Wednesday, September 29, 2010


The Markhor, the national animal of Pakistan, is a particularly stunning creature. They are large members of the Capra genus, with males reaching weights of 240lbs. They are not the heaviest goats, but they certainly are the tallest, with males standing 3-4ft at the shoulder. Both sexes possess a pair tight, corkscrew twisted horns, but those of the male far surpass those of the female in length. Their horns can grow to 60 or more inches, and are used in aggressive fights during the mating season. They have shaggy coats that grow in length and color seasonally, with the hair shorter and redder in the summer, and longer and grayer in winter.

(Image Source)
Markhors (Capra falconeri) are currently found in only a few small pockets in the Himalayas, typically at elevations of between 2,000 and 12,000ft, where there is still sparse vegetation. They are exceptional climbers and their locations vary with the season, with summers in the higher altitudes and winters in the lower. Their feeding habits also are seasonally affected; in summer they tend to be grazers while in winter they browse. Markhor populations in these few remaining areas are small and typically very isolated. In the past, the Markhor had a range that extended throughout central Asia.

Unfortunately, Markhor are an endangered species, and continue to be hunted for their meat and for their horns, which are used as both hunting trophies and as ingredients for traditional Asian medicines. Markhor horns supposedly sell in China for over $2,200 a pound. Habitat loss and food competition from domestic livestock has also reduced their numbers. It is estimated that there are only a few thousand left. In the wild, Markhor are also hunted by wolves, snow leopards, and lynx.

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