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Chamois

Rupicapra rupicapra

Photo Credit: Fulvio Spada, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Weight

24-50kg

(53-110lbs)

Length

0.9-1.3m

(3-4.25ft)

Lifespan

Wild 15-17 years

Captive 22 years

Diet

Herbivore

Flowers and plants

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

Chamois are a species of mountain-dwelling antelope with specialized hooves that help them to keep a sure-footing as they move through their habitat. They can be found in alpine habitats with a thick, wooly coat helping to keep them warm.

They feed on a range of flowers and plants though they may go without food for up to two weeks when the snow is at its deepest.

Both males and females have a pair of horns rising almost vertically from the head. Males use these to fight prior to the breeding season.

Appearance

The chamois is a species of goat-antelope. They have a thick wooly coat to help keep them warm.

To keep warm in their alpine habitat they are covered by a thick wooly coat. During summer they are colored reddish-brown and during summer they are colored light grey. The rump is colored white with a black stripe running across the back. Their underside is pale in color.

The head and throat is colored white. Running across the eyes and ears down to the muzzle is a black stripe. A white patch of fur is present under the throat.

Both the male and female sport a pair of horns on top of their head. These are colored black with a slight curve at the top. They may reach a length of up to 20cm (8in) long. Males have slightly thicker horns than females.

Their horns will only grow during summer. As a result of this growth rings are generated which can be used to determine the age of the individual.

At the end of the body is a short 3-4cm (1.25-1.5in) long tail.

An average chamois will measure 0.9 to 1.3m(3-4.25ft) long with an average weight between 24 and 50kg (53-110lbs). At the shoulder they stand 75cm (30in) tall. Females are typically smaller than males.

Diet


Chamois are herbivores. They will feed on herbs and flowers during summer. In winter they will move lower to find mosses, lichens and shoots.

During winter when food is scarce or covered in deep snow they may survive for up to 2 weeks without food.

Chamois

Photo Credit: Dmano at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Range

Chamois are native to Europe. Here they can be found in the following countries – Albania; Austria; Azerbaijan; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Croatia; France; Georgia; Germany; Greece; Italy; Montenegro; North Macedonia; Poland; Romania; Russian Federation; Serbia; Slovakia; Slovenia; Switzerland and Turkey.

An introduced population has been established in Czechia and New Zealand. In New Zealand they were introduced to the South Island. They have also been introduced to Argentina but is unclear if this population still survives.

Their introduction to New Zealand followed the presentation of a chamois to the country by  Austrian Emperor, Franz Joseph 1 in 1907.

Habitat

Chamois make their homes in alpine areas. During winter they will move in to forested areas or to steep slopes where snow does not accumulate.

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Reproduction

Prior to the breeding season males will fight one another using their horns to gain access to the females. They aim their attacks at the belly or flank of the opponent which can often be fatal for the opponent.

Males will only join the herd for the breeding season. This occurs from October to December.

Following a successful mating and the 170 day gestation period a female will give birth to a single young though twins and even triplets have been recorded.

Within minutes of being born the chamois can stand to follow its mother.

In the event a mother is killed other members of the herd will help to raise her young. Weaning takes place at 2 to 3 months old.

Males leave the herd they were born in at 2 to 3 years old. They may be driven out of the herd when older males join the herd for the breeding season.

Sexual maturity is reached at 2.5 years for females and by 4 years for males.

Behavior

Chamois are well adapted to life in the mountainous areas they call home. They are able to leap to heights of up to 2m (6.5ft).

They are agile and can reach speeds to up to 50km/h (31mph) when running.

Females and their young will form small herds. These herds may include 15-30 members. Outside of the breeding season males will live a solitary lifestyle.

These animals are primarily active during the day but on nights with a full moon they may graze.

Chamois

Photo Credit: Böhringer Friedrich, CC BY-SA 2.5 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5>, via Wikimedia Commons

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the chamois include lynxes and wolves. Young may fall prey to foxes, badgers and birds of prey.

Humans affect the population of chamois through hunting for food and their skin. They are also hunted for sports in part of their range.

Livestock affect the population of chamois through food competition as do introduced species such as the mouflon.

Disease outbreaks have regularly decimated their populations but they always manage to recover from these declines.

Quick facts

In New Zealand the chamois is known as the 'shammy.'

Chamois

Photo Credit: Böhringer Friedrich, CC BY-SA 2.5 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2005. Animals of Africa & Europe. London: Southwater.

Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley

Gunderson, D. 2003. "Rupicapra rupicapra" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed May 10, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Rupicapra_rupicapra/

Softschools.com. 2021. Chamois Facts. [online] Available at: <https://www.softschools.com/facts/animals/chamois_facts/2379/> [Accessed 10 May 2021].

Thewebsiteofeverything.com. 2021. Chamois – From Europe to New Zealand – pictures and facts. [online] Available at: <https://thewebsiteofeverything.com/animals/mammals/Artiodactyla/Bovidae/Rupicapra/Rupicapra-rupicapra.html> [Accessed 10 May 2021].

Torontozoo.com. 2021. Toronto Zoo | Animals. [online] Available at: <https://www.torontozoo.com/animals/Chamois> [Accessed 10 May 2021].

Anderwald, P., Ambarli, H., Avramov, S., Ciach, M., Corlatti, L., Farkas, A., Jovanovic, M., Papaioannou, H., Peters, W., Sarasa, M., Šprem, N., Weinberg, P. & Willisch, C. 2021. Rupicapra rupicapra (amended version of 2020 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2021: e.T39255A195863093. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2021-1.RLTS.T39255A195863093.en. Downloaded on 10 May 2021.

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