Although many see goats as domesticated farm animals, they are not always. True to many beliefs, there are domestic goats, but there are also wild goats.
These animals became domesticated around 10,000 years ago for their milk, meat, and hair.
As such, approximately 300 domestic goat species exist worldwide with different traits and adaptations.
Nonetheless, despite being one of the first domesticated animals, they would revert to their feral ways if they returned to the wild.
Wild goats belong to the Capra genus.
The easiest way to identify these animals is by their love for mountainous ranges, as most wild goats live in mountain habitats.
These wild goats belong to the Bovidae family and the Caprinae subfamily and are also ruminants, meaning they have four-chambered stomachs.
There are nine recognized wild goat species, although some authorities might provide that there are more.
Some categorize these goats into two species; the markhor as one species and all others as another.
This article will provide more information on some of the most recognized wild goat species.
1. The Alpine Ibex
With the scientific name Capra ibex, the Alpine ibex is called the bouquetin or steinbock.
Some people refer to this species simply as ibex, and they inhabit the mountain ranges of the European Alps.
Carl Linnaeus initially identified this species in the 18th century, albeit its earliest ancestors date to the Miocene and early Pliocene.
Although these goats are native to the European Alps, experts have found some fossils in Kenya and parts of China.
The Alpine ibex is a sexually dimorphic species, meaning there are noticeable differences between males and females.
Males are bigger than females and have longer and more curved horns.
The Alpine ibex differs from other members of its genus in that it has a duller coat and a shorter, wider head.
It has pale skin, brownish-grey hair covering most of its body, darker markings on the chin and throat, and a stripe down the back.
Males usually reach between 148 and 258 pounds, while females grow as big as 37-71 pounds.
This species is strictly herbivorous, mainly eating plants, grasses, flowers, and mosses.
Although their historical range was much more expansive, the Alpine ibex inhabits Switzerland, Germany, and Austria.
These goats are excellent climbers and prefer to stay in the rocky area above alpine forests along the snow line, where they inhabit steep, harsh terrain at 5,900 to 10,800 feet.
Despite being a gregarious creature, the Alpine ibex segregates sexually and geographically according to the season.
2. The Siberian Ibex
Popularly known as the Asian ibex (Capra sibirica) or Himalayan ibex, Altai ibex, etc., the Siberian ibex is a wild goat species in central Asia.
This species was considered a subspecies of the Alpine ibex but has been identified as an individual species.
Despite being widely distributed, the Siberian ibex is considered near threatened because of the low densities in some areas and population decline in others.
Although sizes vary according to individuals, the Siberian ibex is a large species and is one of the heaviest wild goat species.
Males weigh between 130 and 290 pounds. Females are substantially smaller than males, measuring between 75 and 123 pounds.
Both sexes also have beards, although the beards of males grow longer.
The female’s horns are typically 11 inches long, grey-brown, and modest.
On the other hand, these horns are black and range between 45 to 58 inches in fully-grown males.
Even though their horns are different sizes, both sexes have circular rings around their horns that signify annual growth.
Siberian ibexes primarily inhabit places with steep and rocky slopes above the tree line.
Their habitat consists of semiarid areas, alpine meadows, and high-altitude steppes.
Despite their love for high altitudes, Siberian ibexes seek out lower altitudes to search for food during the winter.
Most of their diet consists of grasses and herbs; their choices depend on the season.
3. The Nubian Ibex
The hilly regions of northern and northeastern Africa and the Middle East are home to the Nubian ibex (Capra nubiana), a desert-dwelling wild goat.
Like the Siberian ibex, this species was considered a subspecies of the Alpine ibex.
With over 4,000 individuals left in the wild, this species is classified as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The Nubian ibex is the smallest ibex species.
These animals are sexually dimorphic, meaning that males are slightly larger than females.
Males weigh between 114 and 167 pounds, while females weigh between 56 and 72 pounds.
The Nubian ibex has tan fur with a white underbelly, and males have a brown mane that grows down their backs.
Nubian ibexes favor rocky, rough terrain in arid and semi-arid regions, such as highlands, canyons, and cliffs.
They can endure extreme temperatures well and get moisture from their diet to last for extended periods without water.
They primarily feed on desert vegetation, such as thorny bushes, grasses, and leaves.
Although they are under the “Least Concern” category, Nubian ibexes are affected by hunting, habitat loss, and competition with domestic livestock.
4. The Bezoar Ibex
The Bezoar ibex is a type of wild goat that lives in the harsh alpine terrain of Central Asia and the Middle East.
These animals are renowned for their magnificent horns.
The Bezoar ibex has the longest horns in the world relative to its body weight; their horns can reach anywhere from 3.3 to 4.7 feet.
Bezoar ibexes are typically brown or gray, with a white underbelly and a dark stripe running down their back.
They have a stocky build, weighing up to 130 pounds, with powerful legs to navigate cliffs and rocky outcroppings.
Both sexes have a gray-colored coat in the winter; ordinarily, males have a dark brown summer coat, while females have a more reddish-golden one.
These goats are herbivores and feed on various vegetation, including grasses, leaves, and shrubs. Bezoar ibexes can also extract moisture from their food, enabling them to survive in arid environments.
These goats inhabit several habitat forms, and their hooves are specially adapted to provide traction on uneven surfaces, making them well-suited for life in the mountains.
Bezoar ibexes are extremely gregarious creatures that live in groups of up to 30 individuals.
Typically, these communities include females and their kids, with the males residing in separate bachelor communities.
5. The Markhor
A type of wild goat known as the Markhor (Capra falconeri) lives in the mountainous areas of Central Asia, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Tajikistan.
It is one of the largest wild goat species, distinguished by its magnificent spiral horns.
This species is listed as near threatened by the IUCN because it faces numerous threats to its survival, particularly hunting by humans for its unique horn.
The markhor is also Pakistan’s national animal, where it is also known as the screw-horned goat.
These goats weigh between 71 and 243 pounds.
The Markhor is recognized by its long, shaggy fur, usually brown or gray, and its spiral horns that grow as long as five feet.
Males are significantly larger than the females and have noticeable beards on their chins.
Females have shorter hair and beards; they also have no mane and are redder in color.
As a gregarious animal, the markhor usually resides in small herds of up to 10 individuals.
They can move across rocky outcroppings and high cliffs since they have evolved to live in hilly settings.
They have long served as a significant cultural emblem in some areas, where many indigenous people prize the animal’s flesh, fur, and horns.
However, this has also caused the species to be hunted almost to extinction in some locations.
6. The Chamois
The Rupicapra rupicapra, Alpine chamois, or chamois goat, is a small mammal in Europe’s hilly areas.
They are renowned for their leaping prowess and ability to navigate rugged and hilly terrain.
These goats are easily recognized by their short and curved horns, as they have some of the tiniest horns among all wild goat species.
Chamois goats have a distinctive appearance, with short, smooth fur ranging from brown to grey.
They have white faces, black horns, and short tails.
Their legs are also powerful and muscular, enabling them to jump and climb; these goats can jump up to 6 feet high and 15 feet forward.
Males weigh between 66 and 132 pounds, while females weigh 55 to 99 pounds.
Being herbivores, these goats eat grass, leaves, and plants.
Since they have adapted to their environment, they can endure the severe alpine climate, especially in the winter when food is in short supply.
During this time, they survive on their fat reserves.
Except for the breeding season, when males compete for mates, chamois goats are typically solitary creatures.
They have strong territorial instincts and leave scent glands to mark their territory.
Regrettably, there have always been several challenges to chamois goats, such as overhunting and habitat degradation.
They are also legally protected in some places and have gone extinct in others.
7. The Himalayan Tahr
The Himalayan tahr, scientifically known as Hemitragus jemlahicus, is an ungulate species native to the Himalayan mountain range in Asia.
These sizable ungulates are closely related to other wild goat species.
Their natural habitat stretches the rough, forested hills and mountain slopes of the Himalayas in Nepal and from Central Asia’s northern Kashmir to China.
The Himalayan tahr has a distinctive appearance, with a thick mane that cascades down its back and a shaggy covering of reddish-brown hair.
These creatures are somewhat large, with males reaching weights of up to 220 pounds and females weights of up to 100 pounds.
They use their long, curving horns, which may be up to 18 inches long and are employed for fighting and territorial displays, to express their dominance.
The Himalayan mountain range, which crosses several nations, is home to the Himalayan tahr.
These animals live in high elevations on steep, rocky terrain, typically between 9,800 and 16,400 feet above sea level.
They are well-adapted to living in these harsh conditions and can easily navigate the rocky terrain.
Himalayan tahrs are primarily herbivorous and eat grasses, herbs, and shrubs.
They also eat mosses and lichens common in their mountainous habitat.
8. The Spanish Ibex
Also called the Iberian ibex, Iberian wild goat, or Spanish wild goat, the Spanish ibex is a wild goat species native to the mountainous regions of the Iberian Peninsula.
The scientific name of this species is Capra pyrenaica, and they are divided into four subspecies.
However, only two subspecies remain today due to recent extinctions that happened within the past century.
The Spanish ibex is a medium-sized goat that typically weighs between 110 and 220 pounds, with males being larger than females.
They have a dark brown coat that blends well with the rocky terrain of their mountainous habitat.
Their most distinctive feature, however, is their impressive horns.
The male ibex has one of the heaviest horns in the animal kingdom, with horns that can grow up to four feet long and weigh up to 30 pounds.
These animals are adaptable and can live in various environments, including lowland forests and steep mountain cliffs.
They are also able to tolerate extreme temperatures.
The social behavior of the Spanish ibex is also unique.
They live in herds, with males and females living separately for most of the year, only coming together during the breeding season.
During this time, males engage in fierce battles for dominance, using their horns to determine the winner.
The victorious male will mate with numerous females to ensure the survival of his genetic line.
Check out our other animal FAQs here:
- The Seven Salmon Species You Need to Know
- Beyond the Wildtype: A Guide to the Varieties of Axolotls
- World of Black Bears: The Different Species Across the Globe