Interesting facts about markhors

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The markhor is a large wild goat.

It is native to Central Asia, Karakoram (mountain range spanning the borders of India, Pakistan and China) and the Himalayas.

Markhors are adapted to mountainous terrain, and can be found between 600 and 3,600 meters (2,000 and 11,800 feet) above sea level.

They typically inhabit scrub forests made up primarily of oaks, pines, and junipers.

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The lifespan of the markhor is from 11 to 13 years.

Markhor stand 65 to 115 cm (26 to 45 inches) at the shoulder, 132 to 186 cm (52 to 73 inches) in length and weigh from 32 to 110 kg (71 to 243 pounds). Males are substantially larger than females.

The coat is of a grizzled, light brown to black color, and is smooth and short in summer, while growing longer and thicker in winter. The fur of the lower legs is black and white. Males have longer hair on the chin, throat, chest and shanks. Females are redder in color, with shorter hair, a short black beard, and are maneless.

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Both sexes have tightly curled, corkscrew-like horns, which close together at the head, but spread upwards toward the tips. The horns of males can grow up to 160 cm (63 inches) long, and up to 25 cm (10 inches) in females. The males have a pungent smell, which surpasses that of the domestic goat.

They are diurnal, and are mainly active in the early morning and late afternoon.

Perhaps the most agile of all goats, the markhor is perfectly adapted to life on these sheer slopes. They are so sure-footed they can even climb trees.

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The markhor is a herbivorous animal that feed on a variety of vegetation including grasses, leaves, herbs, fruits and flowers. Their diets shift seasonally: in the spring and summer periods they graze, but turn to browsing in winter, sometimes standing on their hind legs to reach high branches.

Like other wild goats, the markhor play a valuable role within their eco-system as they munch the leaves from the low-lying trees and scrub, spreading the seeds in their dung.

Markhors live in flocks, usually numbering nine animals, composed of adult females and their young. Adult males are largely solitary.

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The mating season takes place in winter, during which the males fight each other by lunging, locking horns and attempting to push each other off balance. The gestation period lasts 135–170 days, and usually results in the birth of 1 or 2 offsprings, though rarely 3.

The young are initially born in a shallow earthen hollow. They are able to walk soon after birth, and can travel with the mother. Mothers provide nourishment (milk) and protection to their growing young. They stay with the mother for approximately 6 months, although there are several reports of kids remaining with the mother thereafter.

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Golden eagles have been reported to prey upon young markhor. Eurasian lynx, snow leopard, Himalayan wolves and brown bear are the main predators of markhor.

The markhor possess keen eyesight and a strong sense of smell to detect nearby predators. Markhors are very aware of their surroundings and are on high alert for predators. In exposed areas, they are quick to spot and flee from predators.

The name is thought to be derived from Persian — a conjunction of mâr and the suffix khor, interpreted to represent the animal’s alleged ability to kill snakes, or as a reference to its corkscrew-like horns, which are somewhat reminiscent of coiling snakes.

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It is listed on the IUCN Red List as Near Threatened since 2015.

The species is both hardy and resilient, and as a result, small herds may be successfully reared and maintained in captivity.

The markhor is the national animal of Pakistan, where it is also known as the screw horn or “screw-horned goat”.

In folklore the markhor is known to kill, or literally, eat serpent. Thereafter, while chewing the cud, a foam-like substance comes out of its mouth which drops on the ground and dries. This foam-like substance is sought after by the local people, who believe it is useful in extracting the poison from snakebites.

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