Large Ungulates: World’s 8 Biggest Wild Bovines


Domestic cattle can grow so big, but the wild bovines are even bigger and stronger. This is why we are going to see some of the large bovid species in the world. Bovids are very fascinating animals, so let’s take a look at the list below and see which one you find the most interesting.

8Cape Buffalo

Height: 1 – 1.7 meters (3.3 – 5.6 feet)

African buffalo or cape buffalo is known for its incredibly strong and even horns and muscled body. This wild bovid species have super thick hide in certain parts of their bodies, and their strength is 4 times greater than oxes. These African buffalos are very robust, and it has a long stocky body with short but thickset legs. Being one of the most dangerous animals in Africa, even lions know not to mess with them. More than that, they are among the “big five” African game, and their nickname is the Black Death. Cape buffalos, a prize to hunters, actually kill more hunters and people than any other animals. With bad tempers, it does not afraid to charge and attack anything that bothers it.

Fun Fact: Cape buffalos live in herds, and the members will look after each other in the group.

7Wild Water Buffalo

Height: 1.5 – 1.9 meters (4.9 – 6.2 feet)

Native to southern parts of Asia, wild water buffalos live in muddy waters and swamps of tropical and subtropical areas. This explains their large hoofed feet, which help to prevent them from sinking into the mud. At the same time, these aggressive buffalos are fast runners with an average speed of 35 miles per hour. Famous for their long crescent-shaped ribbed horns that span over 2 meters, these are clearly among the biggest wild bovines. Those horns are very helpful because wild water buffalos use them to protect themselves against predators such as crocodiles, lions, and tigers. Such unique beauty also comes with danger because hunters kill them for their precious horns, leather, and meat.

Fun Fact: Males leave their herd at 3 years old to join bachelor herds (only males) while females stay with their mothers.


image: twitter

Height: 1.7 – 1.9 meters (5.6 – 6.2 feet)

Kouprey, meaning wild ox in Khmer, is an elusive forest-dwelling wild bovine native to Southeast Asia. Because of its rare sightings and low population, Kouprey is one of the rarest animals in the world. These wild bovines have tall and narrow bodies along with humped backs and long legs. Both males and females have horns but with different characteristics that we can identify their gender right away. The males have wide horns that arch forward and upward while the females’ horns are lyre-shaped with upward spirals. There are fewer than 250 Kouprey in the wild, and illegal hunting has always been their main threat.

Fun Fact: Female Kouprey moves away from the herd at the time of delivery and hides her baby for one month before rejoining the herd.

5Wild Yak

Height: 1.6 – 2 meters (5.2 – 6.7 feet)

Wild yaks are very fascinating animals, and these large bovines are native to the Himalayas. To adapt to their cold habitats, wild yaks have long shaggy hair with a dense wooly undercoat over their chests, flanks, and thighs. In some males, their undercoat can grow so long it reaches the ground, and this help to keep them warm. Those thick coats and hair offer insulation for them in temperatures lower than -40 degrees Fahrenheit. This is why wild yaks are able to swim in almost frozen waters. More than that, wild yaks have dense horns that allow them to break through ice and snow to forage for plants underneath. Since wild yaks are herd animals, the members of their group range from 10 to 100, consisting mainly of females and their young.

Fun Fact: Yaks are the highest-dwelling mammals in the world, living at altitudes up to 20,000 feet.

4American Bison

Height: 2 meters (6.7 feet)

The American bison or bison is one of the national mammals of the United States besides the bald eagle. Bison is not only one of the biggest wild bovines but also the largest mammal in North America. An adult American bison can grow as tall as 2 meters, but European bison tend to be taller than that. Despite their size and weight, American bison are very fast animals. These wild bovines can run up to 35 miles per hour, and they can also jump high fences and swim. The interesting thing about them is their unique behavior known as Wallowing. This is when they roll in the dirt or snow to deter biting flies and shed their fur. American Bisons are unpredictable, and they may attack without reasons and warnings although appearing peaceful most of the time.

Fun Fact: A baby bison is orange-red in color; hence the nickname Red Dogs.


Height: 1.8 – 2.1 meters (5.9 – 6.9 feet)

Also goes by the name European bison or European wood bison, wisent is the heaviest wild land animal in Europe. As the biggest wild bovines, wisents have thickset body shapes with a short neck and pronounced shoulder hump. Along with that, they have dense coats and long manes over their forehead and underneath their neck. Both male and female wisents have short horns that project outwards and then curve upwards. The placement and shape of the horns cause the most damage during an attack or combat. Wisents move very slowly, and they spend most of their day foraging and eating then hovering around the forest. They are also herd animals, but there are only between 8 and 13 members in each group.

Fun Fact: European bison once became extinct in the 1920s but they were reintroduced into the wild in early 1951.


image: cuatrok77

Height: 1.42 – 2.20 meters (4.8 – 7.3 feet)

When it comes to the biggest wild bovines, gaur aka Indian bison has to be on the list. These majestic beasts, in fact, are the heaviest and largest wild bovids alive today with their massive and strong build. Gaurs have a high convex ridge on the forehead between the horns, and there is a prominent ridge on the back. Both males and females have upwardly curved horns that can reach up to 1.14 meters (45 inches). Gaurs are territorial animals, and they live in groups whose territory is around 78 square kilometers (30 square miles). Just like most large bovines out there, gaurs also have a bad temper. They would attack and inflict deadly injuries using their horns even unprovoked.

Fun Fact: A herd of gaurs is usually led by the oldest female, and large adult females will form a circle to protect the young during the attack.

1Musk Ox

image: Len Radin

Height: 2 – 2.5 meters (6.6 – 8.2 feet)

Musk ox is not commonly heard about although it is one of the biggest wild bovines in the world. While most bovines out there inhabit the forests or savannas, this one lives in the Arctic. Thanks to their super thick coat, living in super cold temperatures is not a problem for musk oxen at all. At the same time, they have long guard hairs that are so long they almost reach the ground. This large bovine is famous for the strong musky odor that the males emit during the seasonal rut.

The stronger the odor, the more attractive a male is to the female in mating season. When breeding months come, the dominant bulls will fight others out of the herds. Then he will establish harems with other six or seven cows along with their offspring. Both male and female musk oxen have long curved horns, and every part of their bodies is hunted for. Nowadays, there are between 80,000 and 125,000 musk oxen living in the world.

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