Significance to humans

All species were hunted, and some such as wisent and bison were especially important for European and North American hunters from Paleolithic to historic times. Today, local peoples still hunt members of the Bovinae for food, and trophy hunters value the species with large horns.

Three species of Bovinae are important domestic species. The most common and widespread is cattle (Bos taurus), first domesticated probably some 6,000 years ago. Domestic cattle are represented by numerous breeds around the world and have been bred for meat, milk, hides, as well as draught animals. They are more suited to temperate than tropical regions, although zebu or humped cattle are well adapted to hot climates. Water buffalo is the next most common domestic Bovinae, and, like its wild form, is an animal best suited to tropical regions with high rainfall. Like domestic cattle, water buffalo are kept for their milk, meat, and hides, and provide power primarily for plowing. The yak is of major importance in the high mountain regions of Tibet, Northern India, Nepal, and Afghanistan, where it is well adapted to elevations above 10,000 ft (2,500 m) above sea level. It is also crossed with domestic cattle to create hybrids that are more suitable to lower mountain elevations. Yak and the hybrids are used as beasts of burden to carry loads and plow fields, but also supply milk and sometimes meat. Their hair is valued and is woven into material used for such purposes as making tents.

1. Yak (Bos grunniens); 2. Water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis); 3. Chousing ha (Tetracerus quadricornis); 4. Female Highland cattle (Bos taurus). (Illustration by Joseph E. Trumpey)

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