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Encyclopedia > Caprinae

Goat Antelopes

Barbary Sheep
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Caprinae
Subfamily: Panthalopinae


A goat antelope is any of the species of mostly medium-sized herbivores that make up the subfamily Caprinae or the single species in subfamily Panthalopinae. The domestic sheep and domestic goat are both part of the goat antelope group, and the group itself is part of the family Bovidae, which in other branches contains the antelopes and domestic cattle.

The goat antelope or caprid group is known from as early as the Miocene, but did not reach its greatest diversity until the recent ice ages, when many of its members became specialised for marginal, often extreme, environments: mountains, deserts, and the sub-Arctic region. In consequence, although most goat antelopes are gregarious and have a fairly stocky build, they diverge in many other ways. The Musk Ox became adapted to the extreme cold of the tundra; the Mountain Goat of North America specialised in very rugged terrain; the Urial, occupied a largely infertile area from Kashmir to Iran, including much desert country. The moufflon is the ancestor of modern domestic sheep.

Many of the ice age species are now extinct, probably largely because of human interaction. Of the survivors:

  • five are classified as endangered,
  • eight as vulnerable,
  • seven as of concern and needing conservation measures but at lower risk, and
  • seven species are secure.

Members of the group vary considerably in size, from just over a metre for a full-grown Goral to almost 2.5 metres for a Musk Ox, and from under 30 kg to more than 350 kg. Musk Oxen in captivity have reached over 650 kg.

In lifestyle, the caprids fall into two broad classes, resource defenders which are territorial and defend a small, food-rich area against other members of the same species, and grazers, which gather together into herds and roam freely over a larger, usually relatively infertile area.

The resource defenders are the more primitive group: they tend to be smaller in size, dark in colour, males and females fairly alike, have long, tasselated ears, a long mane, and dagger-shaped horns. The grazers evolved more recently. They tend to be larger, highly social, and rather than mark territory with scent glands, they have highly evolved dominance behaviours. There is no sharp dividing line between the groups, just a continuum between the serows at one end of the spectrum and sheep, true goats, and Musk Oxen at the other.

The ancestors of the modern sheep and goats (both rather vague and ill-defined terms) are thought to have moved into mountainous regions: sheep becoming specialised occupants of the foothills and nearby plains, and relying on flight and clumping for defence against predators; goats adapting to very steep terrain where predators are at a disadvantage.


  • Subfamily Bovinae: cattle and spiral-horned antelopes; 24 species in nine genera
  • Subfamily Cephalophinae: duikers; 19 species in two genera
  • Subfamily Hippotraginae: grazing antelopes; 23 species in 11 genera
  • Subfamily Antilopinae: gazelles, dwarf antelopes and the Saiga; 38 species in 14 genera
  • Subfamily Caprinae
    • Genus Ammotragus
    • Genus Budorcas
      • Takin, Budorcas taxicolor
    • Genus Capra
      • Wild Goat, Capra aegagrus
      • West Caucasian Tur, Capra caucasia
      • East Caucasian Tur, Capra cylindricornis
      • Markhor, Capra falconeri
      • Alpine Ibex, Capra ibex
      • Nubian Ibex, Capra nubiana
      • Spanish Ibex, Capra pyrenaica
      • Siberian Ibex, Capra sibirica
      • Walia Ibex, Capra walie
    • Genus Hemitragus
      • Nilgiri tahr, Hemitragus hylocrius
      • Arabian tahr, Hemitragus jayakari
      • Himalayan tahr, Hemitragus jemlahicus
    • Genus Nemorhaedus
      • Red Goral, Nemorhaedus baileyi
      • Chinese Goral, Nemorhaedus caudatus
      • Japanese Serow, Nemorhaedus crispus
      • Goral, Nemorhaedus goral
      • Mainland Serow, Nemorhaedus sumatraensis
      • Taiwan Serow, Nemorhaedus swinhoei
Mountain Goat

  • Subfamily Panthalopinae
    • Genus Panthalops
      • Chiru, Panthalops hodgsoni

  Results from FactBites:
Subfamily Caprinae or chamois, goats, serows, sheep, and relatives (181 words)
Subfamily Caprinae or chamois, goats, serows, sheep, and relatives
The subfamily Caprinae is one of the 9 subfamilies that comprise the family Bovidae, which includes the subfamily Bovinae and comprises the bison, buffalo, and wild and domestic cattle.
Horn growth in Caprinae is affected by several factors including age and nutrition, and analysis of annual horn increments can be used to interpret past events.
Caprinae (562 words)
]Fossil Caprinae" title="Fossil Caprinae"> ]Naemorhedus" title="Naemorhedus"> ]Capra" title="Capra"> ]Ovis" title="Ovis"> ]Hemitragus" title="Hemitragus"> ]Ovibos moschatus" title="Ovibos moschatus"> ]Pseudois" title="Pseudois"> ]Ammotragus lervia" title="Ammotragus lervia"> ]Rupicapra" title="Rupicapra"> ]Oreamnos americanus" title="Oreamnos americanus"> ]Budorcas taxicolor" title="Budorcas taxicolor">
Gentry, A. Caprinae and Hippotragini (Bovidae, Mammalia) in the Upper Miocene.
Multivariate morphometrische Analysen der Gattung Ovis Linnaeus, 1758 (Mammalia, Caprinae).
  More results at FactBites »



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