The chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) is a species of goat-antelope.
The range of the chamois, includes the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Carpathians, the Tatra Mountains, the Balkans, parts of Turkey, the Caucasus, and the Apennines. It has been introduced on the South Island of New Zealand.
The chamois habitats are alpine and sub alpine meadows above the timberline. It winters in forested areas and steep slopes where snow does not accumulate. It is found in both relatively steep and flatter terrain.
They can be found at elevations up to at least 3,600 m (11,800 ft). When winter rolls around, they go to lower elevations, of around 800 m (2,600 ft).
The lifespan of the chamois is from 15 to 17 years in the wild and up to 22 years in captivity.
A chamois is from 70 to 80 cm (28 to 31 in) at the shoulder and is from 107 to 137 cm (42–54 in) long (the tail is not generally visible except when mating).
Males, which weigh from 30 to 60 kg (66–132 lb), are slightly larger than females, which weigh from 25 to 45 kg (55 to 99 lb).
Both males and females have short, straightish horns which are hooked backwards near the tip, the horn of the male being thicker.
Chamois fur is a chestnut color but are lighter in the spring and summer. In the winter these animals grow long guard hairs over their dark brown under fur.
Under parts are pale and the rump is white at the tail. A dark brown band runs from each side of the muzzle to the ears and eyes, and the rest of the head and throat is white.
The hooves of the chamois are excellent for gripping slippery rock.
Chamois are diurnal species, but may be active at night. Snow reduced movements of chamois, while environmental temperature increased them.
Female chamois and their young live in herds of up to 15 to 30 individuals; adult males tend to live solitarily for most of the year.
Chamois announce danger with a whistling sound and foot stamping. When alarmed, these animals flee to the most innaccessible places, often making prodigous leaps.
They can jump almost 2 meters (6.5 feet) in height and at least 6 meters (19.5 feet) in length, and can run at speeds of 50 km/h (31 mph) on uneven ground.
During the summer months the diet consists chiefly of herbs and flowers, but in winter the chamois eats lichens, mosses, and young pine shoots. It has been known to fast for two weeks and survive when the snow is so deep that food can not be found.
In late November/early December males engage in fierce battles for the attention of unmated females. An impregnated female undergoes a gestation period of 170 days, after which a single kid is usually born in May or early June – on rare occasions, twins may be born.
Chamois population in Europe is about 400,000.
In the 20th century chamois were introduced into New Zealand, where their numbers quickly increased up to almost 100,000 by the 1970s and where they threatened the local vegetation. The chamois population has since decreased by about 20,000.
As their meat is considered tasty, chamois are popular game animals.
The soft, pliant skin of the chamois is made into the original “chammy,” or “shammy,” leather.
The English name comes from French chamois. The latter is derived from Gaulish camox (attested in Latin, 5th century), itself perhaps borrowing from some Alpine language (Raetic, Ligurian).