Gayal is a massive semi-domesticated bovine found in Southeast Asia. These animals are also known as ‘Cattle of Mountain”. Their head and body skin is blackish-brown, and the lower portion of the limbs are white or yellowish. Some domesticated gayals are parti-colored, while others are completely white. They have thick and massive horns with a blackish tint from base to tip. Females are much smaller than males and have smaller dewlap on the throat.
Gayals are found in Northeast India, Bangladesh, northern Myanmar and in Yunnan, China. They inhabit hill-forests. In India, semi-domesticated gayals are kept by several ethnic groups living in the hills of Tripura, Mizoram, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and Nagaland. They also occur in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. In northern Burma, they occur in the Kachin State, and in adjacent Yunnan are found only in the Trung and Salween River basins. These animals prefer cold and mild climate and are mainly found in the tropical rain forests.
Gayals are social animals and live in herds. From birth until the time of butchering or market, they remain in the herd and roam mostly freely throughout the forests. Females are usually aggressive when with calves, and there are instances known when people have been severely injured after being gored by one. Males are usually more docile. These animals are active during the day and prefer to rest in shades in the midday.
Little is known about the mating system in gayals. These animals breed throughout the year. Females usually give birth to a single calf and the gestation period lasts around 270-290 days. Little information is also known about parental care and raising the young. Females become reproductively mature at 40-48 months of age, while males are ready to breed when they are 3-4 years old.
The number of the gayal global population is not currently known.
There are no major threats to gayals at present. However, crossbreeding with the local cattle and hunting for meat can be threats for these animals in the near future.
Gayals have originated more than 8000 years ago and are thought to be descendent from wild gaur. These animals play an important role in the social, cultural and economic life of local people. To own a gayal is considered to be the sign of prosperity and wealth of the family. Farmers mainly rear these animals for meat. Besides this gayals are also used as a marriage gift and sacrificial animal for different social and cultural ceremonies.