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What Is a Wild Cow?

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Most folks are familiar with the domesticated cattle that make themselves at home in pastures across the United States. The various species of wild cows that live in other parts of the world belong to the same Bovidae family as domesticated breeds.

Cape Buffalo

The Cape buffalo is grouped as one of the “Big Five” African animals, along with elephants, rhinos, lions and leopards. While normally tranquil when left alone, these massive animals have a reputation for being extremely dangerous to humans if they feel threatened. They’re easily recognized by their unique horns; instead of having two distinct horns, his sharp, curving horns connect on the top of his head. They’ll use their horns for dominance battles with other members of the herd, as well as fighting off predators. Cape buffaloes live in large herds, which can number into the thousands.


The gaur is the largest breed of wild cattle, weighing up to 3,300 pounds. They're brown with white legs and short, curving horns. Despite their massive size, their legs are very thin, and they sport high, ridged humps on their backs. They live in small herds in Vietnam and Cambodia. The gaur is endangered, having been widely hunted for their horns.


The banteng looks similar to domesticated cows. Due to a shy nature, they're not seen very often. They’re brown with white legs and a trademark white rump. Similar to the gaur, they have ridges on their backs, but they're smaller and only pronounced in full-grown males. While not as large as the gaur, they can still weigh in at a hefty 1,700 pounds. They live in Cambodia and Vietnam, and are an endangered species.

Wild Water Buffalo

Weighing up to an impressive 2,600 pounds, the Asian buffalo, or water buffalo, is one of the largest wild cattle. While there are domesticated breeds of water buffalo, wild buffalo still live in parts of Asia. They grow impressive horns, the largest of any cow, which can grow over 6 feet in length. They have large, splayed hooves that allow them to wade in water without sinking into the mud. Like other breeds of wild cattle, hunting and destruction of their habitat has led them to become endangered.