An Ultimate Ungulate Fact SheetReturn to Artiodactyla

Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
      Order: Artiodactyla
        Family: Bovidae
          Subfamily: Bovinae
            Genus: Bos

Bos sauveli



Bos sauveli [Urbain, 1937].  
Citation: Bull. Soc. Zool. Fr., 62:307.
Type locality: Cambodia, near Tchep Village.
The taxonomic record (above) is taken from Wilson and Reeder (1993).  The kouprey is included in the subgenus Novibos [Coolidge, 1940], which is upgraded to a full genus by some authors (Nowak, 1991).  There are no subspecies.

General Characteristics

Body Length: 210-220 cm / 7-7.3 ft.
Shoulder Height: 170-190 cm / 5.6-6.3 ft.
Tail Length: 100-110 cm / 3.3-3.6 ft.
Weight: 700-900 kg / 1540-1980 lb.

Calves are born brown, though they change to an overall grey with age.  The underparts and lower legs are lighter.  As males mature, their colour changes again to black or very dark brown.  Adult males also have a pronounced dewlap (pendulous skin at the base of the neck) growing 40 cm / 16 in long, which may touch the ground.  Both sexes have curious notched nostrils, and a long tail.  Females' horns are lyre-shaped, much like those of the Tragelaphinae, and grow 40 cm / 16 in long.  The wide spreading horns in males arch forward and upward in such a way that there is a splintered fringe of horn that cannot be rubbed off.  They grow up to a length of 80 cm / 32 inches.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Young per Birth: 1
Life span: 20 years

Mating takes place in April, with the births occurring from December to February.  Mothers leave the herd to give birth, rejoining about one month after the calf is born.

Ecology and Behavior

Kouprey are active bovids, travelling long distances (up to 15 kilometers / 9 miles) every night.  While travelling, they often double back and wander to graze.  During the dry season's hot days they rest in the dense forest, while during the rainy season this habit is reduced due to flies.  In the early afternoon, herds bed down in tight circles, becoming active during the late afternoon.  Herds divide and regroup constantly, often mixing with banteng and feral water buffalo.  Kouprey regularly use saltlicks and waterholes.  Seasonal migration patterns have not been thoroughly studied, but there are indications that herds move to higher elevations during the rainy season.  During the dry season, the sexes mix in herds of up to 20 animals.

Family group: Females and calves travel in small herds, while older males form bachelor herds.
Diet: Long and short grasses, sedges, and some browse.


Forested thickets.

Countries: Cambodia, possibly regionally extinct in Lao People's Democratic Republic, Thailand, and Viet Nam (IUCN, 2002).  

Range Map (Redrawn from Corbet and Hill, 1992)

Conservation Status

According to the IUCN (2002), the kouprey is critically endangered (Criteria: A2d, C1+2a, D).  Bos sauveli is on CITES Appendix I (CITES, 2003).


One of the rarest ungulates, the kouprey was only described in 1937 by Achille Urbain.  The kouprey was 'discovered' from a set of horns mounted as a hunting trophy in the house of the veterinarian, Dr. Sauvel.  Soon thereafter, the first captive kouprey arrived in Paris.  Some doubt surrounds the species status of the kouprey, with many scientists believing it is a cross between domestic cattle, bantengs, gaurs, or zebus.  Paradoxically, Dr. H. J. Coolidge, a Harvard University mammalogist, was so convinced that the kouprey was a distinct species due to anatomical features, that he proposed a new genus for it - Novibos.  Very little is known about this rare species of cattle, and much of the information below is sketchy.

Kouprey is a native name.  Bos (Latin) an ox.  Dr. R. Sauvel was a French veterinary surgeon in Cambodia.

Kouprey (Buchholtz, 1990)
Boeuf gris Cambodgien (IUCN, 2002)
Kouprey (Buchholtz, 1990)
Toro cuprey (IUCN, 2002)

Literature Cited

Buchholtz, C. 1990.  Cattle.  In Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals.  Edited by S. P. Parker.  New York: McGraw-Hill.  Volume 5, pp. 360-417.

CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna). 2003. Appendix I, as adopted by the Conference of the Parties, valid from 13 February 2003. Available online at

Corbet, G. B., and J. E. Hill.  1992.  the Mammals of the Indomalayan Region: A systematic review.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

MacKinnon, J. R., and S. N. Stuart [compilers].  1989.  The kouprey: an action plan for its conservation. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

Nowak, R. M. [editor]. 1991.  Walker's Mammals of the World (Fifth Edition).  Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Shuker, K.  1993.  The Lost Ark: new and rediscovered animals of the Twentieth Century.  London: HarperCollinsPublishers.

Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder [editors]. 1993. Mammal Species of the World (Second Edition). Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.  Available online at

Additional Resources

Anon. 1975.  Kouprey in Thailand. Tigerpaper 2(3): 8-9.

Anon. 1979.  Is it the last kouprey? Tigerpaper 7(2): 32.

Anon. 1982.  Kouprey alert. Tigerpaper 9(3): 24.

Cox, R., A. Laurie, and M. Woodford. 1992.  Report of the results of four field surveys for kouprey (Bos sauveli) in Viet Nam and Lao. P.D.R. Unpublished report, Kouprey Conservation Trust.

Dioli, M.  1995.  A clarification about the morphology of the horns of the female kouprey: A new unknown bovid species from Cambodia.  Mammalia 59(4): 663-667.

Duckworth, J. W., R. J. Timmins, R. C. M. Thewlis, T. D. Evans, and G. Q. A. Anderson.  1994.  Field observations of mammals in Laos, 1992-1993.  Natural History Bulletin of the Siam Society 42(2): 177-205.

Groves, C. P.  1981.  Systematic relationships in the Bovini (Artiodactyla: Bovidae).  Zeitschrift fuer Zoologische Systematik und Evolutionsforschung 19(4): 264-278.

Hendrix, S.  1995.  Quest for the kouprey.  International Wildlife 25(5): 20-23.

Heng Kimchhay, Ouk Kimsan, Kry Masphal, Sin Polin, Uch Seiha and H. Weiler.  1998.  The Distribution of Tiger, Leopard, Elephant and Wild Cattle (Gaur, Banteng, Buffalo, Khting Vor and Kouprey) in Cambodia. Interm Report: July 1998. Wildlife Protection Office, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Hoffmann, R. S.  1986.  A new locality record for the kouprey from Viet Nam, and an archaeological record from China. Mammalia 50(3): 391-395.

Lekagul, B., and J. A. McNeely.  1977.  Mammals of Thailand.  Sahakarnbhat, Bankok.

Lic Vuthy, Sun Hean, Hing Chamnan and M. Dioli.  1995.  A brief field visit to Mondolkiri Province to collect data on kouprey (Bos sauveli), rare wildlife for field training. Unpublished report to Canada Fund and IUCN.

Nowak, R. M. [editor]. 1991.  Walker's Mammals of the World (Fifth Edition).  Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Olivier, R., and M. Woodford.  1994.  Aerial surveys for Kouprey in Cambodia, March 1994. Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK: IUCN/SSC.

Oryx.  1974.  The kouprey survives. Oryx 12: 543.

Read, B. 1988.  Throwing a lifeline to the endangered kouprey. International Zoo News 35(5): 26-29.

Stuart, S.N. 1988.  New hope for the kouprey. IUCN Bulletin 19(4-6): 9.

Suvanaborn, P. 1984.  Status of kouprey in Thailand. Biotrop Special Publications 21: 33-38.

Westing, A. H., and C. E. Westing.  1981.  Endangered species and habitats of Vietnam.  Environmental Conservation 8(1): 59-62.

Wharton, C. H.  1957.  An Ecological Study of the Kouprey (Novibos sauveli Urbain). Monographs of the Institute of Science and Technology, Monograph 5, Manila, Philippines.

Wharton, C. H.  1968.  Man, fire and wild cattle in Southeast Asia. Proceedings of the Annual Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference 8: 107-167.

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