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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



large ruminant animals of the family Bovidae, Artiodactyla order. They are closely related to buffalo. Oxen are characterized by heavy, bulky torsos, short necks, and short strong feet. The forward part of the upper lip lacks hair, and they have bare, moist muzzles. The tail is long and usually has a brush of long hair on the end. In many species the skin on the lower part of the neck and chest forms a hanging fold (the dewlap). The females have four teats. In distinction from buffalo, the horns of oxen are round and smooth and appear both on males and females (except for certain polled breeds of domestic cattle). Wild species of oxen are found in Europe, Asia, and North America. Numerous breeds of domestic cattle are distributed everywhere. Wild oxen live in tropical forests and the forest-steppe; they live in open steppe expanses and on desert plateaus, ranging from regions below sea level to elevations of 5,000 m. They are herd animals and feed on various types of vegetation. The females give birth to one calf. There are four genera of oxen: the true ox, the yak, the ox of the genus Bibos, and the bison.

True oxen (Bos) have no wild representatives. The large wild ox called the urus (Bos primigenius) belonged to this genus. Earlier they were widely distributed in Southeast Asia and in Europe. The last urus was killed in Europe in 1627. The urus was domesticated and became the forefather of some cattle (the gray Ukrainian, the Iaroslav, the Kholmogor, and other breeds).

Yaks (Poephagus) are represented by only one wild species, the yak (in Tibet and nearby regions). In a domesticated state they are found in the mountainous regions of Middle and Central Asia (in the USSR, mainly in Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, and Southern Siberia).

The ox of the genus Bibos includes three species of wild oxen from southern Asia—the gaur (the gayal is its domesticated form), the banteng (the domesticated form of the banteng are the so-called Bali cattle), and the gray ox, or kouprey (Bibos sauveli), which lives in the forests of Cambodia.

Bisons (Bison) include two wild species, the bison and the aurochs, which have not been domesticated.


Sokolov, I. I. Opyt estestvennoi klassifikatsii polorogikh. (Trudy Zoologicheskogo Inta AN SSR, vol. 14.) Moscow-Leningrad, 1953.
Sokolov, I. I. Kipytnye zveri. (Fauna SSSR: Mlekopitaiushchie, vol. 1, part 3.) Moscow-Leningrad, 1959.
Bogoliubskii, S. N. Proiskhozhdenie i preobrazovanie domashnikh zhivotnykh. Moscow, 1959.
Mlekopitaiushchie Sovetskogo Soiuza, vol. 1. Edited by V. G. Geptner and N. P. Naumov. Moscow, 1961.
Bohlken, H. “Vergleichende Untersuchungen an Wildrindern.” Zoologische Jahrbücher: Abteilung für allgemeine Zoologie and Physiologie, 1958, vol. 68, issue 1/2.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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