4068690Description of, and Natural History Notes on, the Burmese Wild Bull1897Henry S. Wood
No. 677.—November, 1897.
DESCRIPTION OF, AND NATURAL HISTORY NOTES ON, THE BURMESE WILD BULL.
By Henry S. Wood, Surgeon-Captain, 44th Gurkhas.
Bos sondaicus is found in some parts of Burmah, and also in Sumatra and Java. It occurs in great numbers in the huge forests and grass-lands which lie between the Manipur and Burmese territories, that is, in the Kubbo-Kalé valley; and my observations have all been taken from specimens which I have obtained there. In my various hunting trips I have only managed to bag three of these animals, one being a magnificent Bull, whose description and measurements I give in detail. Although plentiful, these animals are so shy and their senses of sight, smell, and hearing so acute, that they are very difficult to approach. The Burmese name for Bos sondaicus is "Tsoing" or "Tsine"; Manipuri, "Lumsun Angangha"; in Java it is known as the "Banting." It would be interesting to know whether the animals found in Java and Burmah are identical in all details of colouring, &c. This animal is a handsome beast, and is much dreaded by the Burmese, who seldom hunt it. The hill tribes, however, trap the animal in pit-falls, and sometimes shoot it with arrows poisoned with aconite. A wounded Tsine will charge viciously; and the only way to escape from it when unarmed is to lie flat on the ground. It strikes with its feet as well as with its horns, and can inflict serious wounds, the tips of the horns being very sharp and, in Bulls, curved backwards. There is also this tendency of the horns to curve backwards in old Cows. The colouring of an adult Bull and adult Cow are so unlike that at first one would think they were different species. A separate description of each may, therefore, be useful. These animals are found in herds varying from ten to thirty in number; and in the large herds there are generally found two or three small Bulls whose heads are not worth obtaining. The largest horns, as is the case in other bovine animals, are found in solitary Bulls who keep to themselves, and only occasionally mix with the Cows during the breeding season. When the green grass sprouts up, after the yearly fires, the old Bulls wander over large areas, and seldom remain in the same locality for two successive days; while, like the Bison, they are almost always on the move, feeding as they go along, and only lying down during the day when the sun is hottest. The Tsine can go for days without water, and the Burmese say that they only drink once in seven days. I have come across herds in absolutely dry districts, miles away from water. Another peculiarity of the Tsine is that it does not seem to mind the bites of the Gad or Horsefly, with which the teak forests abound at the beginning of the monsoon. The wild Buffalo, which has apparently a much tougher skin, is almost driven mad by these pests, and is compelled to take to the rivers and swamps to avoid them; whereas the Tsine will never resort to the water, but prefers to lie down in the forest surrounded by these buzzing tormentors, when no doubt its long and bushy tail assists in driving off the blood-suckers. During the rains these animals betake themselves to the low hills, where they feed on the bamboo, with which the hills are covered; and after the yearly fires they all descend into the valley, and wander through the vast teak forests. Unlike the Bison, they never come down to the rice fields of the villagers, and this is probably owing to their extreme shyness. The Cow calves during the rains, and the young is of a light red colour, only one being produced at a birth. At the beginning of the rains Tsine are always to be found at the foot of the low hills, where they browse on the tender new bamboo shoots. These animals also travel great distances to visit the so-called "salt licks," one or two of which are generally found in places where the species is obtained, though many of these "salt licks" are nothing more than a mixture of mud and water which has a slightly saline taste. These "salt licks" are also visited by hundreds of Parrots, Green and Imperial Pigeons; and also by Elephants, Bisons, Pigs, and Sambar. The Tsine is often shot at these places by the hunter, who squats up in a tree close by. Bison and Tsine are never met together in a herd, although I have found both beasts within the radius of a mile of each other. The spoor of the Tsine is heart-shaped, and very pointed anteriorly, quite unlike the track of a Bison: this is owing to the hoofs of the former being much more pointed and Deer-like. These animals, either when feeding or lying down, always have a sentry, generally a Cow. When lying down they generally rest in a circle; and when the sentry suspects danger she either stamps her foot or gets up; and with a "psheu" and a snort the whole herd stampede with their tails in the air. Thus alarmed they go miles before stopping, and it is useless pursuing them under such circumstances. They are always in good condition, although at times subject to cattle disease. All specimens which I have shot had splendid coats, smooth and shining, like that of a well-groomed horse. The skin is much prized by the Burmans for making shoes. The under parts of the body in one Cow were covered with small warts, varying in size from that of a pea to a hazel-nut. The neck of the Bull is generally covered with scars, the result of wounds received in combat. The genital organs, too, in the Bull, are covered with huge ticks. In the paunch of this animal, mixed up with the grass, I have seen hundreds of a peculiar looking parasite, which in some cases are in such numbers that the stomach seems to be lined with them. These parasites are bladder-shaped, one-fourth of an inch long, and are of two kinds—one red, and the other white; they seem to adhere to the villi of the stomach, and feed on the blood or its serum; each has a distinct sucker like a leech, but they die very soon after exposure to the air. I have seen the same parasite in the stomachs of other animals, Sambar, &c.; but notably in the Tsine and Eld's Deer, Cervus eldi. These parasites do not seem to affect the animal's health, as they were always well conditioned, sleek, and fat. The human stomach is also said to be infected by this peculiar parasite, but I have never seen a case.
Description and Details of Bull Tsoing.
The general colour of this Bull was of a light red, fading and becoming lighter as the flanks and under surface of the body were approached; here the colour was almost greyish, intermixed here and there with white; the inside of the thighs was of a yellowish grey, where the skin was almost devoid of hair, and here also secretes an unctuous brown substance resembling the wax of the ear.
Fig. 1.—Skull and Horns: Bull Tsoing. Length of left horn, 33½ in. Length of right horn, 31 in. Girth of left horn, 17 in. Girth of right horn, 16 in.
The inside of the fore legs and under parts of the chest were of a greyish white, and the anterior portion of the fore leg from the knee upwards of a reddish black colour; this tint is also slightly marked in the hind legs. There was just a vestige of a dewlap, this being about three inches in its greatest breadth. Under surface of the chest a lightish yellow colour, intermixed with grey. The hair of the skin was short and glossy in the redder parts, but coarse and thick in the grey parts; on the belly the skin was about half an inch thick, but nearly one inch thick on the neck; the surface of the body pitted and scarred here and there from bites of insects and wounds received in battle; there were four rudimentary mammæ, half an inch in length, situated in front of the scrotum, two on each side of the mesial line, and of a saffron colour. The scrotum was covered with a fine silky greyish hair. The upper part of the head anteriorly and at the sides was of a tawny white; the under parts were much lighter, being almost grey; the muzzle greyish black; the neck reddish brown. Lips greyish white, covered with black bristles; and the lower lip had a fringe of long grey hairs projecting from its under surface. The tail has a distinct reddish brown tuft. The ears are comparatively small, when compared with those of the Cow: upper parts of ears reddish brown, posteriorly greyish white, tips and anterior edges jet black; greyish white hairs of considerable length projecting inwards from the anterior border; the interior of the auricle is of a saffron colour; the left ear was split in four places, the largest being six inches in length; colour round eyes greyish white, eyelashes black; fleshy parts of nose also black. Eyes: irides brown; cornea bluish white. The incisors of the lower jaw were loose and considerably worn down, showing that the Bull was probably an old one, perhaps twenty years of age. There was a most curious condition at the upper part of the head over the frontal region, where, instead of a skin covered with hair, there was a thickened portion of skin devoid of hair, and of a greyish black colour; its general surface was smooth, but in patches very warty like the skin of a Rhinoceros. This curious portion of skin extended like a chaplet over the head; the area it occupied would be represented in the dry skull by lines drawn between the upper parts of the orbit and between the bases of horns at the top of the skull; between the horns this cuticle formed a distinct projection or crest; this covering was soft on pressure and slightly moveable. This skin evidently forms a most excellent cushion for breaking the shock of any concussion on the forehead, e.g. as in fighting. The reason of its being present in the Tsine is that the bones of the skull are much thinner and less massive than those of the Bison or Buffalo; it is merely a protection to the brain. This skin on dissection was found to be more than two inches thick, and very adherent to the bone; the horns, too, are evidently secreted from the outer part of this cuticle. There is a distinct dorsal ridge, which ends abruptly about the middle of the back, but no distinct hump.
The above description is taken from a Bull which I shot at Tammu, N.E. Frontier, on the 28th of June, 1896.
The section of a horn represents more an oval than a cylinder. The general colour of the horns is of a semi-transparent green, except the tips, which are jet black for about six inches, and the bases, which are very rough, irregular, gnarled, ringed, and rugged, and also black in colour. The horns gradually taper to a very sharp point; their direction being—(1) backwards and outwards; (2) forwards and upwards; (3) backwards, the tips looking almost directly back.
Description and Details of Cow Tsoing.
The description is taken from a Cow which I shot at Tammu (Kubo-Kalé Valley) on the 28th of June, 1896. It was an extremely handsome, well-bred looking beast, in appearance half Antelope, half Cow.
Fig. 2.—Skull and Horns: Cow Tsoing. Length of left horn, 15 in. Length of right horn, 15½ in. Girth of left horn, 7½ in. Girth of right horn, 7½ in.
The general colour was light red, but as the upper parts near the back and buttocks were approached the red became darker, being almost a reddish brown. As the under parts were reached the red colouring became fainter and fainter, gradually merging into white. The inside of fore legs and hind legs as also the belly were of a whitish colour; this was also noticeable on the under surface of the neck and on the lower jaw. The fore legs and hind legs for about four inches above the knee and hock respectively to the fetlock were of a whitish colour. There was a distinct dorsal ridge, which terminated abruptly about the middle of the back, where there was a distinct projection. Two very noticeable features were:—1. A dark black band which passed backwards along the spine from the termination of the dorsal ridge to the root of the tail; this band was about two inches broad at its commencement, but gradually tapered off until it was lost at the root of the tail. 2. A large round white patch on the posterior aspect of each buttock; each patch being a foot in diameter. The upper portions of the head were of a light red colour; the white rings noticed by Col. Pollock round the eyes were not present. The head was very game-like; there was a well-marked reddish black tuft at the end of the tail. The ears were very large, expanded at the extremity, and mobile; they were of a light red colour, the anterior borders being fringed with long greyish white hairs. The lips and muzzle were of a greyish white colour. The hair of the skin was short, smooth, and glossy. The skin close to the mammæ and that of the inside of the ears was destitute of hair, and of a light yellow colour. The great length of the animal was a striking feature.
The colour of the horns was of a semi-transparent blackish green ; the colour of the tips for about four inches was of a jet black. On minute examination numerous fine greyish white lines were seen running longitudinally downwards through the dark horny material ; posteriorly near the base of the horns the colour was almost yellow. At the bases the horns were distinctly ringed in a regular manner ; the horns above these rings were beautifully smooth, and terminated in fine tips. In the fresh specimens, each horn terminated at the base in a bulbous prominence, owing to its being covered by a soft pachydermatous skin devoid of hair, and from which the horn was evidently secreted. The direction of the horns was:—(1) upwards and outwards; (2) inwards; (3) upwards and slightly backwards. In an older Cow which I shot, this backward direction of the horn was well marked; the same tendency—as noted before—occurs in the Bull.
The chief points of difference between the Bull and Cow will be found in the following table:—
Colour dark red; parts, espe- cially about head, greyish white.
Colour light red generally ; under parts white.
No dark line extending from ter- mination of dorsal ridge.
Dark line present.
Ear long, expanded.
Longer in proportion to height.
White patches on buttocks poste- riorly absent.
White patches present.
Black colouring on anterior as- pect of fore legs present.
Black colouring absent.
Black tip and anterior edges of ears present.
The same absent.
Chaplet of thick cuticle over frontal bone present.