zoo, while travelling through Indochina, saw magnificent bull horns in the house of the local veterinarian, where he had stayed. But these horns were not of a buffalo, a gaur, a banteng or a gayal - it was clear to him. But whose, then? His host, the veterinary R. Sovel, organized a hunt for these bulls. They caught a young grey bull and shot an adult. After examining the trophy, A. Urben decided that the 'grey bull' is a new bull. He named it in honour of R. Sovel.
But this was not the end of the 'grey bull's' story. The young kouprey, brought to the Parisian zoo, died during WWII. During the occupational havoc the bones and hide of the kouprey, priceless to science, were lost.
But the scientists now knew that the mysterious forest bull was not a myth. Young enthusiasts went to hunt him into the montane woodlands of Myanmar and Indochina even at the beginning of war. In 1940, in Cambodia, another kouprey was acquired. Its bones and skull, again closely examined by the scientists, are now kept in Harvard museum of comparative zoology.
The kouprey is taller than the Asian buffalo, the banteng and the other bulls of its' homeland. The height in the nape is 1 m 90 cm. It has long lyre-like horns and tall, slim legs. The hide is velveteen, black, and the legs are white from the hooves up to the knees. So why is it called grey?
Only the cows and the juvenile animals are grey. One or two black bulls usually accompany this 'grey company'. Naturally, that usually it is the grey, not the black members of the herd bring attention upon themselves.
The koupreys live in sparse forests on the mountainsides of Cambodia, Laos, and possibly, of the neighbouring countries.
In 1940, herds of koupreys numbering approximately a thousand animals were found. Lately, no one saw them; it is possible that the war in Vietnam brought death to the koupreys as well.
Five more species of real bulls live in South Asia: the gaur, the gayal, the banteng, the yak and the zebu.
In height the gaur, perhaps, even taller than the kouprey: the old bulls reach two meters twenty centimetres in the nape and weight a ton. The bulls and the cows are dark brown, almost black, with white legs. Upon the nape the gaurs have a hump, not as big as the zebu's, but from the in-side it is supported by long, axal outgrowths of backbone vertebrae (the zebu's hump lacks bony, so to say, supports). The gaur herds graze during the morning and the evening in the mountain forests of India, Myanmar and Malaya. During the heat of the day they rest in the depths of the forest. The gaurs are courageous and strong, able to stand their ground against tiger and human.
The gayal is the domestic bull of Myanmar and Assam. It does not exist anywhere in the wild. Possibly the gayal is the domesticated descendant of the gaur. The horns of the gayal are thick, spread straight to the sides, not lyre-like as the gaur's are. By itself the bull is low-slung (about one and a half meters in height), with a wide forehead, black-brown in colour, with white legs and a white brush upon the tail.
The banteng is the wild forest bull of Myanmar, Malaya, Java, Borneo and Bali. It is distin-guished from all the bulls by a big white spot under tail, similar to the 'mirror' of the deer. Height-wise it is the same as the gayal, dark brown, without a dewlap, a shoulder hump, and its horns are not bent lyre-like. The legs below the knees are white. During the dry seasons the banteng herds descend into the valleys. When the clouds bring the rains, they go up into the montane woodlands. They dwell in drier regions that the gaurs and can spend lot of time between drinks. They graze at night, hiding during the days in the depths of the forest. When the bantengs are resting, then, the people say, they lie in a circle, with their heads outwards, and some cow stands in the center, on guard. With a strike of a hoof it warns about a danger and the herd immediately goes far away from suspicious noises and smells. The bantengs are cautious, meek, nowhere as brave and dangerous as the gaurs. Domesticated bantengs live on Java and Bali.
The yak is a bull of high mountains. The wild yaks still live in Tibet on uninhabited mountaintops. A wild yak is almost twice as big as a domesticated one: it reaches up to two meters in the nape, weighs half a ton. The black-brown fur of the yak drops from the sides in a long downward fringe. The calves, which are born in the autumn, hide from bad weather under the mothers' bellies; they hide under the protection of this woollen drapery.
The zebus are the 'holy cows' of India. They wander through the roads and the streets of vil-lages and cities, and no one dares to bother them. Religion forbids murdering and eating zebu meat. The zebu has a big hump on its back and a big dewlap, its coloration is brown, grey, red or black. There are more than thirty different races and breeds of zebus in India. Some of them are introduced in USA; here they are hybridized with shorthorns, Herefords, and other pedigree de-scendants of the auroch. The zebus and their hybrids easily endure heat and insect bites. The wild zebus do not exist and their ancestors are unknown.
The anoa, the dwarf buffalo of Celebes, is the smallest of the bulls and buffalos: one meter high in the shoulders. Its color is black-brown, its horns are short. The calves have dense yellowish-brown fur, but the adult bulls and cows are almost hairless. Two races (possibly, two different species) of the anoa live in dense lowland and mountain forests, usually next to water, they love to swim and roll in the mud. The tamaraw is the closest relative of the anoa, it lives in the montane forests of the Mindoro island (the Philippines), but it does not love water, does not bathe, does not even wallow in mud, and when it rains, the tamaraw hides under trees. In the mornings the tamaraw graze in solitude (the anoa - also in solitude or in pairs), but during the heat, after noon, they gather in small groups in the shadow of the dense forest. The tamaraw is an endangered species; they remain, as it has supposed, no more than 250 in number.
The true buffalos number two species - the Asian and the African, which is often called the Cape buffalo. The domestic Asian buffalos may be met in many southern countries from Egypt to the Philippines, from the Caucasus to Indonesia. They pull the plows, carry loads, produce high quality milk, but their meat is not that good. Excellent leather is made from their hides. The buffalos love their master, are very obedient, and even children easily control the huge bulls. They love water to oblivion, are excellent swimmers, when cooling-off they lie in the water for hours, often putting only the nostrils out of the water. Thus they save themselves from insects.
The buffalos hate the tigers, and smelling the smell of the striped beast, charge it by the entire herd. From a fight with a tiger, the buffalo-bull usually emerges victorious.
The wild buffalos still live in Nepal, Bengal and Assam. However, some zoologists assume that these are not wild, but feral domestic buffalos. The horns of the Asian buffalo are huge, more than a meter in length, curving back lyre-like.
The African buffalo's horns are shorter but are more curved, widened on the forehead and are thickened by a bullet-proof 'helmet', The African buffalo is lower than the Asian, one and half meters high in the nape, but are more massive, weigh more than 600-900 kg (the Asian - around 800). It is dark brown or black, the fur of the young animals is dense, almost absent in the old ones. The ears are very big, dropping and furry. Although the Cape buffalo is massive, but it is a fast runner: up to 60 km/h. In Africa, the hunters believe it to be the most dangerous animal: it often attacks first, while when wounded, it almost always attacks, stamps, gores with the horns. It cannot be stopped by neither shots nor new wounds, and it is hard to hide behind a tree or in the shrubs, for, when infuriated, the buffalo, possessing an excellent sense of smell, will not rest, until it finds and kills its enemy.
Herds of buffalos, which can number from ten to two thousand animals, are still grazing in African savannahs south of the Sahara. During the day they rest in scrublands and copses, in mornings and evenings they go where grass and fresh foliage is present. The buffalos are big drinkers and excellent swimmers.
The smaller subspecies of the Cape buffalo - the dwarf forest buffalo lives in the forests of Central and Western Africa.
Various antelopes, great and small, gazelles and duikers, number about 90 species. The majority of them dwell in Africa. Several species live in Asia, and one species from the group of the an-cient antelopes - in western North America. It is the pronghorn. Although it is called an antelope, but it belongs to a special family, not to the bovids as the other antelopes do (saigas, gorals and chamois are also called antelopes, though systematically they belong to the caprid subfamily).
Unlike in case of the true antelopes of the Old World, the pronghorns' horns (in both females and males) are forked, like those of the deer. Annually (in October) the beasts shed them and new ones grow in July. They, like sheaths, sit on bony cores - outgrowths of the forehead. The pronghorns' vision is excellent: they see the animal from several km away but do not flee until they smell it, thus they can be approached closely. When frightened, they ruffle the white fur on the 'mirror', and to such an extent that their butts resemble fluffy balls.
Among the Asian antelopes the nilgai, or the blue bull, is the biggest: up to 1.5 m in the shoul-ders. 'Nilgai' and 'blue bull' mean the same thing. The males are truly bluish-grey, but the fe-males are reddish-brown. Only the males have short horns, and they are also different from the females by a knot of long fur below on the neck. The nilgai have interesting duelling rules: the males head butt while kneeling. There are still plenty of nilgai in the central regions of India: they graze in the hillside and lowland sparse woodland, visiting the jungles, and occasionally - the open steppe.
In Asia the nilgai have no close relatives other than the four-horned antelope. There are more in Africa: the kudu, the nyala, the bongo, the eland.
^nbsp; The four-horned antelope is the only four-horned mammal in the bovid family. It is brownish in color, and modest in height: 60 cm. It lives (by itself or in pairs) in sparse forests on the Hindu-stan peninsula. Only the males bear two small horns on the top of the head and two smaller ones on the forehead.
The kudu and 8 other African species (the lesser kudu, the bongo, the sitatunga, the nyala, the mountain nyala, the eland, the giant eland and the bushbuck) belong to the group of the tragelaphid antelopes. Most of them have white stripes on their sides, the bushbuck - white spots. The greater kudus live in the rocky bushland. Only the males of the species have horns. The lesser kudu live in Africa's northeast.
The eland is the biggest antelope: around 2 m in the shoulders, and the bulls of the species weight up to a tonne. Both males and females bear the almost 1 m long, spirally twisted horns. The giant eland from Sudan and Western Africa is even bigger than the common eland and lives in more overgrown areas. The elands are not mean, and are easily tamed. In Africa such experiments happened often, and in Askania-Nova the elands are milked as if they were cows. Their milk is very nutritious and as the 'molkan' medicine is applied against certain intestinal and dermatological diseases.
The hartebeest from the alcelphinid group, that numbers, aside from the two species of wildebeest, six live and two extinct species (kaam from South Africa and the bubalus from Northern Arabia). The topi is similar to the hartebeest, but they have yellow legs with bluish-black spots on the thighs. The topi males love to play and fight, each has its own trampled down spot for games that it keeps to itself and the others constantly try to intrude upon it. People say about the hartebeest that their herds, when they are grazing, set guards and the latter, to see better, climb onto tall termite mounds. The sasasabi, another alcelphinid antelope, is considered to be the fastest mammal in the world after the cheetah.
The wildebeest has something bovine in its shape, its mane and tail are horse-like, and its strange and bizarre external appearance - are like those of a fantastic faun. In Africa there are two species of wildebeest - the white-tailed, which is almost extinct, there are just some left in South-West Africa and the blue. The latter has two subspecies: the black-bearded (South Africa) and the white-bearded (East Africa). The wildebeests, just like the saigas, are excellent runners.
The group of hippotragin antelopes consists of six species: three oryxes, the North African addax, the roan and the black antelopes. The black antelope has both black males and females, the roan does not. The currently rare subspecies from Angola - the giant black antelope - has horns up to 1.5 m long! The black antelopes prefer water-rich forests to the dry savannahs, weigh up to 300 kg.
The oryxes number three species: the white Arabian oryx that is almost exterminated, the scimitar oryx (the deserts of North Africa) and the common oryx (East and South Africa). The last one has two subspecies: the East African white-legged oryx (with a narrow black stripe on its sides) and the South African oryx (blacklegged, with a wide black stripe on its sides). The oryxes almost do not drink water, using instead juices of bulbs and tubers. Their males, when fighting each other, strictly adhere to the knightly rules: they do not stab each other with sharp horns, but just fence with them.
The neotragine antelopes are the smallest antelopes, and among them the royal antelope or the pygmy neotragus is the tiniest, as big as a hare: 25-30 cm in the nape. Its legs are no thicker than a pinky finger, and the hooves are as big as a hand nail. Only the males have inch-long horns. Almost nothing is known about the life of the royal antelopes. They graze at night by themselves or in pairs among the dense forests of West Africa. Beit's dwarf antelope and suni are its closest relatives. The tiny dik-dik and the Beira antelope are also neotragines.
The duikers, just as the neotragines, are small antelopes that live in the shrubs that grow alongside river shores. They are very discreet and can only be forced into an open space. Aside from leaves and berries they also eat insects, snails and frogs. In Africa there are 16 species of duiker plus one more on Zanzibar.
Formerly in the tropical Africa, in places with dense and tall grass, lived many oribi antelopes that are systematically divided into three species. Now the oribi are rare everywhere. The live in pairs, more rarely they gather into small groups. They hide from the enemies by lying on the ground and stretching out the neck and the head with long ears before themselves. And though these antelopes are not small (80-90 cm in the nape), they are almost impossible to see. Only the males have horns.
The last winter of WWII brought the Mongolian gazelles great challenges. The quiet country, protected from the bad weather with firm rows of mountains, collapsed under snow. The inhabitants of the heartlands saw in December herds of exhausted Mongolian gazelles, which were moving through heaps of snow northwards. Forests arose in the animals' paths, and the Mongolian gazelles, without hesitation, entered them.
It is an unusual case. Forest and Mongolian gazelle are incompatible. And in general, all the gazelles, African and Asian, avoid the dense forests.
During that tough year, the Mongolian gazelles travelled a long way. Their summer pastures are in the east of the country, and in winter, they usually move to the south, into the wide, overgrown with mugwort, steppes. They acted in the same manner this time too, but in the steppes, they encountered unexpected snowfalls, they had to turn contrary to the ancient migration traditions.
All traits of the gazelles identify them as inhabitants of open, hard ground, country. Their coloring is most usually monotonous, brownish or yellowish - 'of the desert'. No horizontal or vertical stripes, only sometimes the muzzles are covered in a white design. Many have a light 'mirror' on the behind, especially among the gazelles that live on the lands of the former USSR in Asia Minor, Transcaucasia (the goitered gazelle), in Transbaicalia, Chui steppes and in Tuva, (the Mongolian gazelle). The goitered gazelle's 'mirror' starts only at the base of its black tail and down-wards, the Mongolian gazelle's is on the rear - above the base of the light-colored tail.
The gazelles' hooves are truly small. The gazelle stands on them as if on tiptoes. Human sprinters know really well that you cannot go to high speed if you will run by pushing down with your entire sole. Ditto a gazelle, if it starts to run, will touch the ground with tips of its' hooves. And the results are thus: the Mongolian gazelle - 65 km/h, the goitered gazelle - 62. Moreover, as an example, the Mongolian gazelle is so enduring that it can run 15 km in such a tempo.
Such qualities are very important for those, whose home are wide-open spaces. The gazelles' hearing is excellent: they learn about an enemy's approach even through earth tremors - of course, often this is too late. Therefore, they have to go with a running start. Having run for 300 m, a gazelle stops and establishes: did it get scared in vain? If the danger is real, the gazelle trots, trying to move in a circle.
The homeland of most gazelles if Africa. And meanwhile, their ancestral homeland is Asia, or, more precisely - the Near East. However, from there, a million years ago, during the Late Pleistocene, they began to move westwards.
Whatever has happened, only recently, a certain Tamerlane, (known to many in the XV century), fed his soldiers with excellent gazelle meat; for that reason, the hunters killed 40 000 animals a year. The Mongolian 'horn of plenty' did not run out for a long time: just in the 1940s, Tamerlane's descendants outdid him, killing up to 100 000 Mongolian gazelles annually.
A lonely shrub among mugworts and salsolas. Seemingly, who could hide here, under this poor plant? However, indentations in the ground and piles of droppings at the edges will show that the gazelles' lair is precisely here. The animal here can hide only the head in the shadow of sparse branches, but apparently, that is enough: as the sun moves around the shrub, so does the gazelle. Here the goitered gazelle 'cools down' during the 7-10 of the hottest hours, often spending the night here as well. In the same manner, the gazelles protect themselves from overheating and sun-stroke - in the shadows of trees, rocks and ruins.
With hooves beating the dust, the gazelles flee by jumping. Their tails, (black in the goitered gazelles), are pulled upright, but not from the joy of an unexpected meeting. The raised tail is a signal of danger. Incidentally, the Mongolian gazelle does not raise its tail, (and it is dark only at the very tip). During winter and autumn, the goitered gazelles gather into large herds. In spring, under some shrub seen from a distance, you could possibly see their calves.
They lie on the bare ground and are unseen even a short distance away - they are colored so. The protections are not excessive. Because threats come even from the sky: golden eagles, vultures, long-legged buzzards, birds of prey of all sizes - those that are bigger bring down even adult gazelles. Four-legged carnivores, of course, do not lag behind the birds. Of course, the adult gazelles are saved by fleet feet (try to catch them!). However, for the calves even foxes are deadly.
The most dangerous time are the first five days. Then the gazelle calves are sure-footed. For two months, their mothers feed them with milk. And then they are independent. A goitered gazelle that is two months old can already walk wherever it wants.
The mating period of the goitered gazelle is in November - December. The males foresightedly build the so-called 'mating washrooms'. It will dig a small hole, drop the droppings there and cover it. This means that the male has established here the border of his domain and here it waits for the females, (the goitered gazelle is polygamous; a male can have up to five females). However, another male, finding the 'washroom', will destroy it in fury, will dig it up and scatter the droppings through the desert. Thus, it does not agree! The fights, naturally, follow.
There are many different gazelles in Africa.
Tommy, (the Thomson gazelle), is marked with a bright black horizontal stripe on its' sandy-brown sides, (and on the muzzle, from eye to the nose, are black stripes). The tail, too, is black and when they are arouse, the Thomson gazelles energetically twirl their tales - it is the 'attention' signal! Thomson gazelles often graze together with the larger Grant's gazelles and impalas. During the drought, they go for more than 140 km, into lands that have water and green grasses.
Just as the Thomson gazelle does have wide black stripes that form a water line between the white belly and the sandy sides, so does a bigger South African antelope - the springbok. The epithet of 'mountain' that is given to this antelope in some of the older works is a pure misunderstanding: the springboks gaze not on mountains, but in open steppes and deserts. In addition, the last part of its Russian name - the mountain runner - is not so good either: it is not a 'runner', but a 'jumper', for the springbok is famous for its' magnificent jumps. Its' average jump in 7 m long and 3 m high!
On the backs of these antelopes are folds of skin with white fur. When alarmed, springboks open these folds. They rise like white ridges over their backs. In addition, for the signal to be seen for a distance these antelopes jump 3 m above the ground and the savanna goes on alert. Zebras and gnus, gazelles and buffaloes listen in, smell in and hurry away from the spot where the springbok wave their 'white flags'.
ONCE UPON A TIME...
Once upon a time, old lady Earth had a Nubian, Pyrenean, Alps, screw-horned, Siberian, Caucasian, and wild... Precisely, a goat!
Regarding that 'the goal went to walk in the forests', those truthful pages will not mention it: all the eight species of wild goats are typical for mountain places, many of them even have a shared epithet of high scientific (not literary) meaning: mountain.
However, possessing exceptional mobility, the goats regularly descend downwards. The reasons are monotonous: unpassable snow blocks, search of food, water, salt hunger.
'Capricorns, pursued by an uncontrollable salt hunter, raced during the nights there, where their ancestors raced year after year, - into the steppe, to the salt swamps' (Kiyas Medjidov, Lezgin writer).
Here one small clarification is necessary. The professor V. Geptner believes that the astronomic 'Capricorns' is a wrong name: 'Not Capricorns, i.e. some animals with goat horns, but the very real goats'.
Anyhow, even if goats get to live on forested mountainsides, then they, as a rule, hang close to steep naked cliffs: they feel more confident, when there's stone underhoof. Their fingers, enclosed into a hard horn shoe, are elastic, rough and sensitive to touch with hard objects, as a rough palm of a woodworker is.
Apparently, due to constant hanging around with the stiff 'scars of the planet', the goats owe their coloration as well: they are monotonous, of brownish and grey colors, to match the stones.
The history of these beasts is simple and again was defined because of their love to mountain places. The homeland of the goats is considered Asia. From there, very slow, tried to remain close to the mountaintops, the goats moved out to east and west. They settled in new lands so slowly, that they were able to evolve along the way, forming new species and subspecies. Regardless, they were able to settle even in England, (where they were later destroyed), and some of the Capricorns, aka the ibexes-the mountain goats, moved to Africa as well. Therefore, it is in modern times: some live in Eurasia, (the Pyrenees, Alps, Central and Middle Asia, Siberia), and the others back on the African continent, in Nubia.
Of course, now, when so much time has passed, the painted picture of the spreading of the mountain goats may be only hypothetical, but it is convenient to draw a line of comparisons between the other species.
First, some words about the shared traits.
They are similar in weight, (mature males - 80-100 kg), size (up to a meter or somewhat more). Their body build is compact. There is no naked 'nose' at the tip of the snout unlike a cow. Males have glands beneath tails that emit scents, it is called 'specific', but it is simply intolerable. (These glands are 'at the sides of the anal opening' or 'on the lower surface of the tail', as various specialists write. Where it is exactly - let them settle it themselves).
The wild goat (Crete, Turkey, Caucasus, Southern Turkmenia, and Iran) is considered the ancestor of the domestic goat. Its' horns are as long as a human arm, sharply bent backwards, like the tracks of old-fashioned sleds. The front rib of the horn is sharp and studded with notches. There is a dark brown stripe on the backbone and a dense, truly 'patriarchal' beard to complete the animal's appearance. The beard, incidentally, brought him an additional nickname - 'bearded'.
However, if we are talking about nicknames, then the first - old time, book name has to be mentioned. The word 'bezoar' signifies something akin to a ball of stuck hairs, which ended up in the ungulate's stomach with their food, (something akin to the worked-over squid beaks in a sperm whale's gut). This side effect of ungulates' digestion, (in particular - goats), earlier was considered to be almost magical, so many various healing properties were associated with it. It helped with infertility and stomach diseases. In Russia, according to the professor V. Geptner, it was called 'the bezar-rock'. Easily influenced Nikon complained to the czar Alexei Mikhailovich, that he, apparently, survived a poisoning attempt: 'Barely made it with the bezoar'. (...)
If we're to follow the accepted by us primitive scheme of the goat distribution, then it turns out that from some ancient bearded beast the Siberian mountain goat ibex moved to the east, (the biggest, but in that direction even the animals grew better), and to the west - the Alps and the Nubian goat, (also from the ibex subgenus). Their horns, as those of the wild goat, are sharply bent back, but instead of sharp notches - rounded horizontal bumps, therefore we can compare such a horn with a wooden board with a handle, that in the old times was used by women to help wash their clothing in rivers.
The screw horn goat, supposedly, did not go away anywhere from its 'established' (by the paleontologists) ancestor. Maybe, it is the 'ancestor' itself: it got a really aged appearance - a beard and more importantly, the big mane on the neck, chest and shoulders. The horns are screws more than a meter long. However, one of the goat's named - 'markhor' - interprets such shape of horns very romantically: 'mar' in Cashmere means 'snake'. Moreover, in Persian 'markhor' means 'snake eater'. However, no one yet proved that this goat, even on occasion, eats snakes.
Markhors live in northern India, in Afghanistan, in the mountains of Central Asia, (but no on the Pamir!). They are few in number. On the territory of the former USSR these goats number around a thousand, at that they were protected for 50 years, and they were almost unable to increase their numbers.
And, finally, the turs. They, (the West Caucasian and the East Caucasian species or subspecies are not connected to the Aurochs cattle at all) live only on the territory of the former USSR, their areal is narrow, (only the Main Caucasian ridge and attached environs). The turs externally are slightly similar to sheep, their horns are spread to the sides, to look from a distance - it is as if there are two petals of a herald lily on the animal's head. In milk production, the female tur holds the first place among the wild goats: almost a litre a day. The tur kid, on the next day after its' birth, can outrun a professional sprinter.
The turs menu has 130 plant species, (the Siberian ibex - only 80). They graze both high and low. Plus, sometimes they descend from the mountains very amusingly: they sit on their butts and sled down as children do. In addition, they dig their food from beneath the snow - a rare craft among the goats.
In 1917, in Crimea, after four weeks in captivity in enclosure, a small herd of mouflons, immi-grants from Corsica, (three were mixed-breed with the domestic sheep), got their freedom. Of course, it was not heavenly manna that awaited the sheep, but a responsible struggle for survival. The animals, however, bravely headed for the mountains, so that 23 years later they would become a respectable herd, (500 animals) of almost pureblood mouflons.
However, this happened later. Moreover, initially they were on occasion met on mountain passes and highland meadows. They held together, their leader was a female of... the West Caucasian tur.
Note, a tur - i.e. a goat, not a sheep!
Faced with such a promising fact one can at least suppose that lives and habits of goats and sheep are very similar. The bharal, (also called the naur), the ancient native of Central Asia is so similar to both the tur and the sheep, that it confirms the old genetic ties of both.
The seven species of wild sheep are classified by the taxonomists into four groups or subgenera: the true sheep (argali, mouflons), snow sheep, (Siberian and American bighorn sheep), the maned sheep, (slightly similar to the tur, lives in the mountains of North Africa) and the already mentioned bharal, or the blue sheep.
Bighorn sheep live in North American and North-Eastern Asia. The mouflons, (two species - European and Asian) - in Central Asia, Middle Asia and Near East, and also in Transcaucasia and on the Mediterranean islands. They also are acclimatized in many European countries, and in the former USSR - in Crimea and is Askania-Nova.
The argali live in Central and Middle Asia, as well as on Altai and Tuva mountains.
Lately some zoologists suggest uniting the mouflons and the argali into a single species with many subspecies. Differences in taxonomy occur certainly not because of some important differences between the sheep. No, their surprising, incomparable difference is only in the area of weight categories. For example, the smallest of these sheep can weigh 40 kg, and the biggest - 200. The horns are also different: from 67 to 190 cm. This is the difference only of the length, and in volume, one horn is bigger than another one is 12 times!
Sheep are mountain animals. They love valleys, smoothed by rockslides, straightforward grassy platoe, mountaintops weighted down by a layer of soil and vegetation - in general, such places where there is space to run at a good speed, to look around for a great distance. The snow sheep can handle both cliffs and rockslides. They often find their food where not every mountain climber will go. The mouflons are neighbours of people. The snow sheep live in lands that were not inhabited for a long time.
Therefore, apparently, the snow sheep did not participate in the giant selection work that human breeders did for millennia.
Argali and mouflons are ancestors of 150 breed of sheep.
Countries protect the mountain sheep. Their genetic potential is not yet tapped out. For only recently by adding the argali bloodline were the new breed of sheep created - the argalimerinos that do not need to be fed: they graze all year round on mountain meadows. When time comes, they give high quality fur and meat.
The snow sheep are ungulates for whom the Polar circle is no magic circle. In many ways, a snow sheep is very 'economic'. It makes do with 40 species of plants, at that the lichens, branches of dwarf birches, various mosses sustain it quite well. It lives on mountain tundra pastures, but feels well at the sea level too. It deals with bad weather. American scientists hybridised the snow sheep with its' domestic relatives. The results are positive.