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Zebus are a type of domestic cattle originating in South Asia, primarily in India. They are sometimes referred to as the “Sacred Cattle of India”. Zebu cattle are thought to be derived from Asian aurochs. The aurochs were a type of large wild cattle which inhabited Europe, Asia, and North Africa, but are now extinct. They survived in Europe until 1627.
They are characterized by a fatty hump on their shoulders, drooping ears and a large dewlap. They are highly adapted to high temperatures, and are farmed throughout the tropical countries, both as pure zebu and as hybrids with taurine cattle, the other main type of domestic cattle. Zebus are used as draught oxen, as dairy cattle, and as beef cattle, as well as for byproducts such as hides and dung for fuel and manure.
There are some 75 known breeds of zebu, split about evenly between African breeds and South Asian ones. Many breeds are complex mixtures of the zebu and various taurine types. Zebu were imported to Africa over many hundreds of years, and interbred with taurine cattle there. They were also imported into Brazil in the early twentieth century and crossbred with Charolais cattle, a European taurine breed.