Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra, Rupicapra pyrenaica)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family:    Bovidae
Size:    Height: 2.3 to 3 feet (0.7 to 0.9 m) to the shoulder  Length: 2.5 to 2.8 feet (0.75 to 0.85 m)
Weight: 35 to 110 pounds (15.8 to 50 kg)
Diet: Grasses, leaves, herbs, pine shoots and buds
Distribution: Mountains of Spain, France, Switzerland and Italy; Asia; and introduced to New Zealand
Young:  1 kid every year
Animal Predators:  Lynxes, wolves, bears, bearded vultures and foxes
IUCN Status: Data Deficient/Lower Risk, Conservation Dependent/Endangered/Vulnerable/Critically Endangered (see Conservation below for details)
Terms: Young: Kid
Lifespan: 14 to 22 years



·       The scientific name is Latin and means rupis—a rock or cliff; capra—a she-goat.

·       Soft “shammy” leather comes from the chamois and is used for cleaning glass and cars.

·       The plural for chamois is either chamois or chamoix.



Both males and females have hollow, black horns rising straight up, with the sharp tips folding backwards. Their coat is reddish-brown in the summer and chocolate-brown in the winter. They have pale under parts. The lower part of their face is white, with a wide, black stripe along the middle of the cheeks and a white stripe running along the middle of their nose, up between their eyes. 



Chamois can be found in limited populations throughout the Alps, Appenines, Pyrenees and Carpathians. They have also been introduced in New Zealand for hunting purposes.


Feeding Habits

During the summer, the flocks venture up the mountains to feed, while during winter, when the alpine meadows are covered in snow, they descend to meadows at lower altitudes. Their diet consists of grasses, leaves, herbs, pine shoots and buds. While the rest of the herd eats, at least one member watches for danger, and makes a whistling sound, sneezes and/or stamps its feet if it sees anything suspicious.



Chamois kids are born during May and June after a gestation period of 24 weeks. They can walk almost immediately after birth, and begin to leap within days. In the case of a mother’s death, the other females in the flock will feed and take care of the orphaned kid. Kids are weaned by six months, but remain with their mother until they are at least two to three years old. 



Chamois live in flocks of 15 to 30 females and juveniles, while the adult males remain solitary for most of the year. In early autumn, the males join in with the flocks of females for the duration of the mating season. Chamois are extremely nimble on rocky cliffs and can run over steep or uneven ground at speeds of up to 30 miles (48 km) per hour and can leap as high as 6.6 feet (2 m) and 20 feet (6 m) forward.



Chamois numbers are dwindling rapidly due to sport hunting. The IUCN lists the Tatra chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra tatrica) of Poland and Slovakia and the Chartreuse chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra cartusiana) of France as Critically Endangered. The Caucasian chamois of Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan is listed as Vulnerable. The Turkish chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra asiatica) of Turkey is classified as Data Deficient, meaning that there is not enough data concerning their abundance/distribution to assess their risk of extinction. The southern chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra pyrenaica) of France, Italy and Spain is listed as Lower Risk, Conservation Dependent, while the subspecies (Rupicapra rupicapra ornata) of Italy is considered Endangered.



Chamois Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US