ZEBU, s. This whimsical name, applied in zoological books, English as well as French, to the humped domestic ox (or Brahminy bull) of India, was taken by Buffon from the exhibitors of such a beast at a French fair, who perhaps invented the word, but who told him the beast had been brought from Africa, where it was called by that name. We have been able to discover no justification for this in African dialects, though our friend Mr. R. Cust has kindly made search, and sought information from other philologists on our account. Zebu passes, however, with most people as an Indian word; thus Webster’s Dictionary, says “Zebu, the native Indian name.” The only word at all like it that we can discover is zobo (q.v.) or zhobo, applied in the semi-Tibetan regions of the Himalaya to a useful hybrid, called in Ladak by the slightly modified form dsomo. In Jäschke’s Tibetan Dict. we find “Ze’-ba.…l. hump of a camel, zebu, etc.” This is curious, but, we should think, only one of those coincidences which we have had so often to notice.

Isidore Geoffroy de St. Hilaire, in his work Acclimatation et Domestication des Animaux Utiles, considers the ox and the zebu to be two distinct species. Both are figured on the Assyrian monuments, and both on those of ancient Egypt. The humped ox also exists in Southern Persia, as Marco Polo mentions. Still, the great naturalist to whose work we have referred is hardly justified in the statement quoted below, that the “zebu” is common to “almost the whole of Asia” with a great part of Africa. [Mr. Blanford writes: “The origin of Bos indicus (sometimes called zebu by European naturalists) is unknown, but it was in all probability tropical or sub-tropical, and was regarded by Blyth as probably African. No ancestral form has been discovered among Indian fossil bovines, which…comprise species allied to the gaur and buffalo” (Mammalia, 483 seq.).]

c. 1772.—“We have seen this small hunched ox alive.…It was shown at the fair in Paris in 1752 (sic, but a transcript from the French edition of 1837 gives 1772) under the name of Zebu; which we have adopted to describe the animal by, for it is a particular breed of the ox, and not a species of the buffalo.”—Buffon’s Nat. Hist., E.T. 1807, viii. 19, 20; see also p. 33.

1861.—“Nous savons done positivement qu’à une époque où l’occident était encore couvert de forêts, l’orient, déjà civilisé, possédait dejà le boeuf et le Zebu; et par consequent c’est de l’orient que ces animaux sont sortis, pour devenir, l’un (le boeuf) cosmopolite, l’autre commun à presque toute l’Asie et à une grande partie de l’Afrique.”—Geoffroy St. Hilaire (work above referred to, 4th ed. 1861).

[1898.—“I have seen a herd of Zebras (sic) or Indian humped cattle, but cannot say where they are kept.”—In 9 ser. N. & Q. i. 468.]


ZERUMBET, ss. These are two aromatic roots, once famous in pharmacy and often coupled together. The former is often mentioned in medieval literature. The former is Arabic jadwar, the latter Pers. zarambad. There seems some doubt about the scientific discrimination of the two. Moodeen Sheriff says that Zedoary (Curcuma zedoaria) is sold in most bazars under the name of anbehaldi, whilst jadvar, or zhadvar, is the bazar name of roots of varieties of non-poisonous aconites. There has been considerable confusion in the nomenclature of these drugs [see Watt, Econ. Dict. ii. 655, 670]. Dr. Royle, in his most interesting discourse on the Antiquity of Hindco Medicine (p. 77), transcribes the following prescription of the physician Aetius, in which the name of Zedoary first occurs, along with many other Indian drugs:

c. A.D. 540.—“Zador (i.e. zedoariae), galangae, ligustici, seselis, cardamomi, piperis longi, piperis albi, cinnamomi, zingiberis, seminis Smyrnii, caryophylli, phylli, stachyos, myrobalani, phu, costi, scordii, silphii vel laserpitii, rhei barbarici, poeoniae; alii etiam arboris nucis viscum et paliuri semen, itemque saxifragum ac casiam addunt; ex his singulis stateres duos commisceto.…”

c. 1400.—“Canell and setewale of price.”—R. of the Rose.

1516.—“In the Kingdom of Calicut there grows much pepper … and very much good ginger of the country, cardamoms, myrobolans of all kinds, bamboo canes, zerumba, zedoary, wild cinnamon.”—Barbosa, 154.

1563.—“… da zedoaria faz capitulo Avicena e de Zerumbet; e isto que chamamos zedoaria, chama Avicena geiduar, e o outro nome não lhe sei, porque o não ha senão nas terras confins á China e este geiduar e uma mézinha de muito preço, e não achada senão nas mãos dos que os Gentios chamam jogues, ou outros a quem os Mouros chamam calandares.”—Garcia, f. 216v–217.

[1605.—“Setweth,” a copyist’s error for Setwall.—Birdwood, First Letter Book, 200.]

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