Ovis is a genus of mammals, part of the goat-antelope subfamily of the ruminant family Bovidae. Its five or more highly sociable species are known as sheep. The domestic sheep is one member of the genus, and is thought to be descended from the wild mouflon of central and southwest Asia. Five species and numerous subspecies of sheep are currently recognised, although some subspecies have also been considered full species. These are the main ones: 1)

Argali (Ovis ammon); 2) domestic sheep (Ovis aries aries); 3) Mouflon (Ovis aries orientalis); 4) Urial (Ovis vignei); 5) bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis); 6) Dall sheep (Ovis dalli); 7) snow sheep (Ovis nivicola). [Source: Wikipedia +]

Capra is a genus of mammals that embraces goats, domesticated goats and wild goats. It is composed of up to nine species: 1) West Caucasian tur (Capra caucasica), including the East Caucasian tur (Capra caucasica cylindricornis); 2) Markhor (Capra falconeri); 3) Domestic goat (Capra aegagrus hircus), includes feral goat and Bezoar ibex (Capra aegagrus aegagrus), the progenitors of domesticated goats; 4) Alpine ibex (Capra ibex); 5) Nubian ibex (Capra nubiana); 6) Spanish ibex (Capra pyrenaica); 7) Siberian ibex (Capra sibirica); 8) Walia ibex (Capra walie); 9) Wild goat (Capra aegagrus)

The wild goat (Capra aegagrus) is a widespread species of goat, with a distribution ranging from Europe and Asia Minor to central Asia and the Middle East. It is the ancestor of the domestic goat. Subspecies include: 1) Bezoar ibex (Capra aegagrus aegagrus); 2) Sindh ibex (Capra aegagrus blythi); 3) Chiltan ibex (Capra aegagrus chialtanensis); 4) Kri-kri (Capra aegagrus cretica); 5) domestic goat ( Capra aegagrus hircus); 6) Turkmen wild goat ( Capra aegagrus turcmenica); 7) Capra aegagrus pictus.

Ibex are wild goats that live in the mountainous regions of Europe, north central Asia and northern Africa. There are five species of ibex, according to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS). Of the eight species of goat, five are ibex: Capra ibex (Alpine ibex), Capra nubiana (Nubian ibex), Capra pyrenaica (Spanish ibex), Capra sibirica (Siberian ibex) and Capra walie (Walia ibex).

See Separate Articles on Ibex and Markhor


Argali, or mountain sheep, are a wild sheep that roams the highlands of Central Asia, the Himalayas, Tibet and Altay. They are the largest species of wild sheep. The North American bighorn sheep may approach comparable weights but is normally considerably outsized by the argali.

Argali look like American long-horn sheep and are known for the crashing, head-butting battles of males in the mating season. They live in open, grassy areas of central Asia, Tibet and the Himalayas. They prefer rocky outcrops, foothills, plateaus, valleys, gentle slopes and rolling steppes. Both sexes posses spiraling horns. There are believed to be 10,000 to 50,000 of them.

Argali range from central Kazakhstan in the west to the Shansi Province in China in the east and from the Altai Mountains in the north to the Himalayas to the south. They are a species of mountainous areas, living from elevations of 300 to 5,800 meters (980 to 19,000 feet). In protected areas, the species generally prefers gently sloping areas with soft broken terrain, although ewes with lambs often take up residence in more precipitous areas, characterized by canyons and jagged rocks. In areas where they are extensively hunted (such as Kazakhstan), they are more likely to be found in forested areas. In parts of China and Russia where they compete for resources with numerous domestic stock, Argalis more regularly take up residence in precipitous, jagged areas. Argali may search for regions in the mountains where snow cover is not heavy during the winter, following winds that blow snow off the earth. Rams are generally found at higher elevations more regularly than females and stay at higher elevations longer during the wintertime. [Source: Wikipedia; Alexander K. Fedosenko and David A. Blank Ovis ammon. Mammalian Species, No. 773, (July 15, 2005), pp. 1 — 15 ++]

Currently nine subspecies of argali are recognized: 1) Altai argali, or sair (Ovis ammon ammon); 2) Karaganda argali, (Ovis ammon collium); 3) Gobi argali, (Ovis ammon darwini); 4) Tibetan argali, (Ovis ammon hodgsoni); 5) North China argali, (Ovis ammon jubata); 6) Tian Shan argali, (Ovis ammon karelini); 7) Kara Tau argali, (Ovis ammon nigrimontana); 8) Marco Polo argali, (Ovis ammon polii); and 9) Severtzov argali, (Ovis ammon severtzovi). ++

Some sources classify mouflon as Ovis ammon musimon. However, DNA testing has not supported this. Several subspecies of argali have been genetically tested for mtDNA and one study found that the subspecies Ovis ammon ammon, O. ammon darwini and the urial subspecies, O. vignei bochariensis grouped closely while the subspecies Ovis ammon collium and O. ammon nigrimontana grouped with the urial subspecies O. vignei arkal. ++

Argali Characteristics

Argali stand 85 to 135 centimeters (2 feet 9 inches to 4 feet 5 inches) high at the shoulder and measure 136 to 200 centimeters (4 feet 6 inches to 6 feet 7 inches) long from the head to the base of the tail. The female, or ewe is the smaller sex by a considerable margin, sometimes weighing less than half as much as the male, or ram. The ewes can weigh from 43.2 to 100 kilograms (95 to 220 pounds) and the rams typically from 97 to 182 kilograms (210 to 400 pounds), with a maximum reported mass of 216 kilograms (480 pounds).[Source: Wikipedia; Alexander K. Fedosenko and David A. Blank Ovis ammon. Mammalian Species, No. 773, (July 15, 2005), pp. ++]

The Pamir argali (also called Marco Polo sheep, for they were first described by that traveller), is the largest race on average, regularly measuring more than 180 centimeters (5.9 feet) long without the tail, and less sexually dimorphic in body mass than most other subspecies. The argali has relatively the shortest tail of any wild goat-antelope or sheep, with reported tail lengths of 9.5 — 17 centimeters (3.7 — 6.7 inches). ++

The general colouration varies between each animal, from a light yellow, a reddish-brown to a dark grey-brown. Argali from the Himalayas are usually relatively dark whereas those from Russian ranges are often relatively pale. In summertime, the coat is often lightly spotted with a salt-and-pepper colouration. The back is darker than the sides, which gradually lighten in color. The face, tail and the buttocks are yellowish-white. Males have a whitish neck ruff and a dorsal crest and are usually slightly darker in color than the female. Males have two large corkscrew horns, some measuring 190 centimeters (6.2 feet) in total length and weighing up to 23 kilograms (51 pounds). Males use their horns for competing with one another. Females also carry horns, but they are much smaller, usually measuring less than 50 centimeters (20 inches) in total length. ++

Argali Behavior and Food Habits

Argalis live in herds typically numbering between 2 and 150 animals, segregated by sex, except during breeding season. Most populations show large numbers of adult females, comprising more than half of a local population, against around 20 percent being comprised by adult males and a further 20 percent by young argali. Some rams are solitary but most are seen in small herds numbering between 3 and 30 individuals. Females and their young live in larger groups, regularly up to 92 individuals and exceptionally to 200 animals. [Source: Wikipedia; Alexander K. Fedosenko and David A. Blank Ovis ammon. Mammalian Species, No. 773, (July 15, 2005), pp. ++]

Migrating herds, especially males, have been reported. Most migration appear to be related to seasonally decreased food sources, though an overabundance of biting insects (especially gadflies), severe drout or fires, poaching by humans and large numbers of domestic livestock may also trigger movements. With their long legs, herds can travel quickly from place to place. Argalis tend to live at higher elevations during the summer. ++

Adult argalis eat 16-19 kilograms (35-42 pounds) of food a day. The vegetation preferred by the species varies based on elevation and area. In higher elevations, they predominantly eat cereals, sedges and forbs. At mid-elevation habitats, they more regularly feed on bushes and mesophyte grasses. In the lowest ranges and the spurs of deserts, Argalis cereals and sedges again predominant but often of different species than the high elevation ones. In north-central Kazakhstan, sprouts, leaves, flowers and fruits are significant to the diet all year, whereas they appear to be a rare dietary supplement over the rest of the range. Water is needed by argalis, which is rarely a problem for specimens living in high elevation, where melting snow and small waterways are regularly encountered. In drier climes, argali may travel several kilometers in search of water. When available, argali readily consume saline soil. ++

Argali Reproduction

Argali males often mate with several females, Mothers give birth to one lamb in early spring and take care of it until birthing again the following year. Males are not involved in child rearing.

Argali reach breeding maturity at 2 to 3 years of age. Rutting may occur from October to mid-January, generally lasting longer in lower elevations. In rutting herds, both rams and ewes attack others of their own sex, exerting dominance by ramming each other with their horns. Although such groups engage in lamb-like play, the combat of a pair of mature males is a serious business. [Source: Wikipedia; Alexander K. Fedosenko and David A. Blank Ovis ammon. Mammalian Species, No. 773, (July 15, 2005), pp. ++]

The rams slam into each other, with their forelegs up in the air, exerting enough force to be heard up to 800 meters (2,600 feet) away. Often the older males (over 6 years of age), which are also often the largest, end up the dominant ones and younger males are chased off once the ewes are in estrus. Once dominance is established, the top rams begin approaching ewes and smell their urine to determine their receptiveness. The ram then repeatedly approaches the ewe and forceably mounts her. Mating commences around 2 to 3 weeks after the rutting begins. Rams may remain in the company of ewes for up to 1 to 2 months after the rutting period is complete. ++

The gestation period lasts a little over 160 days. Births occur in late March or April, with a variable number of females being barren. Most subspecies give birth to a single lamb, though in some races twins are not uncommon and even as many as 5 have been born at once. At birth, the lambs weigh 2.7 — 4.6 centimeters (6.0 — 10 pounds). The newborn lamb and mother ewe stay around where the birth occurs overnight and, on the next day, both usually walk together. Lambs often play in groups, jumping up and down together, sometimes being joined by their mothers. Weight gain is often quite fast and the lambs may weigh 10 times their birth weight by their first birthday. Females often attain their maximum mass by 2 years of age, but males appear to continue to grow larger and heavier in their 3rd and 4th years. Milking teeth develop around 3 months of age, with a full set of teeth developing by around 6 months. By the time their teeth develop, lambs are capable grazers and the ewes spot nursing them anywhere from August to May of the following year. Most argali live 5 — 10 years, but are capable of living to 13 years in the wild. ++

Argali Conservation and Predators

They are threatened by poachers, often after the spiraling horns, and loss of habitat caused by grazing livestock. Argalis are considered an endangered or threatened species throughout their entire range, due largely to habitat loss from overgrazing of domestic sheep and hunting. As the world's largest sheep, there is a strong lure to gather a trophy specimen among sports-hunters. They are hunted for both their meat and their horns, used in traditional Chinese medicine. Due to this, poaching continues to be a major (and difficultly-managed) problem. Argalis have been expirated from northeastern China, southern Siberia and parts of Mongolia. Populations of predators such as gray wolves and snow leopards have appeared to have been negatively effected by the scarcity of argalis. [Source: Wikipedia; Alexander K. Fedosenko and David A. Blank Ovis ammon. Mammalian Species, No. 773, (July 15, 2005), pp. ++]

Although they are locally sympatric with Siberian ibex, the two species have differing habitat and pasture preferences, reducing likely competition. In Tibet, the argali must regularly compete with other grazing species for pasture, including Tibetan antelope, Bharal, Thorold's deer and Wild yaks. Competition is most serious with livestock, especially domestic yak and domestic sheep, with which Argali are frequently forced to intermingle and often catch diseases and parasites from. ++

The main predator of argali are gray wolves, which often exploit harsh winter conditions (such as deep snow) in order to capture the wild sheep, though can and do take specimens of any age or condition year around. Where not locally expirated, snow leopards and leopards are also predators of argali of any age. Eurasian lynx and wolverines may seldomly kill argali to at least the size of winter-weakened ewes. Red foxes and domestic dogs (largely those kept by sheep-herders) will predate lambs. Cinereous vultures, lammergeiers and golden eagles have been observed circling herds of ewes with lambs in a possibly predacious manner and remains of argali lambs have been observed at golden eagle nests. Smaller predators, such as raptorial birds and smaller mammalian carnivores, are attacked by mother ewes but, in the presence of larger predators, the ewes quickly run away with the lambs following them. ++

Marco Polo Sheep

The Marco Polo sheep is a subspecies of argali sheep, named after Marco Polo. Their habitat is the mountainous regions of Central Asia. Marco Polo sheep are distinguishable mostly by their large size and spiraling horns, which resemble those of North American big horn sheep. Their conservation status is "near threatened" and efforts have been made to protect their numbers and keep them from commercial hunting. It has also been suggested that crossing them with domestic sheep could have agricultural benefits. [Source: Wikipedia +]

The Marco Polo subspecies Ovis ammon polii was first described scientifically by zoologist Edward Blyth in 1841.These sheep are also commonly called "Marco Polo's Argali" or the "Pamir Argali.". The sheep are named after the 13th century explorer Marco Polo because he described them in his book The Travels of Marco Polo. +

Most Marco Polo sheep live in the Pamir Mountains region adjacent to the borders of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and China. Their elevation ranges from 3,700 to 4,800 meters (12,100 to 15,700 feet) above sea level; The subspecies lives mainly in the northwestern part of the Hunza district along the Chinese border, inhabiting the Kilik Mintaka border and the northwestern area of Khunjerab National Park. Marco Polo sheep also inhabit the Wakhan Corridor, along the Afghanistan border. They share much of their habitat with animals such as the Siberian Ibex. +

Marco Polo Sheep Characteristics

The Marco Polo sheep is particularly known for its long, spiraling horns which have been measured having a span up to 140 centimeters (55 inches). They have the longest horns of all sheep, with the longest individual horn ever recorded measuring 1.9 meter (6.2 feet) and weighing 60 pounds (27 kilograms). Marco Polo sheep horns follow a coil pattern, with the tips pointed directly away horizontally from the head; in spite of this, the tips are rarely broken. The horns have long been a popular attraction for trophy hunters. They begin growing 15 — 20 days after the sheep are born, and their growth in length is most pronounced during the first year. Thickness growth is most noticeable during the first two years. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Mature rams on average weigh 126 kilograms (280 pounds). At the withers, rams grow to approximately 113 centimeters (44 inches) in height and ewes to 100 centimeters (39 inches). The sheep rut in December. Gestation lasts about 160 days, with single births being normal and twins uncommon. A captive ewe once gave birth to five lambs at once, then triplets two years later. Marco Polo sheep have an average life span of 13 years. The horns develop rings each year by which the age of male animals may be determined. Since females do not have horns, however, it is harder to determine their age.

Marco Polo Sheep Behavior and Reproduction

The behavior of Marco Polo sheep is similar to other members of the Ovis genus. Marco Polo sheep generally live in small flocks of a few dozen. During the summer, they break into smaller flocks of the same sex. During and after the rut, however, they group together to form larger groups for protection, and to conserve energy. When the rut begins, rams begin to fight for dominance among their flocks; dominant rams then choose their ewes without competition from the losers. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Only mature rams (those over 6 years old) fight for dominance, the young will sometimes threaten older males, but never charge them. The mature rams fight by standing next to each other and spinning around, then one steps back and charges. O. a. polii males have been noted to rise up on their hind legs when they clash with opponents, which is not common in lowland sheep and similar to the fighting habits of goats. The males commonly emit grunts while fighting and often chip their horns or break their noses. +

After dominance has been established, the rams begin to select their ewes. Although Marco Polo sheep rams are known to herd females, during the rut males pair off with females to reproduce. Males will approach a flock of females and smell the urine of possible mates. When smelling the ewe's urine, the males display the Flehmen response to test if the ewe is in estrus. Shackleton calls this phenomenon "lip-curl" and describes it as ".".raising the head with the mouth open and upper lip curled back." The ram then splits from the flock to copulate with his ewe and afterward, will often stay with the flock for a month or two. +

Marco Polo Sheep Conservation and Numbers

Wildlife researchers conclude the Marco Polo sheep is under threat of extinction due to widespread commercial hunting. Hunting the Marco Polo sheep first became popular when Mohammed Zahir Shah, king of Afghanistan, hunted and killed a ram in the 1950s. He thereafter declared that the valley in which he hunted be a protected habitat for the sheep as a hunting grounds for Afghan royalty, and it was not until 1968 that an American tourist was allowed to hunt in the reserve. In 2008, it was estimated that American hunters paid an average of $20,000 to $25,000 for an expedition to hunt a Marco Polo sheep. [Source: Wikipedia +]

In 1976, in Khunjerab, the sheep's population was estimated to be 300. This number declined to a maximum of 160 between 1978 and 1981, and declined again to only 45 in 1991. George Schaller of the Wildlife Conservation Society estimated the worldwide population in 2003 as around 10,000, half what Ronald Petocz estimated in his 1973 tour. Their population density has been recorded as fewer than two animals per 1 square kilometre (0.39 sq mi). The Marco Polo sheep was included on the first list of protected species issued by the Afghanistan National Environmental Protection Agency, in June 2009.


Mouflon are the smallest wild sheep. Regarded as the ancestors of domesticated and resembling goats more than sheep, they are 1.1 to 1.3 meters in length, with a seven to 12 centimeter tail and weigh 25 to 55 kilograms. They live in uplands and shrubby, grassy plains and have relatively long legs. Their coat is red-brown with a dark central back stripes, flanked by a paler “saddle” patch. The males are horned; some females are horned, while others are polled. The curved horns of males reaches 85 centimeters in length.

The mouflon (Ovis orientalis orientalis group) is a subspecies group of the wild sheep (Ovis orientalis). Populations of O. orientalis can be partitioned into the mouflons (orientalis group) and the urials (vignei group). Mouflon have short-haired coats. The horns of mature rams are curved in almost one full revolution. Mouflon have shoulder heights of about 0.9 meters and body weights of 50 kilograms (males) and 35 kilograms (females). [Source: Wikipedia +]

Their normal habitats are steep mountainous woods near tree lines. In winter, they migrate to lower altitudes. As with many wild sheep, females live in small groups with their young, while poundse or bachelor-band males compete for access to females. Dominance is determined in battles with males pushing, butting and ramming each other head-first with their horns. Rutting is in the autumn. Breeding begins around age of six or seven.

Mouflon rams have a strict dominance hierarchy. Before mating season or “rut”, which is from late autumn to early winter, rams try to create a dominance hierarchy to determine access to ewes (female mouflon) for mating. Mouflon rams fight one another to obtain dominance and win an opportunity to mate with females. Mouflons reach sexual maturity at the age of 2 to 4 years. Young rams need to obtain dominance before they get a chance to mate, which takes another 3 years for them to start mating. Mouflon ewes also go through a similar hierarchy process in terms of social status in the first 2 years, but can breed even at low status. Pregnancy in females lasts 5 months, in which they produce 1 to 2 offspring. +

Scientific classification:; Kingdom: Animalia; Phylum: Chordata; Class: Mammalia; Order: Artiodactyla; Family: Bovidae; Subfamily: Caprinae; Genus: Ovis; Species: Ovis orientalis. +

Mouflon Range

Mouflon are still found in remote parts of Europe and Western Asia. Today, mouflon inhabit the Caucasus, northern and eastern Iraq, and northwestern Iran. The range originally stretched further to Anatolia, the Crimean peninsula and the Balkans, where they had already disappeared 3,000 years ago and came back to Bulgaria. Mouflon were introduced to the islands of Corsica, Sardinia, Rhodes, and Cyprus during the neolithic period, perhaps as feral domesticated animals, where they have naturalized in the mountainous interiors of these islands over the past few thousand years, giving rise to the subspecies known as European mouflon (O. aries musimon). [Source: Wikipedia +]

On the island of Cyprus, the mouflon or agrino became a different and endemic subspecies only found there, the Cyprus mouflon (O. o. ophion). The Cyprus mouflon population contains only about 3,000 animals. They are now rare on the islands, but are classified as feral animals by the IUCN. They were later successfully introduced into continental Europe, including Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, central Italy, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, the Canary Islands, and even some northern European countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Finland. +

A small colony exists in the remote Kerguelen Islands in the southern Indian Ocean, and on the Veliki Brijun Island in the Brijuni Archipelago of the Istrian Peninsula in Croatia. In South America, mouflon have been introduced into central Chile and Argentina. Since the 1980s, they have also been successfully introduced to game ranches in North America for the purpose of hunting; however, on game ranches, purebreds are rare, as mouflon interbreed with domestic sheep and bighorn sheep.[citation needed] Mouflon have been introduced as game animals into Spieden Island in Washington state, and into the Hawaiian islands of Lanai and Hawaii where they have become a problematic invasive species. A small population escaped from an animal enclosure owned by Thomas Watson, Jr. on the island of North Haven, Maine in the 1990s and still survives there. +

Mouflon and Sheep

Sheep were first domesticated in Western Asia (Turkey, Syria and Iran) from Asiatic moufflon, Ancient sheep roamed pastures and grassland with people for at least 11,000 years and are thought to have been domesticated at least 9,000 ago. Sheep bones, dated to 9000 B.C., found at a site called Zawi Chemi Shandidir in the foothills of the Zagros mountains in what is now Iran, suggests that sheep were being kept in herds at that time.

The mouflon is thought to be one of the two ancestors for all modern domestic sheep breeds. Both the ram and ewe develop a wooly undercoat in the winter and shed it in the summer. In the 1970s, an Asian mouflon was born to a domestic wool sheep. The similarity of the mouflon to domestic sheep, combined with its threatened status, has made it a subject of interest, both scientific and popular, in the use of biotechnology in species preservation.

Prehistoric sheep had dark hairy coats, horns and their wool could be pulled off by hand. Their closest relatives today are the sheep that are kept off the Shetland Islands off Scotland and the wild Soay, sheep on the uninhabited island of St. Kilda off the west coast of Scotland.

Sheep, some argue, have been as important to civilization as agriculture. One of the first domesticated animals, they provided man with food, clothing and shelter, and man providing the sheep with protection from predators. Over centuries, sheep were bred by men to have long white wool that was first cut off with Iron Age shears. Most domesticated varieties don't have horns.

Mouflon Subspecies and Clones

The scientific classification of the mouflon is disputed.Five subspecies of mouflon are distinguished by MSW3: 1) The Armenian mouflon (Armenian wild sheep), Ovis orientalis gmelini (Blyth, 1851), northwestern Iran, Armenia and Azerbaijan. It has been introduced in Texas, US. 2) The European mouflon, O. o. musimon (Pallas, 1811) was introduced about 7,000 years ago in Corsica and Sardinia for the first time. It has since been introduced in many parts of Europe. [Source: Wikipedia]

3) The Cypriot mouflon, O. o. ophion (Blyth, 1841), also called agrino, was nearly extirpated during the 20th century. In 1997, about 1,200 of this subspecies were counted. The television show Born to Explore with Richard Wiese reported 3,000 are now on Cyprus.

4) The Esfahan mouflon, O. o. isphahanica (Nasonov, 1910), is from the Zagros Mountains, Iran. 5) The Laristan mouflon, O. o. laristanica (Nasonov, 1909), is a small subspecies; its range is restricted to some desert reserves near Lar in southern Iran.

A mouflon was cloned successfully in early 2001 and lived at least seven months, making it the first clone of an endangered mammal to survive beyond infancy. This demonstrated a common species (in this case, a domestic sheep) can successfully become a surrogate for the birth of an exotic animal such as the mouflon. If cloning of the mouflon can proceed successfully, it has the potential to reduce strain on the number of living specimens.


Chamois are small goatlike antelope found in the mountains of central and southern Europe—namely the Alps, Apennines, Pyrenees and Carpathians—and in Asia minor. Their slender body is about one meter long, with a three to four centimeter tail, and the stand about 75 centimeters (2½ feet ) at the shoulder. Adults range in length from 0.9 to 1.3 meters and weigh 24 to 50 kilograms.

Chamois are incredibly swift and sure-footed. They can leap two meters high and six meters in distance and can run at speeds of 31 mph on flexible soft pads that give them a sure grip on uneven, slippery surfaces. Chamois have long, pointed hooves that have an elastic base and hard, thin edge. The sole of their hooves are slightly depressed below the outer margin allowing them get a foot hold on small projections. When alarmed, the have been observed leaping across chasms and darting up and on the face of seemingly sheer cliffs.

Chamois have coats of reddish brown hair and a thick, warm underfur that grows in the winter. They also have a short black tail and a pair of short horns that rise from the forehead. Both males and females have horns although those of females are shorter. The horns can reach 20 centimeters in length and curve backwards.

Chamois hunting was once a popular sport. But overhunting led to a decline in their numbers. They are now listed as endangered and are protected by law. The fine soft leader known as "shammy" was originally made from chamois skin. Now most shammy is made of sheepskin or synthetics.

Chamois Behavior

Chamois females and young males generally live in herds with 5 to 30 members, while adult males are solitary. Both sexes spend most their awake time grazing and foraging grass and Alpine vegetation. They feed on herbs and flowers in alpine pastures during the summer and mosses, lichens and shoots in the winter.

Chamois don't like warm weather. They graze at highland pastures in the summer and only descend to the valleys in the winter. Sometimes it is possible to see them in May and June at the bottom of the valleys but as the snow melts they move higher up.

Chamois are very skittish and shy and take off with the slightest noise. This and the fact they live in such inaccessible places makes them hard for tourist to spot and hunters to shoot. When feeding they often post a lookout who warns the others of approaching danger with stamping hooves and a whistling noise.

Males engage in battles to gain access to females in the mating season. During these times it is believed that males become more territorial, marking their tree trunks and branches with a smelly secretion from gland at the base of their horns. The sound of the crashing horns of battling males can be heard from a considerable distance. The gestation period is about six months. Females give birth to a single kid in April to June.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated April 2016

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from, please contact me.