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Bos Indicus, the zebu

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Chapter Summary

Zebus or humped cattle are the typical cattle of the South Asian subcontinent. At present, there are thirty or more zebu breeds in India. The recognized breeds differ mainly in the shape and firmness of the hump, horn size, ranging from long-horned to very short-horned or even almost rudimentary horns, and horn shape, ranging from lyre-shaped through backward and upward swept to straight. This chapter summarizes the main types. The bull likely played a significant role in prehistoric South Asian religion, regarding the many depictions of bulls on objects from the Indus Valley, Pakistan, dated to the late third to early second millennium B.C.E. The great majority of zebu sculptures has the bull Nandi or Vrishan as subject, the personal vehicle of the Hindu god Shiva. The bull is invariably depicted as a young calf. This is especially clear in cases where Nandi figures as part of the divine family.

Keywords: Bos Indicus; Hindu god Shiva; prehistoric South Asian religion; stone sculptures; Zebu; Zebus

10.1163/ej.9789004168190.i-462.34
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