Bovids range in size from a shoulder height of 25cm (similar to a large jackrabbit ) to 2m ; weights range from around 3 kg to over 1300 kg. Some bovids are slender and gracile with long, slender legs, while others are stocky and massive. Many species have elaborate markings. All bovids have horns on their frontals, at least in males and often in females; horns vary from simple spikes to extremely long, curved and spiralled structures (but always unbranched). Bovid horns are made up of a permanent bony core covered with a layer of keratin, which is never shed.
Bovids are unguligrade, walking on hoofs, and with their weight evenly distributed on two toes on each foot (paraxonic). The third and fourth metapodials in fore and hind feet are fused to form a single bone, the cannon bone, which is considerably elongated. The ulna and fibula are greatly reduced in size. The ulna is reduced distal to the body and fused with the radius, while all that remains of the distal fibula is a knob on the tibia.
The skulls of members of this family lack sagittal crests. A postorbital bar defines the rear of the orbit. The lacrimal canals of bovids have a single opening, and it lies within the orbit. Pits in front of the orbits, called preorbital vacuities, are often present.
Bovid cheek teeth are hypsodont and selenodont. Upper incisors are absent. On the lower jaw, three incisors are present on each side of the jaw, and in addition, the canines (usually absent on the upper jaw) are modified to resemble an additional pair of incisors (one on each side). A well-developed diastema separates the lower incisors and the first lower molar-like teeth. The dental formula is 0/3, 0/1, 2-3/3, 3/3 = 30-32.
All bovids have a four-chambered stomach and digest cellulose through bacterial fermentation.
Some species of bovids are solitary but others live in large groups with complex social structures. All are herbivorous (although some will eat meat if it is available); bovid species differ considerably, however, in the nature of the vegetation they require and how selective they are about chosing it. Bovids are found in a wide variety of habitats, from arctic tundras to deep tropical forests. They are most abundant and diverse in tropical and subtropical grasslands and savannas.
The fossil history of the bovids begins in the early Miocene. The bovids that currently inhabit North America probably reached the continent by dispersal from northern Asia during the Pleistocene, when they crossed the Bering Strait on a land bridge. The climate was most likely chilly, which may be why North American bovids are cold-adapted.
Bovids are hunted for their meat and hides, and for sport. Domestic bovids include sheep, goats, and cattle.
This family is often divided into 9-10 subfamilies and a larger number of tribes.
Family Suidae Family Tayassuidae Family Hippopotamidae Family Camelidae Family Tragulidae Family Giraffidae Family Moschidae Family Cervidae Family Antilocapridae Family Bovidae
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