Markhors have been known to climb trees in search of nutritious leaves. One was sighted on the branch of an oak tree about six metres (19 feet) above the ground, calmly munching on leaves.
Both male and female markhors have tightly curled, corkscrew-like horns. They start close together at their heads and spread outwards at the tips. In males, horns can grow up to 160 centimetres (65 inches) long – that’s the same height as an average 14-year-old boy. In females, horns are much smaller at only 25 centimetres (10 inches).
Markhor populations have been steadily declining over the past 40 years. Today, only about 2,500 of these animals remain in the Western Himalayas. Markhors’ distinctive horns are a big part of their downfall: they are prized both among trophy hunters and for use in Asian medicine. In the summer, markhors live high up in the mountains in places that are difficult for people to reach. During the winter months, when these animals move to lower elevations in search of food, they are heavily hunted by humans.
Getting started on the right foot
Markhor kids are born in a shallow earthen hollow and can walk soon after birth, so they can travel with their mothers. Female markhors give a distinctive nasal call when approaching their young.
At a Glance
35 – 110 kg (77 – 242 lb)
65 – 115 cm (2.1 –3.7 ft)
Scrub forests in mountainous terrain of the western Himalayas.
Herbivore. During the spring and summer months, markhors graze on grass. When the grasses dry up in the fall, they move down to lower elevations in search of shrubby leaves and twigs.