An Ultimate Ungulate Fact SheetReturn to Artiodactyla

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

Capra ibex

      Alpine ibex


Capra ibex [Linnaeus, 1758].  
Citation: Syst. Nat., 10th ed., 1:68.
Type locality: Switzerland, Valais.

Click on the pictures above for a larger view of the photographs

General Characteristics

Body Length: 75-170 cm / 2.5-5.6 ft.
Shoulder Height: 70-94 cm / 2.3-3.1 ft.
Tail Length: 15-30 cm / 6-12 in.
Weight: 40-120 kg / 88-264 lb.

The coat length varies seasonally, being short and fuzzy during the summer and growing thicker wool and long guard hairs during the winter.  Young animals and adult females are generally light ochre brown to pale brown, while the colour of adult males changes seasonally.  In summer, the coat is a yellowish brown with darker legs.  There are lighter parts on the neck and flanks, and the underparts are white.  In late summer, there is a gradual change in seven to twelve year old males to a dark chestnut brown.  As spring approaches, this colouration fades.  Bucks have a short beard, 6-7 cm / 2.4-2.8 inches long.  The heavy body is supported by short, study legs.  The sabre-shaped horns curve upward and bend towards the rear.  While they are found in both sexes, but are much larger in males than females.  Horns on bucks grow up to 100 cm / 40 inches long, and have small bumps on the outer curve.  The much thinner, shorter horns of females are smooth, and grow up to 35 cm / 14 inches long.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Gestation Period: 165-170 days.
Young per Birth:1, rarely 2
Weaning: Gradual [no cut off]
Sexual Maturity: Females at 1-1.5 years, males at 2 years.
Life span: 10-14 years.

Kids can jump after their first day, after which they join kid groups.

Ecology and Behavior

The diurnal ibex is most active during the early morning and late afternoon, lying in the shade of rocks during midday.  These ibex are strong jumpers and sure-footed climbers, which allows them to move with ease in their mountainous abode.  During the winter, they are found at medium elevations on steep faces usually facing south.  As the warm weather approaches, they follow the receding snowline up the mountains to the highest part of their habitat.  Here they spend late spring, summer, and autumn.  Males join the female herds during late autumn, remaining through the winter and departing during early spring.  The male bachelor herds which form during the summer have a distinct hierarchy, based on age, size, and strength.  Playful fights occur to clarify this ranking, with bucks rearing up on their hind legs before crashing their horns together.  During the rut however, most high-ranking bucks avoid each other, minimizing the number of serious conflicts.  Population densities vary widely - from 1 to 9 animals per square kilometer.

Family group: Maternal herds of 10-20 animals, males in bachelor groups or solitary.
Diet: Grasses, some woody plants.
Main Predators: For kids, golden eagle, fox.


Montane pastures at an altitude of 1,600-3,200 m / 5,100-10,200 ft in the Alps.

Range Map (Compiled from Shackleton, 1997)

Conservation Status

The Alpine ibex is not threatened at this point in time, although this species has been hunted ruthlessly for its magnificent horns, and because of the belief that parts of its body hold pharmaceutical qualities.


Capra (Latin) a she-goat.  Ibex (Latin) a kind of goat, a chamois.

Literature Cited

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

Shackleton, D. M. [Editor] and the IUCN/SSC Caprinae Specialist Group.  1997.  Wild Sheep and Goats and their Relatives.  Status Survey and Action Plan for Caprinae.   IUCN: Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.  pp. 172-193.

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

Zingg, R. 1990.  Alpine ibex (Capra ibex ibex).  In Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals.  Edited by S. P. Parker.  New York: McGraw-Hill.  Volume 5, pp.516-523.

Return to Artiodactyla

© Brent Huffman,
All rights reserved.
Questions or comments? Click here