Physical characteristics

The smallest species of Bovinae is the chousingha, which weighs 36-45 lb (17-21 kg) and stands around 24 in (60 cm)

Two American bison bulls (Bison bison) spar in the National Bison Range, Montana, USA. (Photo by E & P Bauer. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)
Greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) males sparring in Etosha National Park, Namibia. (Photo by Michael P. Fogden. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

at the shoulder. However, most species of Bovinae are medium to large ungulates, ranging up to 2,600 lb (1,200 kg), and several stand over 78 in (2 m) at the shoulder.

Males in all but one species of Bovinae have horns. In most of these species, females have smaller horns. This subfamily includes the only living artiodactyl with more than two horns. Male chousingha, also called the four-horned antelope, possess two pairs of short, sharp horns. Horn shape and relative size vary among species. Tragelaphines have long spiral-shaped horns with smooth surfaces, whereas the wild cattle, African buffalo, and smaller Asian (water) buffalo have shorter, smooth, curved, and often stout horns. Water buffalo have very large curved horns that are often ridged towards the base, while the saola's horns are straight and smooth.

Glands are limited in the Bovinae. The chousingha is the only member of this subfamily with pre- or ant-orbital glands in front of the eyes. Other Bovinae also lack pedal glands.

Most species of tragelaphins have a coat with several thin, white, vertical stripes, and some also have white spots. The contrasting white markings of tragelaphins probably act as disruptive patterns that help camouflage the animal by

A bison (Bison bison) mother with calf in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. (Photo by E & P Bauer. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

breaking up the body outline against the bush and forests they inhabit. In contrast, the eland, although a tragelaphin, is not striped and it inhabits open habitats where disruptive pelage would have little adaptive value. The largest members of the subfamily (e.g., American bison, water buffalo, African buffalo, and members of the genus Bos) have uniformly dark body pelage, although the lower legs of some species are light colored.

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