Banteng (Bos javanicus)

Also known as: Tembadau
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCetartiodactyla
FamilyBovidae
GenusBos (1)
SizeBody length: 1.9 – 2.25 m (2)
Tail length: 65 - 70 cm (2)
Shoulder height: 1.55 – 1.65 m (3)
Weight600 - 800 kg (2)

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The handsome banteng largely resembles domestic cattle both in size and colour (3), but also demonstrates considerable sexual dimorphism, allowing the sexes to be readily distinguished (4). Mature males have a dark, chestnut-brown coat, more blue-black in the Javan and Bornean individuals, while females and juveniles are reddish brown, with a dark dorsal stripe (2) (4) (5). The horns of females are short, tightly curved and point inward at the tips, whereas those of males are long, upwardly arching and connected by a horn-like bald patch on the forehead. Both sexes have the characteristic white ‘stockings’ on their lower legs, a white rump and muzzle, and white spots above the eyes (2). A gentle hump exists above the shoulders (6), and a slight ridge runs along the back (7).

The South and Southeast Asian distribution includes the countries of Cambodia, Indonesia (Kalimantan; Java; Bali), Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam (1). Until recently, it also included Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, India and Peninsular Malaysia (1). There is also a fairly large introduced population of banteng in Northern Australia, which are currently thought to number up to 400 animals (4).

On the Asian mainland, banteng prefer open, dry, deciduous forests (1), although individuals in Myanmar inhabit mixed deciduous and evergreen forest (4). Feeding in open clearings, banteng depend on dense thickets in which to retire for shelter and safety (2). During the monsoon seasons, banteng tend to migrate to higher areas, where they occupy dense forests and bamboo jungles (6). Within the more humid areas of Java and Borneo they occupy secondary forest that has formed after logging and fires, and they also occur in a tract of sub-humid forest (1).

Banteng are social creatures, spending most of their time in herds of two to 40 animals (2), which are usually led by an older cow and accompanied by a single mature male (3). Other males live alone or in bachelor groups (2). While this species may be active during the day or night, the herds have adopted a nocturnal lifestyle in areas of heavy human encroachment (3). Banteng feed mainly on grasses, bamboo, leaves, fruits and young branches of woody shrubs, depending upon the season and availability (2).

The single male of the herd reproduces with all the females, and competition for dominance of a herd is therefore fierce (6). Although capable of breeding all year round in captivity, wild banteng in Thailand are known to mate only during the months of May and June (2). Single offspring are born after a gestation period of 285 days. Weaning occurs at six to nine months, and sexual maturity is reached at two to three years. Banteng have been recorded to live up to 20 years in the wild and to over 26 years in captivity (6).

The most significant threats facing banteng are hunting and habitat degradation and loss (1). Extinction is thought imminent in Vietnam and, in Cambodia and Lao PDR, habitat fragmentation caused by agriculture and new settlements is seriously threatening the remaining mainland Asian populations (3). These wild cattle have been domesticated in numerous locations, most notably on the island of Bali, with over 1.5 million domestic banteng thought to exist (2). Interbreeding with domestic and feral cattle threatens to contaminate the gene pool by hybridization of the remaining wild banteng, and disease transmission from domestic livestock is also considered a serious danger (1) (6). The number of banteng trophies reported for sale within Cambodia and the Lao PDR, along the Thai/Cambodia, Thai/Lao, and Thai/Myanmar borders, strongly suggests that the banteng population on the mainland has been, and remains, under considerable pressure from hunters (2) (3). Despite legal prohibitions against trade in banteng, law enforcement is inadequate, and poaching and illegal trade in their meat and horns remains widespread (6) (7).

The banteng is legally protected across its range and occurs in a number of protected areas (1). However, the natural resources of reserves often continue to be exploited, with about 12 banteng poached annually, for example, in Baluran National Park, Java (7). Several on-going field survey programmes exist (e.g., in Indochina) and a monitoring programme is conducted in East Java. A large captive population is maintained world-wide (1), with European zoos first importing captive banteng from collections in Indonesia as early as 1867 (4). Such populations provide a buffer against total extinction, offer potential for future reintroductions into the wild and can be managed to maintain the genetic diversity of the species. In addition, they now have a new and exciting role that utilises the very cutting edge of technology and scientific knowledge – cloning! For the first time on April 1st, 2003, a healthy clone of this endangered species was born, offering powerful evidence that cloning technology can play a role in preserving and even reconstituting threatened and endangered species (8).

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This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
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  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2005)
    http://www.redlist.org
  2. The Ultimate Ungulate Page (January, 2006)
    http://www.ultimateungulate.com/Artiodactyla/Bos_javanicus.html
  3. WWF Publications - Gaur (Bos gaurus) and Banteng (Bos javanicus) (January, 2006)
    http://assets.panda.org/downloads/10gafactsheete.pdf
  4. Bison, Buffalo, and Cattle Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) (January, 2006)
    http://www.csew.com/cattletag/Cattle%20Website/Fact_Sheets/Banteng/banteng.htm
  5. Macdonald, D. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. Animal Diversity Web (January, 2006)
    http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/index.html
  7. The 3rd IUCN Conservation Congress, Bangkok, Thailand, 2004 – Does the Banteng (Bos javanicus) have a Future in Java? Challenges of the Conservation of a Large Herbivore in a Densely Populated Island (January, 2006)
    http://www.iucn.org/congress/documents/kmcd/reports/Pudyatmoko%20-%20Conservation%20of%20banteng.pdf
  8. Weiss, R. (2003) Scientists Reveal Healthy Clone Of Endangered Javan Banteng. The Tech, 123(17): 0 - 0. Available at:
    http://www-tech.mit.edu/V123/N17/cloning.17w.html