An Ultimate Ungulate Fact SheetReturn to Artiodactyla

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

Hemitragus jemlahicus

      Himalayan tahr


Hemitragus jemlahicus [H. Smith, 1826].  
Citation: In Griffith et al., Animal Kingdom, Vol. 4, plate [1826] opp. p. 308 [1827].
Type locality: Nepal, Jemla Hills.

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General Characteristics

Body Length: 90-140 cm / 3-4.7 ft.
Shoulder Height: 65-100 cm / 2.1-3.3 ft.
Tail Length: 9-12 cm / 3.6-4.8 in.
Weight: 36-90 kg / 79-189 lb.

The dense, wooly winter coat is reddish to dark brown and has a thick undercoat.  With their winter coat, males also grow a long, shaggy mane around the neck and shoulders which extends down the front legs.  After the spring molt, the coat is much shorter and lighter in colour.  The legs are relatively short, and the head is proportionally small.  The eyes are large, and the ears are small and pointed.  The horns are triangular in cross-section and are found in both sexes.  They curve upward, backwards, and then inwards, to a maximum length of 45 cm / 18 inches, and are usually larger in males.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Gestation Period: 7 months.
Young per Birth: 1, rarely 2
Weaning: At about 6 months.
Sexual Maturity: At 2-3 years.
Life span: Usually 10 years, up to 21 in captivity.

The rut, or breeding season, occurs from October to January.

Ecology and Behavior

Most active during the early morning and late afternoon, Himalayan tahrs spend the middle of the day resting among rocks and vegetation.  Very shy and wary, they are difficult to approach, especially from downhill.  When startled, they flee with confidence, speeding sure-footedly across the uneven terrain of their habitat.  The Himalayan tahr may migrate down the mountain during the winter, resting in denser cover at lower altitudes as protection from the elements.  When competing for breeding privileges, males lock horns and attempt to throw each other off balance, although compared to other ungulates this is done in a somewhat half-hearted manner.  With the introduced groups in New Zealand, the population density varies from 4.5-6.8 animals per square kilometer.

Family group: Mixed herds of about 15 animals, with up to 80 in one group.  Old bucks are usually solitary.
Diet: Grasses, leaves.
Main Predators: Leopard, snow leopard.


Rugged mountain country and montane woodlands in the Himalayan mountains.

Range Map (Compiled from Shackleton, 1997)

Conservation Status

The Himalayan tahr is considered vulnerable by the IUCN (1996).


This rugged relation to the goat has been introduced into New Zealand, where a large population once flourished, but which is now shrinking due to government culling to remove introduced species.  Tahr is from thar, the Nepalese name for this animal.  Hemi (Greek) half; tragos (Greek) a goat: meaning 'something like a goat', referring to the animal's combination of having and not having certain goat-like characteristics.  Jemlah, probably from hima (Sanskrit) snow; alaya (Sanskrit) an abode [hence also Himalaya]; -icus (L) suffix meaning belonging to.

Literature Cited

Boitani, L., and S. Bartoli.  1982.  Simon & Schuster's Guide to Mammals.  New York: Fireside/Simon & Schuster, Inc.  Entry 389.

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.

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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