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Top 10 Facts About Markhors

Angela, an animal lover, has a passion for learning and understanding God's creatures. As a born teacher, she enjoys sharing her knowledge.

1. The Markhor is the Largest of the Goat Family

The markhor (Capra falconeri) is a large wild goat of the family Bovidae and order Artiodactyla. Of the goats, they are the largest, measuring as much as 52-74 inches (132-186 centimeters) in length, and they stand 26-45 inches (65-115 centimeters) high. They weigh between 88-240 pounds (40-110 kilograms).

There is a marked difference between males and females. The males can be as much as twice the size and are often thought to be massive. They also have more hair on their chin and chest, and their horns are much longer. Males also tend to be a lighter shade of tan than their female counterparts.

2. Their Most Notable Marking are Their Corkscrew Horns

Although in many ways, they look like others in the goat family, with their tan coats and white underparts, their most notable feature is their long spiraled horns. Males have much longer horns than the females. Their horns can measure up to 63 inches (160 centimeters), while the female's horns measure only 9.8 inches (25 centimeters). The way the horns are shaped and are displayed is dependent on what subspecies of markhor. Some are straighter, while others may flare outward from their heads.

3. There Are Three Subspecies of Markhors

The three subspecies include the flare-horned markhor (or Astor), the straight-horned markhor (or Kabul), and the Bukharan markhor. The most significant difference between each is that of their horns.

Flare-horned markhors horns split and spread out in two different directions, reminiscent of an open banana peel. They live in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

The straight-horned markhor, just as its name suggests, have horns that go straight up. Their horns still have the same corkscrew shape, just like other markhors. They mainly live in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Bukharan markhors have the most impressive horns and are what most people think of if they are thinking of these magnificent beasts. They live in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

4. Markhors Use Their Horns for Fighting to Win a Mate

Their corkscrew-shaped horns are often used to dig for food, remove bark from trees, and they even have rings in them like a tree to tell how old a markhor is. The males also use their long horns to win a female during the mating season by butting heads with other males they encounter. They will twist and turn their heads until one male falls and loses the match.

Mating season occurs during the winter. Once pregnant, the females will deliver after 135-170 days, which is about half of the gestational period of a human. They will give birth to one or two young called kids. They wean their young at 5-6 months but are not considered mature until about 18-30 months, females maturing sooner than males. Most markhors will live about 12-13 years.

5. Pakistan's National Animal is the Markhor

These massive goats live in the northern areas of Pakistan, such as Chitral, Hunza, and Ghizar regions. They also roam in the mountains of Central Asia, as well as Southern Russia and the West Himalayans. Due to being most plentiful in Pakistan, they have named the markhor their national animal. In 2018, Pakistan International Airlines decided to use their image on the tail of every plane as a new branding of their logo.

6. Markhors Live At High Altitudes

Like many of their cousins, markhors prefer to live on mountainsides. Markhors journey at an altitude of 1,600-11,000 feet (500 to 3,500 meters). They move up to a higher altitude during the summer months, but as the air gets colder, they move down to the lower areas, because they want to avoid deep snow so they can find food better.

Their bodies are well equipped for the mountainsides since they are agile. They can climb and jump very rocky terrains and can even climb trees or other slanted structures due to their unique broad hooves. Since they have many natural predators such as wolves and other large animals, they do not travel much higher than the tree line to keep out of view and to be able to watch for predators.

7. The Males Are Solitary, While Females Travel In Groups

Just as males and females look very different, they also have separate living habits. The females are very social and live in small herds of 8-10 members, while the males live alone, except when they are trying to find a mate. The females reach their maturity at about two years old and become independent of their mother, while a male will not reach sexual maturity until they are about five years old. Males will leave their mother around the same time as their sisters.

8. Markhors Are Herbivores

Markhors eat only vegetation such as grass, leaves, oak trees, pine, juniper, and fir. They graze during the summer, but during the winter, they need to browse. They eat a lot due to their massive size and may eat 8-14 hours a day. They take a break during the hottest part of the day when they will rest and chew their cud. Sometimes their cud will fall out of their mouth onto the ground. People will use this to help relieve bee stings.

Vegetation is not always easy to come by, and they will travel great distances and heights to find their food. They will even climb trees.

9. Markhors Smell Really Bad

Markhors are one of the smelliest goat breeds, especially the males. Humans will often detect their scent before they can even spot a markhor. Their smell may be an adaptation that helps repel predators. They most likely use their scent also to mark their territory.

10. They Are Considered Endangered Animals by the IUCN

Sadly, all subspecies of markhors are on the endangered species list; the Bukharan was critically endangered at one point, which is most likely due to its impressive horns drawing poachers to kill them. The overall number of markhors got as low as 2,000-4,000 left in the wild.

Other reasons they may have become endangered is due to loss of habitat or disturbance, hunting for trophies or meat or medicinal purposes, and increased domestic livestock using up their land.

Their numbers are making a comeback, and the IUCN labeled them as "near-threatened in 2015, since the most recent total population is just a little shy of 10,000.

Pakistan does give four permits for each of the three subspecies to be hunted each year. Meaning 12 markhors can be killed each year. These permits are sold at open auctions and are supposedly used to fund conservation efforts of these animals. Illegal hunting or poaching is severely punished and has decreased significantly.

Questions & Answers

Question: Why are Markhors an endangered species?

Answer: Hunting for their horns is the main reason markhors are endangered. Some kill them so that they can use their beautiful horns as a trophy. There is legal hunting of markhors, but generally, you need to pay a large sum, such as $70,000 to get a license to hunt them. Unfortunately, due to the hefty price to hunt, poaching is all too common.

Question: How high and far can a markhor jump?

Answer: They are very agile jumpers and live in rocky terrain; therefore, they often hop around on the rocky ground. Since they jump rocky terrain, they need to jump high more often than far, although I am sure they could jump a great distance as well. Due to their very strong legs and can jump at least eight feet high.

Question: What are some ways to save the species of markhor?

Answer: According to saveourspecies.org, " Community-based conservation is the only way to protect Markhor across most of their range in Pakistan as they are primarily found in parts of the country where local people own and control their resources, including the wildlife." The efforts done with this project helped the markhor, and their number has rebounded tremendously. The best way to protect this species and others is to educate yourself and others, so that way they can stop people from hunting endangered animals and deforestation.

© 2019 Angela Michelle Schultz


s on April 14, 2020:

the horns shown below don't seem like those of a markhor... are they???

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on March 10, 2019:

Your article attracted me because I'd never heard of a markhor and wanted to find out what one is. Now I know. I like goats and had a pet African pygmy goat once, however, I think I'll leave these where they belong in the wild. Thanks for enlightening me.

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