Hemitragus jemlahicusHimalayan tahr

Geographic Range

Hemitragus jemlahicus is native to the southern flanks of the Himalaya Mountains from northern India east to Bhutan, as far north as Tibet. It has been widely introduced elsewhere for hunting. After introduction to New Zealand in 1904 it spread to all the suitable habitat there. There are also introducted populations in New Mexico, California, Ontario, and South Africa.

(Forsyth and Hickling 1998; Kingel; Tustin 1990; Williams 2001)


In the Himalayas, Hemitragus jemlahicus prefers rugged wooded hills and mountains slopes in the subalpine and alpine regions from 3500-4500 meters in elevation. It may also seasonally use mixed oak forests as low as 2500 meters and alpine meadows as high as 5000 meters.

In New Zealand H. jemlahicus lives on grassy mountain slopes, large rock bluff systems, snow tussok basins, and the uppermost subalpine scrubland from 750-2250 meters in elevation. It prefers north and north-east facing slopes, which are sunnier and have less snow accumulation in the winter.

(Klingel; Tustin 1990)

  • Range elevation
    750 to 5000 m
    2460.63 to 16404.20 ft

Physical Description

Hemitragus jemlahicus has relatively short legs and a small head. Males are large than females. Males average 73 kg in weight while females average 36 kg. Their hooves are well-adapted for their mountain habitat, with a hard rim of keratin surrounding a soft spongy convex pad. These hooves and strong dewclaws allow them to be excellent climbers.

The adult male in winter has a dark face and muzzle, sides and hindquarters black to red-brown, a reddish rump patch, and a lighter underside. It has a thick ruff or mane around its neck and shoulders and down its front legs. Older males are darker, with a light band along the flanks and a dark mid-dorsal line. The mane may be as long as 250 cm and is slate grey to straw-colored. The adult female in winter is grey to brown with a darker muzzle and legs and a light underside. The summer coat in adults of both sexes is shorter and lighter brown to straw-colored. Young are uniformly brown except for the front of their legs, which are black.

Both sexes have horns which curve up, back, and then in. They are laterally flattened, triangular in cross-section, and have a keel on the front edge. Males have longer horns (up to 450 mm) than females (up to 190 mm).

(Forsyth 1998; Huffman; Tustin 1990)

  • Range mass
    36 to 90 kg
    79.30 to 198.24 lb
  • Range length
    90 to 140 cm
    35.43 to 55.12 in


In the Himalayas, the rut runs from mid-October to mid-January. In New Zealand, the rut runs from April to July and peaks in May or early June. The difference in breeding season is due the six-month shift in seasons between the northern and southern hemispheres. Captive animals that are transplated to the opposite hemisphere shift their breeding cycles in two years or less. During the rut, younger males will follow groups of females and attempt, generally unsuccessfully, to mate with any female. Older males will follow and defend individual oestrus females. The mating display consists of a male standing facing a female, at a right angle to her, with his head and muzzle high and his mane erect and hiding his horns. This is followed by a series of head nods and brief copulation. The competitive display involves two males walking stiffly parallel to each other, with their mane and dorsal ridge erect, their heads down, and their horns exposed. The victor will either move to block the path of his opponent or chase him away. Only rarely does the competitive display lead to direct head-to-head wrestling, which in Hemitragus jemlahicus has been described as "half-hearted" relative to other horned or antlered mammals.

(Forsyth 1998, Forsyth and Hickling 1998, Huffman; Pare, Barrette, and Prescott 1996, Tustin 1990)

Females leave their groups to give birth. The kid is able to nurse within a few minutes and can walk within three hours. Mother and kid return to the group after a few days. Twins are very rare in the wild, but occur more frequently in captivity. In the Himalayas, births occur from mid-April to mid-July. In New Zealand, the median birth date is 30 November. Females are fecund at 2 years. Captive females can concieve at up to 18 years old, although they rarely live that long in the wild. Males are fecund at 2 years, but rarely have successful access to females until 4 years old.

(Forsyth 1998; Haysen, van Tienhoven, and van Tienhoven 1993; Pare, Barrette, and Prescott 1996; Tustin 1990)

  • Breeding season
    births in April-July (spring-summer)
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 2
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    6 (low) months
  • Average gestation period
    6 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 to 6 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 to 6 years

Young stay in their mothers group until two years old, when the males disperse to form male-only groups. Females do not disperse.

(Tustin 1990)


Normal lifespan is 10-14 years, although individuals up to 22 years old have been reported. Females live longer than males. Accidental death due to rock slides or avalanches is not uncommon.

(Huffman; Pare, Barrette, and Prescott 1996; Tustin 1990)


Hemitragus jemlahicus is most active in the early morning and late afternoon, 3-4 hours post-dawn and pre-dusk. It spends over half the daylight hours resting. It has a daily vertical migration, moving upslope in the morning, resting there in the middle of the day, and moving downslope for the night.

H. jemlahicus lives in herds of 2-23 animals. Outside of the breeding season, males usually live in seperate groups from females and young (under 2 years old), with males older than four years often seperate from younger males. Groups that include males are larger than all-female groups. There is no apparent dominance hierachy within groups.

(Forsyth 1998; Forsyth and Hickling 1997; Huffman; Nowak 1995; Tustin 1990)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Hemitragus jemlahicus has had a significant negative effect on the native flora of New Zealand, which has no native herbivores. During the winter it eats less due to poor food quality and high metabolic costs. It eats alpine herbs and subalpine scrubland plants.

(Forsyth 1998; Forsyth, Parkes, and Hickling 2000; Huffman; Tustin 1990)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves


In the Himalayas, Hemitragus jemlahicus is preyed on by the snow leopard, Uncia uncia. In New Zealand and other areas it has been introduced, its only predator is humans.


Ecosystem Roles

Hemitragus jemlahicus has had a significant negative affect on the native flora of New Zealand, which has no native herbivores.

(Forsyth 1998; Forsyth, Parkes, and Hickling 2000; Tustin 1990)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Hemitragus jemlahicus is widely hunted for sport and trophies. It is also hunted for meat.

(Davys, Forsyth, and Hickling 1998; Forsyth 1998)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Hemitragus jemlahicus has had a significant negative affect on the native flora of New Zealand, which has no native herbivores.

(Forsyth 1998; Forsyth, Parkes, and Hickling 2000; Tustin 1990)

Conservation Status

In its native habitat, Hemitragus jemlahicus now survives only as remnant populations due to hunting and habitat loss. In areas where it was introduded, it is doing well, but is often heavily managed.

(Forsyth, Parkes, and Hickling 2000; Tustin 1990)


Sara Kennedy (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Kate Teeter (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

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living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

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living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

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

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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.


helps break down and decompose dead plants and/or animals


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


active at dawn and dusk


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


union of egg and spermatozoan


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.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.


makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds


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.

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having more than one female as a mate at one time

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

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).


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


Davys, T., D. Forsyth, G. Hichling. August 8, 1998. "The Royal Society of New Zealand: New Zealand Journal of Zoology Abstracts" (On-line). Accessed November 19, 2001 at http://www.rsnz.govt.nt/publish/nzjz/1999/1.php.

Forsyth, D. 1998. Long-term harvesting and male migration in a New Zealand population of Himalayan tahr *Hemitragus jemlahicus*. Journal of Applied Ecology, 36 (3): 351-362.

Forsyth, D., G. Hickling. 1997. An improved technique for indexing abundance of Himalayan thar. New Zealand Journal of Ecology, 21(1): 97-101.

Forsyth, D., G. Hickling. 1998. Increasing Himalayan tahr and decreasing chamois densities in the eastern Southern Alps, New Zealand: evidence for interspecific competition. Oecologia, 113: 377-382.

Forsyth, D., J. Parkes, G. Hickling. 2000. A case for multi-species managemt of sympatric herbivore pest impacts in the central Southern Alps, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Ecology, 24(1): 97-103.

Haysen, V., A. van Tienhoven, A. van Tienhoven. 1993. Asdell's Patterns of Mammalian Reproduction: A Compendium of Species-Specific Data. Ithaca and London: Cornell University PRess.

Huffman, B. "The Ultimate Ungulate PAge" (On-line). Accessed November 19, 2001 at http://www.ultimateungulate.com/tahrhim.html.

Klingel, J. "Biota Information System of New Mexico BISON" (On-line). Accessed November 19, 2001 at http://www.cnr.vt.edu/fishex/nmex_main/species/050818.htm.

Nowak, R. 1995. "Walker's Mammals of the World Online" (On-line). Accessed November 19, 2001 at http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/walker/artiodactyla.bovidae.hemitragus.html.

Pare, P., C. Barrette, J. Prescott. 1996. Seasonal reproduction of captive Himalayan tahrs (*Hemitragus jemlahicus*) in relation to latitude. Journal of Mammalogy, 77(3): 826-832.

Tustin, K. 1990. Himalayan Tahr. Pp. 392-406 in C King, ed. The Handbook of New Zealand Mammals. Auckland: Oxford University Press.

Williams, D. April 5, 2001. "Checklist of California Mammals" (On-line). Accessed November 19, 2001 at http://arnica.csustain.edu/esrpp/calilist.htm.