Rupicapra pyrenaica is found in the mountains of northwestern Spain, the Pyrenees, and the Apennines of central Italy (Nowak, 1983).
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )
R. pyrenaica has an average length between 900-1300 mm (Nowak, 1983). Tail length is 30-40 mm and shoulder height is 760-810 mm (Nowak, 1983). R. pyrenaica usually weighs between 24-50 kg (Nowak, 1983). The summer coat is reddish in color, while the much thicker winter coat is blackish brown with white markings on the throat, neck, shoulders and flanks (Nowak, 1983). Both sexes have slender, black horns that are 152-203 mm long (Nowak, 1983). The horns are set very close together, rise in a vertical fashion, and then bend backwards sharply to form hooks. The hoof is padded with a slight depression and is somewhat elastic, helping to provide solid footing in rough terrain (Nowak, 1983).
Range mass: 24 to 50 kg.
Range length: 900 to 1300 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
R. pyrenaica generally stays above 1,800 meters in alpine meadows during the warmer months of the year (Nowak, 1983). In late fall and winter they have been known to enter lands below 1,100 meters, while usually staying on steep slopes (Nowak, 1983). Rarely do they ever enter forests (Nowak, 1983).
Habitat Regions: temperate
Terrestrial Biomes: mountains
Habitat and Ecology
During the summer months R. pyrenaica subsists mainly on herbs and flowers, and in the winter months they also eat lichens, mosses, and young pine shoots (Nowak, 1983). If conditions are bad due to snow, they have been known to fast for two weeks until food could be secured (Nowak, 1983).
Plant Foods: leaves; flowers; bryophytes; lichens
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )
Known prey organisms
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
They have been known to live up to 22 years (Nowak, 1983).
Status: wild: 22 (high) years.
Status: wild: 22 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
R. pyrenaica breeds seasonally, mating in the fall and giving birth in the spring (Nowak, 1983). Females have a gestation period of about 170 days after which the young are born in a shelter of lichens and mosses (Nowak, 1983). Twins and triplets do sometimes occur.
Breeding season: fall
Range number of offspring: 1 (low) .
Average number of offspring: 1.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 8-9 years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 8-9 years.
Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual
The young of R. pyrenaica can usually follow their mothers almost immediately after birth, and they rapidly improve their leaping ability during the first few days of their life (Nowak, 1983).
Parental Investment: altricial ; post-independence association with parents
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Rupicapra pyrenaica
No available public DNA sequences.
Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Rupicapra pyrenaica
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
R. pyrenaica were declining in numbers, due to hunting, but are now back on the rise and nearly stabilized. Total numbers for all of Europe hover around 31,000 (Nowak, 1983). One subspecies (Rupicapra pyrenaica ornata) is classified as Endangered and listed in CITES Appendix I
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix i; no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Lower Risk/conservation dependent(Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
However, the Italian subspecies ornata remains very rare. Numbers of ornata have probably been low for the last few centuries, only starting to increase in the 1920s as a result of increased protection. Numbers plummeted again to just several tens of individuals in a single population in the Abruzzo National Park during World War II (Lovari 1989). As a result of conservation action, including re-introductions and the establishment of two new populations, numbers have increased and the population is currently estimated at about 1,100 individuals in three subpopulations (Mari and Lovari 2006, S. Lovari pers. comm. 2006), up from a total of c.400 individuals in the late 1980s (Lovari 1989). Not all of these are mature individuals.
In Spain, the species occurs in three national parks, at least 10 natural parks, and a number of other reserves (J. Herrero pers. comm. 2006). Spanish protected areas include Montana de Covadogna and Ordesa National Parks; Reres Natural Park; Alta Pallars-Aran, Benasque, Cadi, Cerdana, Fresser y Setcasas, Los Circos, Los Valles, Vinamala, Mampodre, Picos de Europa, Saja, Somiedo and Sueve Hunting Reserves. Spanish hunting reserves are large hunting management units with strictly controlled culling (C. Berducou pers. comm. 2006). In France, it occurs in a number of protected areas (Pyrenees-Occidentales National Park, Roc-Blanc, Moudang and Mont-Vallier Mountain Reserves, Orlu Nature Reserve and other small reserves where hunting is banned: C. Berducou pers. comm. 2006). A study of population dynamics is ongoing in France, as well as a detailed survey of the population size and distribution (C. Berducou pers. comm. 2006). In France, there is a hunting plan that is designed to correct geographic imbalances in numbers and distribution, but might be difficult to achieve. A major restoration effort was carried out in the French Pyrenees between 1981 and 2000, involving the translocation of more than 600 individuals (Herrero et al. 2004, C. Novoa and C. Berducou pers. comm. 2006). In Andorra there are a few small reserves with hunting quotas (C. Berducou pers. comm. 2006).
In Italy, the autochthonous population of subspecies ornata inhabits Abruzzo National Park, and all recent and planned re-introductions and introductions are into protected areas. A group of 22 chamois was released in the Majella massif between 1991 and 1994, and more recently, 26 were re-introduced into the Gran Sasso massif in cooperation with local villagers. A captive breeding population (numbering 18 individuals in 2006: S. Lovari in litt. 2006) is kept in four large enclosures in as many national parks. No studbook has been kept, which is a major shortcoming in the captive breeding program (Shackleton 1997). The subspecies ornata is strictly protected under national and international legislation - it is listed on Appendix II of the Bern Convention, Annex II* and Annex IV of the EU Habitats and Species Directive, Appendix I of CITES, and as a “specially protected species” under Italian hunting law. A slowly increasing number of alpine meadows in the species’ range have been forbidden to livestock grazing to reduce competition. This action may generate cautious optimism about the species’ future. Proposed conservation measures include the following: 1) Consider benign introductions for a number of areas in the central and southern Apennines, once their suitability has been adequately assessed. Some national parks (e.g. Pollino, Gran Sasso-Laga, Majella and Sibillini) could in the future also host populations of the Apennine chamois. 2) When selecting individuals for transplants and captive breeding, consider Nascetti et al.'s (1985) finding of an alarming lack of genetic variability in the surviving nucleus of the Abruzzo National Park. This was most likely a result of living at low density for a long time and of population bottlenecks occurring at World Wars I and II. 3) Keep detailed breeding records, genetic profiles, and develop a studbook, for each of the captive breeding populations. 4) Avoid releasing Alpine chamois into areas of potential (re)introduction of Apennine chamois, as if such an action was carried out, it would prevent the subsequent release of the latter species (Shackleton 1997).
Future priorities for the species as a whole include extending monitoring to all populations, and to increasing knowledge of demography and the impact of hunting. It is particularly important for monitoring and research to take place outside National Parks, where chamois are hunted.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
The meat is a prized food for some people (Nowak, 1983). The winter hair from the back is often used to make hats (Nowak, 1983). Another popular use is to make the skin into "shammy" leather that is used for cleaning glass and polishing automobiles.
Positive Impacts: food
The Pyrenean chamois (French: izard or isard, Spanish: rebeco or gamuza, Aragonese: sarrio or chizardo, Catalan: isard, Italian: camoscio), Rupicapra pyrenaica, is a goat antelope that lives in the Pyrenees, Cantabrian Mountains and Apennine Mountains. It is one of the two species of the genus Rupicapra, the other being the Chamois, Rupicapra rupicapra. It is in the Caprinae subfamily of bovids, along with sheep and goats.
Up to 80 cm tall, its summer coat is a ruddy brown; in winter it is black/brown with darker patches around the eyes. Both males and females have backward-hooked horns up to 20 cm in length. They browse on grass, lichens and buds of trees. Sure-footed and agile, they are found anywhere up to 3000 m.
Like other species of chamois, it was hunted almost to extinction, especially in the 1940s, for the production of chamois leather. The population has since recovered and in 2002 was estimated to be about 25,000. (Pérez et al., 2002)
- R. p. pyrenaica (Pyrenean chamois)
- R. p. parva (Cantabrian Chamois): Spain
- R. p. ornata (Apennine chamois): Central and south Italy
- Pérez, T., Albornoz, J. & Domínguez, A. (2002). Phylogeography of chamois (Rupicapra spp.) inferred from microsatellites. Mol Phylogenet Evol. 25, 524–534.
- Pérez-Barbería, F. J., García-González, R. (2004). "Rebeco – Rupicapra pyrenaica." Enciclopedia Virtual de los Vertebrados Españoles. Carrascal, L. M., Salvador, A. (Eds.). Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales. Madrid, Spain.
The Cantabrian chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica parva) is a slim mountain goat antelope, and is one of the 10 subspecies of the Rupicapra genus. It ranges the Cantabrian Mountains (North of Spain) with a population of 17,000 animals in 2007-2008.
The systematic of the species is still under discussion. Ángel Cabrera (1914), on studying the body shape and skull morphology, considered this taxa so similar to the Pyrenean chamois as to be of the same species. Lovari (1987), using morphology, genetic and ethology data proposed to separate the south-west European animals of the Cantabrian Mountains and Pyrenees (Rupicapra pyrenaica parva, R.p. pyrenaica), from the rest of the European and Asian animals (Rupicapra r. cartusiana -Chartreuse Mountains-, Rupicapra r. rupicapra -Alps-, Rupicapra r. tatrica -Tatra Mountains-, Rupicapra r. carpatica -Romania-, Rupicapra r. balcanica -Balkans-, Rupicapra r. asiatica -Turkey- y Rupicapra r. caucasica -Caucasus Mountains). Different genetic studies still argue over the taxonomy of the species.
Species vernacular names
Rebeco, rebeco cantábrico, gamuza, robezu (in Asturias region), rebezo (in Galicia region).
Slim bovid of the size of a medium-sized domestic goat. Both sexes have peculiar hooked horns (more hooked and thicker in males than in females, Figures 1,2,3).
Horns have a transversal segmentation pattern due to seasonal growth (winter-summer). Light cinnamon head, throat and cheeks, with a dark mask design that crosses their big eyes (Figure 1). Dark brown back, chest, legs and flanks, pale brown shoulders and hindquarters. In winter, the back and belly become paler in colour and the flanks darker, giving a more contrasting colour pattern (Figure 4). Juveniles exhibit a less contrasting colour pattern.
- Weight: 24–30 kg.*
- Head-tail length: 100–104 cm.*
- Shoulder height: 72–74 cm.*
- Hind leg length: 32–34 cm.*
- Chest perimeter: 71–77 cm.*
- Jaw length: 13.7-13.9 cm.*
(*) Female and male measurements, respectively.
- Males: mean = 9 yr, max = 18 yr.
- Females: mean = 10 yr, max = 21 yr.
I (0-0)/ (3-3), C (0-0)/(1-1), PM (3-3)/(3-3), M (3-3)/(3-3) = 32.
Cantabrian Mountains (North West, Spain). From East Saja Reserve and Alto Asón (Cantabria) to West Ancares Reserve (Lugo, Galicia), (Figure 5). Species distribution shrank in historical time. The Cantabrian Mountains are situated in the north-west of the Iberian Peninsula, running 450 km East-West, parallel to the Cantabrian Sea and very close to the coastline (max. altitude 2648 m.a.s.l.). The north catchment is very wet (2000 mm/year) and the south catchment has a continental climate, dry and hot in summer and dry and cold in winter.
Grasses year-round with an increase in the proportion of dwarf shrubs in winter (Calluna vulgaris, Erica cinerea, Erica arborea).
Only one offspring/year (May–June, first births in the middle of May). Females sexually mature at 3 yr old and fertile until at least at 14 yr old.
Gregarious. Group size (2-55, median = 6.5). The only stable social unit is mother-offspring that can last until the offspring is 2 yr old.
Population size and historic evolution of the population
17400 chamois in 2007-2008 (Figure 6). Historical minimum population size is unknown but it took place between 1943-1966. After the last Ice Age, R. pyrenaica occupied most of the Iberian Peninsula. During the Neolithic it was present as far south as the provinces of Teruel, Valencia, Jáen (Segura Mountains) and Granada (600 km south of the present distribution range). It maintained the occupation of the southern range at least until the Bronze Age 5000 yr BC. Written records indicate that by 1800 the distribution was restricted to the north of the Iberian Peninsula, from the north of Burgos to the Zamora provinces. Excessive game hunting, together with the proliferation of long distance rifles, drove the population size to minimum numbers, this happened between 1943 and 1966. The population started to increase with the creation of protected areas (National Game Reserves) and establishing gamekeepers for the first time.
Predators and threats
Adults are predated only by wolf. Kids can be predated by wolf, fox and golden eagle. Epizootic diseases, such as sarcoptic mange, are a serious threat. Sarcoptic mange is caused by the Sarcoptes scabies acari, which causes damage and itchiness in the skin of a large number of ungulate species worldwide. It can cause death by affecting body condition and inducing severe stress. The greatest changes in the Cantabrian chamois population size have taken place since 1995. In this year an outbreak of mange (originally detected 2 years before, in the south-center of Asturias and north-center of Leon) seriously affected the populations of these areas. Fifteen years after the outbreak (1993-2008) the disease had spread about 40 km east, an average of 2.6 km/yr. In 2009 only the population at the west side of the outbreak focus was free of the disease. The disease may not have spread into the west population due to the very low population densities in the areas that separate the west from the east populations (Figure 7). In 2008, 56% of the whole population and 60% of the distribution range was affected by the disease. The mange is continuing to spread at the current time (2010).
Although the first reintroduction initiatives started in 1970, reintroduction programs were not successful until the 1980s. These programs have extended the distribution range in the east and west, where very low densities of chamois made the natural recolonization of these areas difficult.
- Pérez-Barbería, F. J., Pérez-Fernández, E. (2009). Identificación, biología y ecología del rebeco cantábrico. Pp. 26-69. En: Pérez-Barbería, F. J., Palacios, B. (Eds.). El Rebeco Cantábrico (Rupicapra pyrenaica parva). Conservación y Gestión de sus poblaciones. Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, Medio Rural y Marino. Naturaleza y Parques Nacionales, Madrid. 501 pp.
- Pérez-Barbería, F. J., Palacios, B., González-Quirós, P., Cano, M., Nores, C., Díaz, A. (2009). La evolución de la población del rebeco en la cordillera Cantábrica. Pp. 106-125. En: Pérez-Barbería, F. J., Palacios, B. (Eds.). El Rebeco Cantábrico (Rupicapra pyrenaica parva). Conservación y Gestión de sus poblaciones. Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, Medio Rural y Marino. Naturaleza y Parques Nacionales, Madrid. 501 pp.
- Herrero, J., Lovari, S. & Berducou, C. (2008). Rupicapra pyrenaica. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 5 April 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern.
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- Arribas, O. (2004). Fauna y paisaje de los Pirineos en la era glaciar. Lynx Ediciones, Bellaterra.
- Balboa, J.A. (1992). El Bierzo en la obra de dos militares del siglo XVIII: Datoli y Munarriz. Tr. Bellavista, Ponferrada.
- Arlian, L.G., Vyszenski-Moher, D.L. & M.J. Pole (1989). Survival of adults and development stages of Sarcoptes scabiei var canis when off the host. Exp. Appl. Acarol. 6(3): 181-187.
- González-Quirós, P., Solano, S. (2009). Monitorización del brote de sarna sarcóptica en las reservas regionales de caza de Asturias. Pp. 292-319. En: Pérez-Barbería, F. J., Palacios, B. (Eds.). El Rebeco Cantábrico (Rupicapra pyrenaica parva). Conservación y Gestión de sus poblaciones. Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, Medio Rural y Marino. Naturaleza y Parques Nacionales, Madrid. 501 pp.