Capricornis crispusJapanese serow

Geographic Range

The distribution of Japanese serows is restricted to the Japanese islands of Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku. (Fukuda, 1995; Kubo, et al., 2001)


Japanese serows inhabit forested areas on mountains. (Fukuda, 1995; Kishimoto and Kawamichi, 1996; Kubo, et al., 2001; Ochiai and Susaki, 2002; Ochiai, 1999)

Physical Description

Japanese serows are similar in appearance to goats. Their horns average 12 to 16 cm in length. Their body length is approximately 130 cm, and their shoulder height is about 65 cm. Adult serows weigh 30-45 kg, and they are not strongly sexually dimorphic. Their pelage is dark brown, but in the northern part of their range the color is lighter. They possess large infraorbital glands that are used in scent marking their territories. This gland can be seen easily. (Fukuda, 1995; Kubo, et al., 2001; Ochiai and Susaki, 2002)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    30 to 45 kg
    66.08 to 99.12 lb
  • Average mass
    37 kg
    81.50 lb
  • Average length
    130 cm
    51.18 in


Japanese serows usually form monogamous pairs. However, some males mate with two and occasionally three females in the same breeding season. Two field studies at different locations found a similar proportion of polygynous males (20-30%), suggesting that the proportion of animals that mate polygynously is perhaps fixed in the species. Both sexes form territories that they defend against other individuals of the same sex. Usually male territories almost completely overlap those of a female, but sometimes male territories include territories of more than one female. In these cases, those males are polygynous. Mated pairs remain together every year, perhaps because they hold consistent territories. When a mate is displaced from their territory, their mate remains in the same territory and mates with the individual that takes over the territory of the displaced animal.

Japanese serows rut in September to November. The young are born in May and June, and they remain with their mother for about a year. Young reach sexual maturity at 2.5 to 3 years of age. Although serows become independent as yearlings, they remain in their natal territory. They disperse between 2 to 4 years of age, but females may inherit their mothers' territories. (Kishimoto and Kawamichi, 1996; Kishimoto, 1989; Ochiai and Susaki, 2002)

  • Breeding interval
    Japanese serows breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs from Septermber to November.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 3
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    6.67 to 7.67 months
  • Average weaning age
    5 months
  • Average time to independence
    1 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2.5 to 3 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2.5 to 3 years

Most of the parental investment is provided by the mother. Young serows follow their mothers for a year, and remain in the mother’s territory for 2 to 4 years. Lactation continues until November. Males provide no parental care to the young, although they permit young within their territories. (Kishimoto and Kawamichi, 1996; Kishimoto, 1989; Ochiai and Susaki, 2002)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • post-independence association with parents
  • inherits maternal/paternal territory


The maximum longevity is 20 to 21 years for males and 21 to 22 years for females. Life expectancies at birth are 5.3 to 5.5 years for males and 4.8 and 5.1 years for females. One study found that serows live in same territory for 11.7 to 12.4 years. Because serows disperse from their natal territories at 2 to 4 years of age to establish their own territories, they live most of their lives in the territory they established. Also, it is likely that successful establishment of a territory increases an individual's chances of survival greatly, those without territories have greater risk of mortality. (Ochiai and Susaki, 2002; Tokida and Miura, 1988)


Japanese serows are known to stand on high look outs for extended periods. This behavior could be for the purpose of detecting predators, but may also be to detect territorial rivals. (Fukuda, 1995)

Japanese serows are considered diurnal, but a study using radio collared individual found that they are almost as active during night. (Kishimoto, 1989)

  • Average territory size
    105-166 km^2

Home Range

Japanese serows are solitary animals and form intrasexual territories. They mark their territories with the scent gland located in front of the eyes. Encounter between adults serows of same sex results in aggression, where the intruding serows are chased out of the territories. Deaths from combat injury occur at least among males in some cases. Territory size is affected by the food availability. (Kubo, et al., 2001; Ochiai and Susaki, 2002; Tokida and Miura, 1988)

Communication and Perception

Japanese serows use scent marking to hold territories. Because they are solitary animals and have little occasion to encounter other individuals of the same species, they use scent marking as their primary method of communication. Females use sound to call their young. (Kishimoto, 1989; Fukuda, 1995; Kishimoto, 1989; Kubo, et al., 2001)

Food Habits

Japanese serows are browsers that feed primarily on the buds and leaves of deciduous broad-leaved trees. They also feed on leaves of evergreen coniferous trees and fallen acorns. They sometimes eat flowers and fruits. (Fukuda, 1995; Kubo, et al., 2001; Ochiai, 1999; Takatsuki, et al., 1988)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • wood, bark, or stems
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit
  • flowers


Japanese serows have no or very few predators other than humans. A potential predator is Ursus thibetanus, Asiatic black bears. However, Asiatic black bears are not highly predatory. Historically, wolves probably preyed on serows, but wolves were exterminated from the serow's range by the early 1900s. More significantly, humans hunted them for meat and hide in the past. They are currently protected as a Japanese natural heritage and hunting is prohibited. Recently, dog predation was found to be a leading source of mortality in some areas. (Kubo, et al., 2001; Ochiai and Susaki, 2002; Tokida and Miura, 1988)

Ecosystem Roles

Because Japanese serows are territorial and their density in any particular area is limited, their impact on vegetation is relatively low. However, some species of plants are affected by their browsing and consequently they have some influence over the vegetation. (Ochiai, 1999)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Traditionally Japanese serows were an important source of meat and hide for people. Currently they are recognized as unique species endemic to Japan and classified as a natural heritage. (Kubo, et al., 2001)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material
  • ecotourism
  • research and education

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Because they browse on trees, Japanese serows sometimes become pests to the forestry industry as they damage planted trees. They are sometimes killed as a management practice to control damage to forestry plantations. (Kubo, et al., 2001)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Japanese serows were hunted to near extinction by people in the past. They are currently protected as a natural heritage and hunting has been prohibited. They are listed as Lower Risk in IUCN. (Kubo, et al., 2001; Ochiai and Susaki, 2002)

Other Comments

Japanese serows are currently recognized as Capricornis crispus, they were previously recognized under the name Naemorhedus crispus. (Fukuda, 1995; Kishimoto and Kawamichi, 1996; Kubo, et al., 2001; Ochiai and Susaki, 2002; Ochiai, 1999)


Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Kensuke Mori (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor, instructor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



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

World Map


uses sound to communicate


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

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


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.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


Having one mate at a time.


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.


active during the night


having more than one female as a mate at one time

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


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


lives alone


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).


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


Fukuda, G. 1995. Illustrated pocket book of animals in colour. 5-12, 1 Chome, Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan: Hokuryukan.

Kishimoto, R. 1989. Early Mother and Kid Behavior of a Typical "Follower", Japanese Serow Capricornis crispus . Mammalia, 53(2): 165-176.

Kishimoto, R., T. Kawamichi. 1996. Territoriality and monogamous pairs in a solitary ungulate, the Japanese serow, Capricornis crispus . Animal Behavior, 52: 673-682.

Kubo, K., Y. Nakagawa, N. Maeda, K. Numata, T. Yamada. 2001. Yama-kei pocket guide 24, Nihon yasei doubutsu. 1-1-33, Shiba-daimon, Minatoku, Tokyo, Japan: YAMA-KEI Publishers Co.,Ltd..

Miura, S., I. Kita, M. Sugimura. 1987. Horn Growth and Reproductive History in Female Japanese Serow. Journal of Mammalogy, Vol.68, No.4.: 826-836.

Miura, S., N. Maruyama. 1986. Winter weight loss in Japanese serow. Journal of Wildlife Management, 50(2): 336-338.

Ochiai, K. 1999. Diet of the Japanese serow (Capricornis crispus) on the Shimokita Peninsula, northern Japan, in reference to variations with a 16-year interval. Mammal study, 24: 91-102.

Ochiai, K., S. Nakama, S. Hanawa, T. Amagasa. 1993. Population dynamics of Japanese serow in relation to social organization and habitat conditions. I. Stability of Japanese serow density in stable habitat conditions. Ecological Research, 8: 11-18.

Ochiai, K., S. Nakama, S. Hanawa, T. Amagasa. 1993. Population dynamics of Japanese serow in relation to social organization and habitat conditions. II. Effects of clear-cutting and planted tree growth on Japanese serow populations. Ecological Research, 8: 19-25.

Ochiai, K., K. Susaki. 2002. Effects of territoriality on population density in the Japanese serow, (Capricornis crispus). Journal of Mammalogy, 83(4): 964-972.

Takatsuki, S., N. Ôsugi, T. Itô. 1988. A Note on the Food Habits of the Japanese Serow at the Western Foothill of Mt. Zao, northern Japan. Journal of the Mammalogical Society of Japan, 13(2): 139-142.

Tokida, K., S. Miura. 1988. Mortality and Life Table of a Japanese Serow (Capricornis crispus) Population in Iwate Prefecture, Japan. Journal of the Mammalogical Society of Japan, 13(2): 119-126.