Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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zebu Bos indicus, the hump-backed cattle of Africa and Asia, are important in those continents in various roles. They differ morphologically from European cattle in various respects besides the characteristic hump which is usually present, and are generally better adapted to a tropical environment. Juliet Clutton-Brock (1981) comments:

There is no general agreement on whether zebu cattle were first developed in south western Asia or on the peninsula of India but there is little doubt that the many breeds of humped cattle in Africa at the present day are of secondary origin and were first introduced from India or the Middle East.

Humped cattle are depicted on cylinder seals from the ancient civilizations of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa in the Indus Valley which are dated 2500–1500 bc, whilst in southern Iraq on Sumerian and Babylonian sites they are also depicted from about the same period.