Gaurs The Gentle Giants

Gaurs, (Bos Gaurus) is also known as Indian Bison. Found across western ghats and forests of central India, it is the largest bovine in world. With height at shoulder upto 7 feet and weighing upto 1500kgs they are largest cattle in world. They are so huge that striped cats of India are scared to hunt a adult Gaur. Another interesting decor of Gaur is its legs. They have peculiar white stockings on legs. Males are bigger and heavier than females. Gaurs have unique behaviours that make them gentle giants. Unlike wild buffalo they dont wallow or bathe and dont create mess at watering holes. The gaur is shy creature inspite of all muscle and power they possess. As browsers and grazer they are highly social animals living in groups peacefully. Gaurs don’t fight for mating right, size is everything in Gaur world. Everything is literally cool in their behaviour.

Misty morning with herd of Gaur in Kanha National Park, December 2018

However when alarmed gaur charge in at extremely high speeds for its size. It has also been reported by locals around Gaur habitats that gaurs are extremely bold and aggressive alongside domestic cattle while grazing and sometimes killing them in fights. They are known to charge only when they feel threatened. The other specific situation in which Gaur may charge without provocation is during summers . Their temper runs short due to high temperatures.

Gaur residing along side humans are known to behave aggressively especially if they compete with cattle for food.

I distinctly remember one instance when our vehicle was charged by a gaur. As a kid I accompanied my father along with my mom and sisters to Navegaon Nagzira Tiger Reserve. In those days, access to jungles was allowed even at night and it was legal to track animals using search lights. My father been senior civil servant, we were accompanied by personnel from forest department. It was convoy of 3 cars, I was in first car with my sisters and driver from department. My parents were in second car along with officers and last car security personnel.

It was typical summer night of central Indian forest. We had early dinner at rest house. Howling of jackals from nearby fields pumped me with a doze of wild spirit that sustains till date. We moved out to track the striped cat or the super elusive leopard.

The jungle was jet black and crickets called each other creating a suspenseful atmosphere. The sky was amass with stars. Just by joining them I would name every person on earth. No city in world can match the joy of gazing infinite stars in skies of jungle. The mid day temperatures was in mid 40’s by now it had plunged to 25 degrees. Thanks to cool breeze from nearby lake ensuring every animal around it had hair raised on skin. Around mid night we spotted a herd of Gaurs grazing in abandoned cattle ranch.

Gaurs move in groups comprising of only females and calves. The adult males are generally solitary. They are known to join groups only during mating. Herds of Gaurs are sometimes made of multiple groups and when they come together their numbers can sore upto 45-50. We saw a herd. While all were busy grazing, their was one female with calf eating alone at a distance from the rest of herd. This is unusual. Once calf starts moving they join the herds for protection. Plus it wasn’t time for new borns. However It was youngest calf in herd for sure and cutest. We, who were sitting in first vehicle couldn’t ignore cutenss and focused all our search light on the calf. And that was our mistake!

As we started entering ranch, the two vehicles behind us stopped and reversed. My father was yelling to driver of our car to reverse vehicle and not enter the ranch. Our driver didn’t notice. We kept approaching the female. My dad had sensed eminent danger- She was isolated mother with calf.

Suddenly tail of Gaur became straight, neck starting swinging and using one of her fore limbs she was scratching ground. By now driver noticed vehicles behind had reversed and my father was yelling. The mumma gaur by now was restless and started swinging her neck up and down and with one snort of heavy breath she charged towards us. Fortunately our driver was skilled enough to drive and managed to get us away from harm. Whatta moment it was. I was scared to death. It is so clearly etched in my memory.

Gaur in classic habitat shot. Tadoba, March-2019

Since that day my respect for wild animals increased, I started enjoying their presence from distance. No more invasion in personal space of animals. I realized the wild spirit is gentle only as long as it is not disturbed and not isolated from its environment. Whenever they feel threatened there first instinct to stay away from threat but if required charge to defend. So much for strength of Gentle Giant Gaur who taught me a lessons of life. Most battles need not be fought at all and if you have to fight go all out!

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