The Bovidae are the biological family of cloven-hoofed, ruminant mammals that includes bison, African buffalo, water buffalo, antelopes, gazelles, sheep, goats, muskoxen, and domestic cattle. A member of this family is called a bovid. Consisting of 143 extant species and 300 known extinct species, the family Bovidae consists of eight major subfamilies apart from the disputed Peleinae and Pantholopinae. The family evolved 20 million BC, in the Early Miocene.
The bovids show great variation in size and pelage colouration. Excepting some domesticated forms, all male bovids have horns, and in many species females possess horns, too. The size and shape of the horns vary greatly, but the basic structure is always one or more pairs of simple bony protrusions without branches, often having a spiral, twisted or fluted form, each covered in a permanent sheath of keratin. Most bovids bear 30 to 32 teeth.
Most bovids are diurnal. Social activity and feeding usually peak during dawn and dusk. Bovids usually rest before dawn, during midday, and after dark. They have various methods of social organization and social behaviour, which are classified into solitary and gregarious behaviour. Bovids use different forms of vocal, olfactory, and tangible communication. Most species alternately feed and ruminate throughout the day. While small bovids forage in dense and closed habitat, larger species feed on high-fiber vegetation in open grasslands. Most bovids are polygynous. Depending on the species, bovids mate once or twice a year. In some species, neonate bovids remain hidden for a week to two months, regularly nursed by their mothers; in other species, neonates are followers, accompanying their dams, rather than tending to remain hidden.
Most of the diverse bovid species occur in Africa. The maximum concentration is in the savannas of eastern Africa. A few bovid species also occur in Europe, Asia, and North America.
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