Physical characteristics

The Caprinae are medium- to large-sized herbivores. Sizes range from around 44 lb (20 kg) in goral to 836 lb (380 kg) in adult musk ox. Captive musk ox have attained weights of 1,430 lb (650 kg). In gorals and serows, males and females are around the same size. In other Caprinae species, males average larger than females, this difference being most marked in the Caprini. The general body plan shows a strong, stocky build with powerful limbs that facilitate rapid movement through precipitous terrain. Argali and urial sheep (Ovis am-mon and O. orientalis) are exceptions, and have a lighter, more agile build reflecting their reliance on speed to escape from predators. All Caprinae bear horns and in many species, growth rings are present that can be used to age the animal.

Musk ox form a defensive ring when threatened. Here, a wolf threatens their young. (Illustration by Emily Damstra)

Rupicaprini have short, sharp horns that rise straight from the top of the head. These curve slightly backwards in gorals and serows, and are sharply hooked in chamois. Ovibovini have thicker, more massive horns. In the musk ox, they curve downwards and out and in takin curl outwards then back. Caprini have the largest and most developed horn shapes. In Ovis, Pseudois, and Capra, they show a high degree of sexual dimorphism with horns of the females much shorter and slimmer than those of the males. Horns are long and swept back in ibexes, twisted in markhor and curling in Ovis, reaching their most massive in the argalis (O. ammon). The maximum length recorded for the Altai argali is 66 in (169 cm). Hooves are well adapted to grip securely on rock.

Coat color is inconspicuous and many species blend easily into their background. Coloration ranges from white to black through shades of straw-yellow, sandy and brown to deep reddish brown. Male Barbary sheep have long chest ruffs, Himalayan tahrs have a thick ruff on the foreparts; argalis and urial have shorter throat ruffs. Wild goat species have beards of varying length. Tails are relatively short. Light rump patches are well developed in Ovis, but absent in rupicaprids, excepting the highly gregarious chamois (Rupicapra).

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