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Bezoar Goat

Bezoar Goat on a mountainside in the Caucasus Wildlife Refuge

Bezoar Goat

Class: Mammalia

Order: Artiodactyla

Family: Bovidae

Sub-family: Caprinae

Scientific Name: Capra aegagrus

IUCN Red List status: Vulnerable


Protected by the following WLT project/s:

 

Caucasus, Armenia

 

Species Range (IUCN)

World map

Description

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.

The Bezoar or Wild Goat is considered to be one of the main ancestors of the modern domestic goat. 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.

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

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 127 centimetres long, curving upwards and backwards from their heads in an arc shape.

Video recorded 25 December 2013.

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.

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

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

Bezoar Goats on a craggy outcrop in the Caucasus region.
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 4,000 metres above sea level 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. 

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 1980s but it has declined rapidly since then, 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. Although legally hunted in some areas, they are threatened by illegal hunting in others as their large horns make popular trophies for game hunters.

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

Bezoar Goats are thriving in the Caucasus Wildlife Refuge in Armenia where there is natural vegetation and robust protection measures to keep the goats safe from hunters. The wildlife refuge and a team of rangers are managed by the Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets and supported by World Land Trust. 

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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