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Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
      Order: Artiodactyla
        Family: Bovidae
          Subfamily: Caprinae
            Genus: Pantholops

Pantholops hodgsonii

      Tibetan antelope, Chiru


Pantholops hodgsonii [Abel, 1826].  
Citation: Calcutta Gov't Gazette., see Phil. Mag., 68:234, 1826.
Type locality: China, Tibet, Kooti Pass in Arrun Valley, Tingri Maiden.

General Characteristics

Body Length: 120-130 cm / 4-4.3 ft.
Shoulder Height: 80-100 cm / 2.7-3.3 ft.
Tail Length: 18-30 cm / 7.2-12 in.
Weight: 25-35 kg / 55-77 lb.

The dense coat is very soft and woolly, and is very good insulation against the Tibetan weather.  The overall coat colour is a pink-tinted pale tan, with the underparts, including the chin, being creamy white.  The fronts of the slender legs are dark brown to black, as is the face (including the forehead, bridge of the nose, and upper cheeks).  The nostrils are bulbous, with sacs on the sides which can be inflated to the size of small eggs.  The hooves are long and narrow, and the dewclaws are small, but broad.  Males alone carry the slightly S-shaped horns which grow 50-70 cm / 20-28 inches in length.  Black in colour and ridged on their lower half, they rise nearly vertically from the head.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Gestation Period: Around 6 months.
Young per Birth: 1 or 2
The rut takes place in early winter (November-December), and the young are born in May and June.
Sexual Maturity: Presumably at 1.5-2.5 years.
Life span: Probably 10-15 years.

Ecology and Behavior

Extremely wary by nature, the chiru is constantly on the alert and is hence difficult to approach.  Feeding occurs primarily in the morning and evening, .  When resting, the chiru excavates a shallow depression about 30 cm / 1 foot deep: this partially conceals the animal from predators, and helps to protect it from the harsh wind.  During the rut, males rarely eat and are almost constantly in motion.  Each attempts to control a harem of 10-20 females, and zealously guards them from rival males.  Fights between males break out frequently, and are extremely fierce.  One or both of the contestants may perish as the result of wounds inflicted by the sharp horns.  Local densities are around 1.5 animals per square kilometer, although over their whole range the population density is below 0.2 animals per square kilometer.

Family group: Herds with 10-15 animals, adult males solitary.
Diet: Grasses and herbs.
Main Predators: Wolf, Himalayan black bear.


The Tibetan steppe at elevations of 3,700-5,500 meters / 12,300-18,300 feet.

Range Map (Redrawn from Schaller, 1998)

Conservation Status

The chiru's status is considered vulnerable by the IUCN (1996).


The chiru is threatened by hunting for its meat, magnificent horns, and soft, fine wool which is used to make the extremely (and unfortunately) chic shahtoosh scarves.  Chiru is probably a local native name in Tibet.  Pas (neuter pan) (Greek) all; anthalops (Greek) an antelope: a strange name.  Mr B. H. Hodgson FRS (1800-1894) was a biologist who lived in Nepal during the years 1833-1843.

Literature Cited

Nowak, R. M. [editor]. 1991.  Walker's Mammals of the World (Fifth Edition).  Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Schaller, G. B.  1998.  Kiang (Tibetan Wild Ass).  In Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe.  By George Schaller.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.  pp. 163-177.

Walther, F. R. 1990.  Saiga-Like Antelopes.  In Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals.  Edited by S. P. Parker.  New York: McGraw-Hill.  Volume 5, pp. 485-494.

Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder [editors]. 1993. Mammal Species of the World (Second Edition). Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.  Available online at

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© Brent Huffman,
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