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Bezoar Goat

Bezoar Goat
Capra aegagrus
Class: 
Mammalia
Order: 
Artiodactyla
Family: 
Bovidae (Sub-family: Caprinae)
IUCN Red List status: 
Vulnerable

Description

Protected by the following WLT projects:

The sub-family Caprinae is sometimes collectively described as the “goat antelope” family. It contains a great diversity of species that occur in a variety of extreme environments from deserts to alpine plateaus as well as humid tropics (1). 

The Bezoar or Wild Goat is considered to be one of the main ancestors of the modern domestic goat (2). Like other goat antelopes, Bezoar Goats are stocky, gregarious bovids; gregarious animals tend to form groups or loosely formed communities with others of the same species (1).

Male Bezoar Goats (billies) have a head-body length of 129cm-152cm and can weigh up to 90kg; females (nannies) are smaller, weighing up to 55kg.

Coat colours vary depending on the region and season; in the winter, adult males have a pale, ashy coat that contrasts with their dark beard and chest and also the dark stripes along the spine, across the shoulders and front legs, and along the flanks. 

Both males and females of this species have horns. Female's horns are rarely longer than 33cm, whereas adult male’s horns are far more striking at up to 127cm long, curving upwards and backwards from their heads in an arc shape (2).

Behaviour

Breeding season varies across the Bezoar Goat’s geographic range but is generally from November to January. During this time males remain with female herds instead of wandering from herd to herd looking for females. Kids (baby goats) are born after a 150-160 day gestation period and twins are very common (2).

Bezoar goats are mainly active during daylight hours: in warm weather they  feed both in the early morning and in the late afternoon (2). They are herbivorous, feeding on grasses, herbaceous plants and shrubs (3).

Kids are sometimes preyed on by Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) and Bearded Vultures (Gypaetus barbatus). Large predators such as Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) and leopards (Panthera pardus) have now become locally extinct in many areas where Bezoar Goats occur (2). However, evidence suggests that Caucasian Leopards (Panthera pardus saxicolor/ciscaucasica) are surviving in Armenia, and it is possible that leopards are preying on populations of Bezoar Goats in the Caucasus.

Bezoar Goats
Bezoar Goats in the Caucasus. © WLT.

Habitat

Bezoar Goats are found across several different countries in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia. They inhabit mountainous areas in altitudes of up to 4,000m (2) where there is a mix of rocky outcrops and shrubby vegetation or coniferous forest. In the Caucasus region, which includes countries such as Armenia, they also occur in more open, arid habitats (3). 

Threats and Conservation

There are no estimates for the global population of Bezoar Goat, although it is thought to be very rare in much of its mapped range. Bezoar Goats are known to be locally extinct in several countries including Jordan and Syria. In the Caucasus region the population was estimated at between 3,500 – 4,000 individuals in the late 1980’s but it has declined rapidly since then (3), largely as a result of illegal hunting.

Bezoar Goats face a variety of threats across their range including habitat loss from logging and land clearing and competition from livestock causing habitat degradation (2).

Although legally hunted in some areas, they are threatened by illegal hunting in others (3) as their large horns make popular trophies for game hunters (1).

Roads can also cause population isolation and fragmentation (2) and the ongoing tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan have affected the local population of Bezoar Goat in that region (3).

Bezoar Goats are known to be present in the Caucasus Wildlife Refuge supported by World Land Trust (WLT) in Armenia.

References

1. Macdonald, D et al (2001). The New Encyclopedia of Mammals, Oxford University Press, UK
2. Wilson, D & Mittermeier, R eds (2011). Handbook of the Mammals of the World Vol 2 Hoofed Mammals, Lynx Edicions, Barcelona
3. IUCN Red List

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