Capricornis sumatraensisSumatran serow(Also: serow)

Geographic Range

Sumatran serows, Capricornis sumatraensis, are found on the Thai-Malay Peninsula and on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. There are three specific areas of highlands on the island of Sumatra that have been identified as supporting populations of C. sumatraensis: the Barisan mountains in the south, Aceh in the north, and Kerinci in the central part of the island. (Duckworth, et al., 2008; Santiapillai and Ramono, 1994)


Capricornis sumatraensis is found in mountainous areas at altitudes of between 200 and 3,000 m. It resides mainly in forests and is frequently found near cliffs. (Santiapillai and Ramono, 1994)

A close relative, Capricornis milneedwardsi, inhabits areas near the top of steep slopes with high densities of shrubs. (Chen, et al., 2009)

  • Range elevation
    200 to 3,000 m
    656.17 to ft

Physical Description

In body shape, Sumatran serows resemble goats or antelopes. They are generally dark grey or black in color with backward pointing horns that narrow at the tips. The horns usually have a slight curve. A skin of C. sumatraensis measured 60 inches (approximately 152.4 cm) from nose to tail. (Pocock, 1908; Santiapillai and Ramono, 1994)

There is no information regarding sexual dimorphism in this species and standard measurements are not available. However, in a close relative, Capricornis crispus, both males and females were reported to weigh between 30 and 45 kg, with horns that averaged 12 to 16 cm in length. (Kishimoto and Kawamichi, 1996; Ochiai and Susaki, 2002)

At approximately 30 kg, Capricornis swinhoei, a close relative native to Taiwan, is slightly smaller than C. sumatraensis. (Wang and Chen, 1981)


The mating system of C. sumatraensis has not been described, but a close relative, Capricornis crispus, commonly forms monogamous pairs. A single pair will often stay together for multiple years, each sex maintaining a territory that overlaps with the territory of its mate. Occasionally, polygynous groups form, but since females maintain their own individual territories, it is difficult for the male to guard multiple females. A typical pair bond lasts approximately 4.6 years. (Kishimoto and Kawamichi, 1996; Ochiai and Susaki, 2002)

The breeding season of C. sumatraensis occurs between the months of October and November. Gestation lasts approximately 7 months and, in one recorded instance of a captive Sumatran serow, birth occurred in early June. Usually the mother gives birth to 1 offspring. (Galstaun and West, 1982)

Little is known about growth and development of young Sumatran serows, but in Capricornis crispus, a close relative with a similar gestation period, young stop being dependent on their mother at about 1 year of age, but stay in their mother's territory for 2 to 4 years. Capricornis crispus females reach sexual maturity at about three years of age. (Kishimoto, 1989; Ochiai and Susaki, 2002)

  • Breeding interval
    Sumatran serow breeds yearly.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs in October and November.
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    7 months

Parental care in Capricornis sumatraensis has not been described. However, in a close relative, Capricornis crispus, the mother is the sole care provider for her young. Shortly after birth, the serow kid is able to travel with its mother as she forages for food. In C. crispus, a mother and kid will often stay close to the area where the kid was born for the first few days after birth. Capricornis crispus mothers are occasionally observed between the months of May and July without their kid, which suggests that kids sometimes hide for short periods of time. (Kishimoto, 1989)

  • Parental Investment
  • precocial
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


The maximum lifespan observed in a close relative, Capricornis crispus, is 20 to 21 years for males and 21 to 22 years for females. At birth, females have shorter life expectancies, 4.8 to 5.1 years, compared to males, with life expectancies of 5.3 to 5.5 years. (Ochiai and Susaki, 2002)


Sumatran serows are shy animals. While generally solitary, small groups are occasionally observed. Trails in serow habitat indicate that routes that are used to reach specific areas. Although Sumatran serows spend almost all of their time on land, they are known to be good swimmers as well. (Santiapillai and Ramono, 1994; West, 1979)

Aggressive encounters between Sumatran serows have not been fully described. However, a close relative, Capricornis swinhoei, stomps the ground with both front feet when angered and uses its horns as its primary weapons. Capricornis sumatraensis has been observed to use biting as a last resort, when it is not able to kick with its front legs. (Wang and Chen, 1981; West, 1979)

Home Range

Capricornis sumatraensis is a territorial species. Individuals mark territory boundaries using dung piles, which are usually placed in areas where they are not disturbed by the elements but are not hidden enough so as to prevent another serow from detecting them and consequently trespassing. (Lovari and Locati, 1994)

There is no information on territory size for Sumatran serows. In Capricornis crispus, males typically occupy larger territories (16.2 ha) than females (10.5 ha). The territories of two individuals sometimes overlap and encounters with an individual of the same sex usually result in aggression. Territory owners typically chase intruders from their territory. (Ochiai and Susaki, 2002)

Communication and Perception

Observations of C. crispus indicate that kids recognize their mother by sound. (Kishimoto, 1989)

Capricornis sumatraensis has preorbital and interdigital scent glands. These glands are used to mark boundaries of territories. Capricornis swinhoei, a close relative that exhibits behavior very similar to that of C. sumatraensis, produces a high-pitched alarm call. (Wang and Chen, 1981; West, 1979)

Food Habits

Sumatran serows are forest browsers and appear to prefer nutrient-rich vegetation, though they eat nearly any type of vegetation if nothing else is available. Multiple individuals are occasionally found feeding together in areas high in resources. A close relative, Capricornis swinhoei, has been observed in captivity to feed primarily during the evening hours and at night. Another close relative, Capricornis milneedwardsi, eats primarily the leaves and twigs from deciduous broadleaved trees. (Chen, et al., 2009; Santiapillai and Ramono, 1994; Wang and Chen, 1981)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves


Sumatran serows typically select bedding sites that are protected from the wind, but not secluded enough to allow a predator to sneak up on the resting serow. There is nothing in the literature regarding which predators prey on C. sumatraensis, however Lovari and Locati (1994) mention that serows sometimes occupy the same habitat as big cats such as leopards and tigers, which likely prey on them. (Lovari and Locati, 1994)

Predation does not appear to have a major impact on population density of the closely related Japanese serow, Capricornis crispus. (Ochiai and Susaki, 2002)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Other ungulates such as wild pigs, rusa deer, and barking deer or muntjacs share the Sumatran serow's habitat. There may be some overlap in diet between Capricornis species and other ungulate genera. (Chen, et al., 2009; Santiapillai and Ramono, 1994)

In captivity, Capricornis sumatraensis has been observed to host external parasites, such as large fleas. Nematode larvae have also been found in feces of captive individuals. (West, 1979)

Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Throughout Asia, multiple species of serow are hunted for medicinal purposes and for their meat. The meat of the Formosan serow, Capricornis swinhoei, is highly valued in Taiwan. Some local people hunt C. sumatraensis for its meat, despite it being protected, because the locals believe that serow meat is better than meat that is more readily available, such as meat from goats. However, this hunting poses a threat to populations. (Corlett, 2007; Wang and Chen, 1981; West, 1979)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

A close relative, Capricornis crispus, occasionally eats crops. (Deguchi, et al., 2002)

Conservation Status

In 2008, C. sumatraensis was listed as vulnerable by the IUCN Redlist. It is estimated that there are between 500 and 750 individuals in Malaysia, but there are no data on population size in Indonesia. The main threat for Sumatran serows is loss of habitat. Capricornis sumatraensis requires thick forest, and forests in its range are being cut due to agriculture and the demand for timber. Many Sumatran serows are also injured or killed by poachers when they are caught in traps meant for other animals. Capricornis sumatraensis is protected by law in Indonesia and Malaysia, as are certain parts of the animal’s habitat. Both Indonesia and Malaysia have conservation plans that aim to educate people living near serows, reduce habitat loss, and protect remaining habitat, to prevent the serow population from declining further. (Duckworth, et al., 2008; Santiapillai and Ramono, 1994)

Other Comments

The classification of serows has changed greatly over time. In 1908, seven subspecies of Capricornis sumatraensis were recognized based on geographical range. Subsequently, many of these subspecies were elevated to species. Later, serows were classified into two species, one of which was Capricornis crispus. Currently, there are six recognized species of serow, including Capricornis sumatraensis. ("Capricornis sumatraensis", 2010; Pocock, 1908; Thomas, et al., 1986)


Stephanie Cunningham (author), Michigan State University, Barbara Lundrigan (editor), Michigan State University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



uses sound to communicate

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


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

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

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.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


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.


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 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.


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

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

sexual ornamentation

one of the sexes (usually males) has special physical structures used in courting the other sex or fighting the same sex. For example: antlers, elongated tails, special spurs.


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


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


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


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.

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


IUCN. 2010. "Capricornis sumatraensis" (On-line). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed April 18, 2010 at

Chen, W., J. Hu, X. Lu. 2009. Habitat use and separation between the Chinese serow (Capricornis milneedwardsi) and the Chinese goral (Naemorhedus griseus) in winter. Mammali, 73: 249-252.

Corlett, R. 2007. Impact of Hunting on Mammalia Fauna of Tropical Asian Forests. Biotropica, 39(3): 292-303.

Deguchi, Y., S. Sato, K. Sugawara. 2002. Food plant selection by the wild Japanese serow (Capricornis crispus) with reference to the traces eaten. Animal Science Journal, 73: 67-72.

Duckworth, J., R. Steinmetz, J. MacKinnon. 2008. "Capricornis sumatraensis" (On-line). IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed March 15, 2010 at

Galstaun, B., J. West. 1982. Notes on Breeding the Sumatran Serow (Capricornis sumatraensis). Zoologische Garten, 53(2): 66-72.

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.

Lovari, S., M. Locati. 1994. Site features of territorial dung-marking in mainland serow. Mammalia, 58(1): 153-156.

Ochiai, K., K. Susaki. 2002. Effects of Territoriality of Population Density in the Japanses serow (Capricornis crispus). Journal of Mammalogy, 83(4): 964-972.

Pocock, R. 1908. Notes upon some species and geographical races of Serows (Capricornis) and Gorals (Noemorhedus), based upon specimens exhibited in the Society's Gardens. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1908: 173-202.

Santiapillai, C., W. Ramono. 1994. The serow (Capricornis sumatraensis) - its status, distribution and conservation in Sumatra. Tigerpaper, 21(3): 15-19.

Thomas, W., R. Barnes, M. Crotty, M. Jones. 1986. An historical overview of selected rare runimants in captivity. International Zoo Yearbook, 24/25: 77-99.

Wang, K., P. Chen. 1981. Notes on Formosan serow Capricornis crispus swinhoei at Taipei Zoo. International Zoo Yearbook, 21: 201-202.

West, J. 1979. Notes on the Sumatran serow Capricornis sumatraensis at Jakarta Zoo. International Zoo Yearbook, 19: 252-254.