Rupicapra pyrenaicaPyrenean chamois

Geographic Range

Rupicapra pyrenaica is found in the mountains of northwestern Spain, the Pyrenees, and the Apennines of central Italy (Nowak, 1983).


R. pyrenaica generally stays above 1,800 meters in alpine meadows during the warmer months of the year (Nowak, 1983). In late fall and winter they have been known to enter lands below 1,100 meters, while usually staying on steep slopes (Nowak, 1983). Rarely do they ever enter forests (Nowak, 1983).

Physical Description

R. pyrenaica has an average length between 900-1300 mm (Nowak, 1983). Tail length is 30-40 mm and shoulder height is 760-810 mm (Nowak, 1983). R. pyrenaica usually weighs between 24-50 kg (Nowak, 1983). The summer coat is reddish in color, while the much thicker winter coat is blackish brown with white markings on the throat, neck, shoulders and flanks (Nowak, 1983). Both sexes have slender, black horns that are 152-203 mm long (Nowak, 1983). The horns are set very close together, rise in a vertical fashion, and then bend backwards sharply to form hooks. The hoof is padded with a slight depression and is somewhat elastic, helping to provide solid footing in rough terrain (Nowak, 1983).

  • Range mass
    24 to 50 kg
    52.86 to 110.13 lb
  • Range length
    900 to 1300 mm
    35.43 to 51.18 in


R. pyrenaica breeds seasonally, mating in the fall and giving birth in the spring (Nowak, 1983). Females have a gestation period of about 170 days after which the young are born in a shelter of lichens and mosses (Nowak, 1983). Twins and triplets do sometimes occur.

  • Breeding season
  • Range number of offspring
    1 (low)
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    8-9 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    8-9 years

The young of R. pyrenaica can usually follow their mothers almost immediately after birth, and they rapidly improve their leaping ability during the first few days of their life (Nowak, 1983).

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • post-independence association with parents


They have been known to live up to 22 years (Nowak, 1983).

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    22 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    22 years


R. pyrenaica usually live with their mother's group until they are 2-3 years old (Nowak, 1983). They live a nomad lifestyle until they reach full maturity at 8-9 years, at which point they become attached to an area.

Females and young form herds of 15-30 individuals, with the number in the herd varying with the seasons (Nowak, 1983). In the winter months, females isolate themselves to give birth in the spring (Nowak, 1983). Adult males live alone most of the year. During the late summer they join the herds, and during the autumn rut the older males drive the younger males from the herd, occasionally killing them (Nowak, 1983).

R. pyrenaica are very graceful and nimble. They can jump nearly 2 meters in height and a distance of 6 meters (Nowak, 1983). They can also run at speeds of 50 km/hr on uneven ground (Nowak, 1983)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

During the summer months R. pyrenaica subsists mainly on herbs and flowers, and in the winter months they also eat lichens, mosses, and young pine shoots (Nowak, 1983). If conditions are bad due to snow, they have been known to fast for two weeks until food could be secured (Nowak, 1983).

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • flowers
  • bryophytes
  • lichens

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The meat is a prized food for some people (Nowak, 1983). The winter hair from the back is often used to make hats (Nowak, 1983). Another popular use is to make the skin into "shammy" leather that is used for cleaning glass and polishing automobiles.

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Conservation Status

R. pyrenaica were declining in numbers, due to hunting, but are now back on the rise and nearly stabilized. Total numbers for all of Europe hover around 31,000 (Nowak, 1983). One subspecies (Rupicapra pyrenaica ornata) is classified as Endangered and listed in CITES Appendix I

Other Comments

R. pyrenaica is also sometimes called Chamois (pronounced shammy).


Matthew Haack (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ondrej Podlaha (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.

dominance hierarchies

ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Nowak, R., J. Paradiso. 1983. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkin's University Press.