This chapter has short sections about several species in it. However, the reader should not presume that there is not much information on these species or that they are unimportant to the world’s peoples. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, there are fewer of them than the other species who got fuller consideration and they are more restricted in their distributions. One simply has to draw the line somewhere and this is one way to do so.
The domestic buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) is descended from the wild water buffalo (Bubalis arnee). The domestic buffalo found in different parts of the world are somewhat different from each other. Some have been subjected to very little selection, therefore the differences are probably because they are descended from different wild subspecies many of which are extinct. Others have been selected more for milk and others more for work. In recent years, they have been selected more for meat in certain parts of the world. This is especially true in South America.
The water buffalo is found primarily in hot, wet areas with subsistence or primitive levels of agriculture, especially associated with rice production. They are extremely important in these areas of the world, but are seldom found in any significant numbers as agricultural animals in other parts of the world. They are kept primarily for work, and more specifically for pulling plows. Buffalo have enormous strength, a docile temperament and the capacity for long sustained heavy work. They may be utilized to pull wagons or for riding, but their primary use is in field work and much of this in rice paddies. They are a valuable source of milk in Asia, and Italy (in Italy they are used to produce mozzarella cheese). They also contribute substantial quantities of meat. Most of the buffalo in Brazil are specialized meat-producing breeds. This is a relatively new phenomenon.
Although the water buffalo is primarily found in hot, humid areas, it is not very heat tolerant. One reason for the lack of heat tolerance is it has very few sweat glands, only 1/5 the number found in cattle. As a result, it can survive only if it has water in which it can wallow at frequent intervals to give up heat by conduction and to coat the skin with moisture to be evaporated. The two types of domestic water buffalo, swamp and river, derive their name from whether they prefer clean, running water (river type) or will wallow in mud holes (swamp type).
Distribution and Utilization of Buffalo
Table 15-1 presents the top countries of the world in numbers of buffalo. Most of the world buffalo population is found in Asia with just three countries, India, Pakistan and China having over 85% of the population. India is easily the leading country in numbers of buffalo. A few
European countries have some, most notably in Italy. The best mozzarella cheese to be had in Italy is made from buffalo milk. It generally sells for around $2-4 more per kilogram than that made from cow’s milk. In the last few years, buffalo herds have increased there. Once found primarily in southern Italy, mostly in the countryside surrounding Naples, there are now herds in northern Italy.
The water buffalo is not generally raised primarily as a source of meat. Their meat is utilized as a salvage situation through the slaughter of old, crippled, barren or excess animals. India, with well over half of the world’s buffalo, has traditionally done a poor job of harvesting the buffalo for meat. In recent years this has changed. While it still does not harvest a percentage of meat equal to its animal numbers, more is being harvested. Historically the low utilization of meat was indirectly the result of the religious prohibitions against the slaughter of cattle and consumption of beef. There are no similar prohibitions against the slaughter of buffalo, but the meat is so similar to beef that there are scruples against eating it. Also, for religious reasons many Hindus are vegetarian. The second reason is simply that these animals are more important as draft animals. There is an observable change in this low utilization, however. Meat production has steadily risen in the last two decades and India is now the major producer with 42% of the meat. Why this is so is not really known. It may simply be that the increasing population is forcing people to alter their philosophical stand on this issue. Figure 15-1 shows the trends in world buffalo meat production.
Milk is the second most important product of the buffalo and has been increasing rapidly in production (Figure 15-2). In Asia buffalo produce 33% of the milk consumed by people (over 50% in India). It is 7-8% fat and very nutritious. The rank in amount of milk produced is very similar to animal numbers. It is worth mentioning that Italy is ranked 9th in milk production.
The Advantages of the Buffalo Over Cattle
The buffalo is superior to cattle for work animals in the hot, humid regions where rice is grown in 2 ways:
• utilizing the coarse, low quality roughages, such as rice straw and
• working in low, wet areas, such as the rice paddies, where their feet must be in mud and water for long periods of time (cattle are more susceptible to foot rot).
Cattle are superior to buffalo in 3 major ways:
• eat tolerance, particularly to dry heat
• as work animals on dry ground because they are much faster, although not capable of pulling loads quite as heavy
• as producers of meat and milk.
The family Camelidae were domesticated about 4,000 to 6,000 years ago. Since their domestication, they have provided meat, milk, wool, manure for fuel, offerings to the gods, and hides to the desert- and mountain-dwelling peoples of the Eastern and Western Hemispheres.
There are six members of this family. The camel genus has two of them: the one-humped dromedary and the two-humped Bactrian camel. The llama genus includes the guanaco, the llama, and the alpaca, and the vicuna genus has just the vicuna. The camel family is commonly referred to as camelids and members of the llama and vicuna genus are called lamoids.
The Camelidae are very different but they also all share certain characteristics. They all have long necks, small heads and no horns or antlers. Each has a split upper lip similar to that of a rabbit’s. The camel is a ruminant (at least practically speaking) but its stomach has only three chambers, rather than the four other ruminants have. It can make good use of plant material because of its ruminant status and they graze many different species of plants. The red blood cells of camelids are oval, whereas in all other mammals they are circular which helps them survive in water-restricted areas of the world. Their feet have two toes, with a very flat hoof at the end of each. A thick, calloused pad forms the sole of the foot.
Dromedary and Bactrian Camel
Domesticated camelids are primarily found in Africa, Asia, and South America. There are also feral camels in Australia because they were used in the Outback as pack animals during the 19th century. Some of the descendants of these camels are feral and are considered to be pests.
There are two species of camels: The Arabian is the one-humped camel of the Near East and Africa. It is referred to as the dromedary. The Arabian is fast and considered to be the more desirable for riding. However, it is also widely used as a pack animal by the nomadic people of desert and semi-desert regions. This kind is well adapted to hot, dry climates. The Bactrian is the two-humped camel of northern China and Tibet. It is often referred to as the Asian camel. The Bactrian is a larger slower animal. It is primarily used as a pack animal. The camel pack trains that have moved for centuries across the trade routes of the Orient were made up of Bactrian camels. Since much of the region where the Bactrian is used is cold, it has a longer hair coat (1 foot in winter) than the Arabian and has adapted well to cold conditions. It has a much shorter, thicker, and heavier body than the dromedary’s. It is better able to stand rocks, snow and ice because it has more calloused feet than the dromedary. It can also drink brackish (salty) water and swim for short distances. The camel’s-hair cloth used to make fine overcoats and other clothing comes from Bactrian camels. The most valued hair grows next to the skin.
Because the camel can go without water for several days (approximately 10), it is a very valuable animal for dry climates. For millennia the camel has helped the desert populations of Asia and Africa survive and even prosper at times. Camelids can travel great distances in desert conditions for days with no water while carrying a heavy load. This ability has earned it the nickname “ship of the desert.” Camels are used mainly for riding or as pack animals, although occasionally they are yoked to a plow. It is usually paired with an ox or sometimes an ass rather than another camel because the camel can’t be very successfully driven to a plow but the ox or donkey can.
As with other species found in primitive agricultures, the camel supplies many other products in addition to its primary product (work). Although it was very seldom raised historically primarily for food in the least developed agricultures, camel meat and milk are put to good use. Both are
increasing in production on a world-wide basis (Figures 15-3 and 15-4).When it is used for meat, it is usually in a salvage situation such as where animals are not useful for work because they are old or crippled or when the herd needs to be reduced in size. The Somali tribe of Africa does raise camels primarily for meat, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Lactating female camels may be milked and many constitute the major source of milk for many nomadic people. The hair is turned into tents, blankets, rugs, clothing, and rope. Dried dung is used as fuel for cooking fires. The hides are used for harnesses, sandals, water bags, rugs and many other necessary items.
For centuries, the breeding of camels has been the primary source of income for many nomadic tribes living in the very dry areas of the world. Although the camel is still an important beast of burden, the steady increase in mechanization is reducing the use of camels. This decreased demand for their product threatens the traditional way of life of the nomads. In the not too distant future, they may be forced to give up their nomadic existence and settle in villages. This development would be welcomed by most of the countries of the world that have a sizable nomad population. However, it is often true that Nomads make lousy villagers.
Ill-tempered and irritable, camelids bellow, bite, kick, and spit to demonstrate their annoyance. They seldom work without a protest. The noise from a camel yard when a caravan is being loaded would “wake the dead.” Nevertheless, they are very adapted for the work they are asked to do. No other domestic animal can live and work in such a hot and dry climate with so little food and water. A camel can carry from 500 to 600 pounds and travel 25 miles a day. The mehari breed of camel is bred for warfare and racing. It can travel 75 to 120 miles a day at a steady trot of 9 to 10 miles an hour.
The camel’s hump (or humps) is fat and muscle and has no bone (it is not literally made of water!!!!!). When a camel is well fed and given enough water, the hump is erect. When it goes without food and water, the fat and lean tissue in the hump can nourish it for several days-providing energy and metabolic water. It is easy to tell if a camel is in this condition because its hump becomes limp and leans to one side.
Long, interlocking eyelashes in a double fringe surround the eyes protecting them from sandstorms and the sun. Its nostrils are also specially adapted. They are slanting slits, which the camel can open wide to breathe or close to keep out blowing sand. Another curious adaptation is a groove from each nostril that ends in the split upper lip. This allows any moisture from the nostrils to flow into the mouth helping in water conservation.
The camel can live without water far longer than other mammals. The reason is that the camel conserves water by holding it in tissues and cells rather than using it to cool itself through perspiration as other animals do. As the environmental temperature increases, so does the temperature of the camel’s body. During the night, the camel gives off the heat that it “stored” during the day so that its morning temperature is low. Their body temperature can vary more than 11° F (6° C). Those unique blood cells also allow the camel to rehydrate very quickly (JUST A
FEW HOURS) without suffering from the ruptured blood cells and death common in less-adapted species who are water-deprived and then allowed access to ample drinking water.
There are almost 25 million camels in the world. Over 84% of them are in Africa with all but a few thousand of the remainder in Asia. Table 15-2 gives the numbers for world regions and countries. Notice that almost all are African or Asian. China’s camel numbers have declined significantly over the last 2 decades. This is no doubt due to the rapid economic development of that country. They simply have less use for this humble servant animal due to mechanization.
Guanaco, Llama, Alpaca and Vicuna
These are members of the camel family found only in the high elevations of the Andes Mountains in South America. They consist of four species in two genera. Lama glama, the llama; Lama pacos, the alpaca; Lama quanacoe, the guanico; and Vicugna vicugna, the vicuna. They will interbreed and do produce fertile hybrids. The most commonly produced hybrids are between the llama and alpaca (known as huarizo) and between the alpaca and vicuna (paco-vicuna).
Because the llama and alpaca are the two domesticated species, they are the most economically important of the lamoids (or camelids as some prefer). The llama is the largest, weighing up to 265 lb. It is found in the highland areas from northern Peru to northern Chile and Argentina and is used primarily as a pack animal. The alpaca weighs up to 165 lb. and is raised primarily for its wool, which has an extremely fine fiber grading 80’s on the Bradford scale compared to 60’s for wool from the Merino sheep, which produces the finest wool of any sheep. The higher the number a fleece grades on the Bradford scale the finer the wool fiber and the more valuable the wool is for spinning and weaving into very expensive woolen material. There are two types of alpacas, the Suri, which produces a long, straight fiber, and the Huacaya, which produces a more desirable, shorter, curly fiber resembling Corriedale type wool.
The guanaco and vicuna are not domesticated though some are sometimes tamed. The vicuna is the smallest of the two (75-100 lb.) but produces a wool with the finest fiber of any animal, grading 120’s on the Bradford scale. Because of the demand for this very luxurious wool, the vicuna was hunted almost to extinction since the only way the fleece could be obtained was to kill the animal. Strict governmental regulations have been imposed forbidding the killing of vicunas in an effort to preserve the species.
The blood of the lamoids has more red blood cells per unit volume of blood than other mammals. In addition, the hemoglobin of the blood reacts faster with oxygen. This gives the animals the ability to exert themselves strenuously at high altitudes and makes them well adapted to their environment.
Llama. (L. glama). Llamas are very plentiful in the Andes Mountains from southern Peru to northwestern Argentina. As the largest of the South American camelids (lamoids), it is kept
primarily as a pack animal, but is also valuable as a source of food, wool, hides, tallow for candles, dried dung for fuel, and as a provider of offerings to the gods. Llamas can carry loads of up to 210 pounds for up to 16 miles a day. Llama wool varies in color, being various shades of white, brown, red and roan and often has dark brown or black spots. Though woven into a warm cloth, the fleece is coarse and inferior to that of the vicuna and the alpaca.
Alpaca. (L.pacos) Smaller than the llama, the alpaca is often described as looking like a large goat with a camel’s head and neck. The alpaca is kept and bred for its wool, which in the suri breed can grow long enough to touch the ground. The wool comes in 22 colors from black to tan to white, is lightweight and has good insulation value. It is used in making items like parkas, sleeping bags, and fine coat linings, among many other things.
The yak is a longhaired, very hardy ruminant found in and around the Himalayan Mountains of central Asia. It is an animal adapted to high altitudes and cold climates and is very important to people who live where cattle cannot live. It is primarily used as a pack animal, and is even ridden, being very sure footed and having great strength and stamina. It is used at lower elevations in pasture farming as a draft animal. The yak weighs 400-1200 lbs. and can carry loads of 300 lbs. over steep mountain trails for great distances. The domestic yak is insensitive to cold, requires little food and is very sure-footed. These characteristics make it an excellent pack animal. It is considered to be the best suited domestic animal in Asia for elevations exceeding 2000 meters. Their nickname translates into “Ships of the Plateau.” Yaks survive, even thrive in some of the world’s harshest climates including the cold desert. In northern Tibet (one region where they thrive) the annual mean temperature is 0°C.
Meat and Milk
Yak milk production is only about 100 gallons per cow per year but is a very important product. The milk has a high nutritional value with a fat content of 5-8% percent and makes excellent butter and cheese. In Tibet, a milk powder is prepared (besides butter and cheese) by a special process of coagulation and is used for provisions. As with many other classes of work animals, generally only the old animals are slaughtered. The meat is often dried and then eaten without being cooked. In Tibet, there is a taboo against killing them for meat. However, in Mongolia and several of the former USSR states (now independent) there seems to be a taste for the dark rather coarse meat with its unique flavor.
Yaks are sheared or plucked once a year. The hair is a major export item. They yield about 1600 grams of hair and 600 grams of coarse wool, which is spun into yarn. The yarn is made into blankets, tent covers, halters, bags, slingshots, and ropes. Garments are made from the soft wool of young animals up to the age of 3 years. Apparently, the wool on the hump and the shoulders is best for this. The under wool is made into felt.
Tibetans also bleed the yak occasionally. The blood is mixed with salt and water and allowed to clot. It is then fried or boiled or sometimes mixed with barley flour and butter and made into bread. Dried yak dung is collected and used for fuel for home fires. In the treeless area where it is produced, firewood is almost nonexistent. The tail is a prize product, used as fly wisks, religious symbols and cap decorations.
The yak belongs to the genus Bos, species grunniens (grunting ox). It belongs to the Bisontine sub-group, which also includes the American bison. The yak will interbreed with cattle (resulting in a yakow) but the male calves that result are not fertile and female hybrids must be bred back to a male of one or the other of the parent species. In the frontier area of Tibet and in some of the countries of the former Soviet Union, yaks are often crossbred with cattle. The crossbreeds are in great demand, since they are especially strong and good natured animals for plowing and use in caravans and they produce more meat and milk than a purebred yak. The yakow does better in warmer temperatures and lower altitudes than the full-blood yak though they don’t do as well at higher elevations and lower temperatures. Crosses between yak and zebu cattle also give more milk and better meat and are excellent work animals for carrying loads at moderate altitudes. The yak has even been crossbred with the gayal, American Bison, European Bison and Banteng. In general, there is much hybrid vigor displayed in the offspring.
Most yaks are found in Tibet, Western China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Siberia with most in China. World numbers are estimated at 14 million head with 13 million of those in Chinese territories. It is hard to get an accurate estimate because they are often counted as cattle.
1. The water buffalo is found primarily in hot, wet areas with subsistence or primitive levels of agriculture, especially associated with _____ production. (Note to students: Just put the correct word as the answer. Do not retype the whole thing.)
2. Although the water buffalo is primarily found in hot, humid areas, it is not very heat tolerant. Why?
3. What are the primary uses of the buffalo?
4. What South American country is developing the water buffalo for meat?
5. What country ranks first in numbers of water buffalo?
6. Which ranks second? Third?
7. What European country has a small water buffalo industry? What do they use the milk for?
8. What has been happening to the use of buffalo for meat in India over the last decade? (Note to students: Needs to be a 5-6 sentence paragraph not copied directly from the assignment. Put it in your own words.)
9. Look at Figure 15-1. Summarize everything in that figure in words.
10. What tie does the religious prohibition on killing cattle have to do with slaughtering water buffalo in India?
11. What part of the world uses water buffalo milk in a major way?
12. Look at Figure 15-2. Summarize everything in that figure in words.
13. Describe the advantages the buffalo has over cattle in working rice fields.
14. Who are the members of the family Camelidae?
15. What are each of the individual Camelidae used for by the worlds people and where?
16. Compare and contrast the characteristics of the Dromedary and the Bactrian camel.
17. How can I make a camel be a good plow animal?
18. Why is it that the camel can go so long without water? (All the reasons.)
19. Name the 4 major products of the camel.
20. Look at Figure 15-3. Summarize everything in that figure in words.
21. Look at Figure 15-4. Summarize everything in that figure in words.
22. What is mechanization doing to the camel?
23. Describe the camel’s hump and its uses.
24. Describe the camel’s eyelashes and their uses.
25. Why can a camel live without water so much longer than other animals?
26. What are the genus and species of the lamoids and their common names?
27. Compare wool quality between lamoids.
28. What is odd about lamoid blood?
29. Describe the alpaca.
30. Where is the yak found? What does it do?
31. What are the strengths of the yak?
32. How much yak milk is produced each year by the average yak cow? What are its characteristics?
33. How often is the yak sheared and/or plucked? What is the wool used for?
34. What are all the uses people make of yaks and their products?
35. What are the advantages of the yakow over a full-blooded yak?
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