While guests to Naples Zoo can see the tallest animals in the world and the giant reptiles that bask in our Florida sun, the zoo’s newest arrivals are a bit on the small side. And they’re meant to be.
They are called miniature zebu. The naturally tiny bovine’s ancestry dates back to India, where they were believed to have been domesticated some 6,000 years ago. Over the years, zebu spread across the world. Naples Zoo’s two new zebu calves trace their lineage to Africa and they are as cute as they are small.
Zebus have a large flap of skin under their neck and a hump between the shoulder blades. The zoo’s two new zebu were born this past spring and recently arrived at the zoo. Miniature zebu reach a maximum height of 42 inches just behind the hump on their back, although many are far shorter. The father of the zoo’s new boy zebu tops out at just 30 inches.
While the cattle we see in fields while driving in the country often tip the scales between 1,250 and 1,800 pounds, a miniature zebu can weigh as little as 300 pounds, with bulls sometimes reaching just 600 pounds. Their small size makes them ideal for locations with limited space and resources, which has made zebu popular in many dry rural areas on the planet.
Zebu are also resistant to diseases that have wiped out other cattle species and have a high resistance to heat. And when food and water is scarce, they can live off the fat and muscle stored in their hump. They do not moo or bellow like other cattle. They make grunting sounds instead.
In popular culture, zebu have been referenced in two animated shows. In "The Simpsons," Lisa Simpson tries to teach young Maggie Simpson what a zebu is with flashcards. And in the animated "VeggieTales" series, zebu made an appearance under a similar name in "The Song of the Cebú."
About the Zoo
Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization cooperating in conservation programs both in and outside the wild for endangered species including a full day of fun presentations and wild cruise through islands of monkeys, lemur and apes. Ticket includes admission to both the nationally accredited zoo and historic garden along with shows, exhibits, and the boat ride. ($19.95 adults age 13+/ $12.95 children 3 to 12, under 3 free. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult at least 18 years of age). Zoo memberships and discount tickets are also available online at www.napleszoo.org. Naples Zoo welcomes guests daily from 9:00 to 5:00 with the last ticket sold at 4:00 and is located at 1590 Goodlette-Frank Road across from the Coastland Center mall in the heart of Naples. To learn more, click www.napleszoo.org or call (239) 262-5409.