Budorcas taxicolor whitei
Live in bamboo forests 15,000 feet above sea level
Bhutan Takin Scientific Classification
- Scientific Name
- Budorcas taxicolor whitei
Bhutan Takin Conservation Status
Bhutan Takin Locations
Bhutan Takin Facts
- Name Of Young
- Group Behavior
- Fun Fact
- Live in bamboo forests 15,000 feet above sea level
- Estimated Population Size
- Biggest Threat
- Hunting and habitat loss
- Most Distinctive Feature
- Long face and bulbous nose
- Distinctive Feature
- Curving horns
- Other Name(s)
- Gnu goat, cattle chaois
- Gestation Period
“The Bhutan Takin is the national animal of Bhutan!”
The Bhutan takin is one of the four extant subspecies of takin. A member of the ungulate subfamily Caprinae, the Bhutan takin lives throughout Bhutan, northeastern India, Tibet, and parts of China. In Bhutan, takins are revered and feature prominently in folk legends. They gather in secluded forests to feed and can easily climb steep, mountainous terrain despite their large size. Due to overhunting and habitat loss, the IUCN lists the Bhutan takin as a Vulnerable species.
5 Bhutan Takin Facts
- Bhutan takins live in groups of 10 to 50 individuals during winter and herds numbering in the hundreds during summer.
- You can find them living in bamboo forests at altitudes of up to 15,000 feet above sea level.
- These animals love salt, and groups regularly congregate at mineral deposits to lick the salt.
- When alarmed, Bhutan takins “cough” to alert other members of the herd and then run for cover.
- They can stand on their hind legs to access foliage up to 10 feet above the ground.
Bhutan Takin Scientific name
Also known as the gnu goat or cattle chamois, the takin belongs to the ungulate subfamily Caprinae. People sometimes refer to members of this subfamily as goat-antelopes due to their mixture of goat and antelope features. The word takin likely comes from a Tibeto-Burman language, possibly Taraon or Miju. The takin is the sole surviving species in the genus Budorcas in the tribe Caprini. The word Budorcas derives from the Greek words βοῦς (bouc), meaning “cow” or “ox,” and δορκάς (dorkas), meaning “gazelle.” Meanwhile, the specific name taxicolor comes from the Latin words taxus, meaning “badger,” and color, meaning “hue,” in reference to the takin’s badgeresque color. Like a badger, takins possess a light-colored coat with a dark stripe down the back and dark faces. The Bhutan takin represents just one of the four extant takin subspecies, and its full scientific name is Budorcas taxicolor whitei.
The other three extant takin subspecies are:
- Golden takin – B. t. bedfordi
- Tibetan takin or Sichuan takin – B. t. tibetana
- Mishmi takin – B. t. taxicolor
Bhutan Takin Appearance
In terms of appearance, the Bhutan takin more-or-less resembles the other three takin subspecies. It possesses short legs tipped by massive, two-toed hooves that feature a prominent spur. The Bhutan takin’s large body resembles that of an ox with its deep chest and stocky frame. It has a long face and a bulbous nose. A pair of horns with ridges at the base rest near the top and back of the head. The horns jut out to the side before curving sharply upward and can measure between 12 and 25 inches long. They measure 38 to 55 inches tall from hoof to shoulder and 63 to 87 inches from head to tail. On average, males weigh more than females, with males weighing between 660 and 770 pounds and females weighing 550 to 660 pounds.
Its coat color is the main difference that separates them from the other subspecies. Bhutan takins have a darker coat than the golden takin or Tibetan takin, which look more grayish-brown and gold, respectively. Their coat more closely resembles the Mishmi takin, appearing light brown or reddish-brown on the upper back and forehead and dark brown or black on the undersides or lacks. A dark stripe runs down the center of the back, and males possess dark faces. Their hair is long and shaggy, with the longest hairs on the head’s underside.
Evolution and History
At first look, the Bhutan takin closely resembles an ox or some other cattle-like bovine. For years, researchers classified them with muskox in the tribe Oviboni. However, additional testing revealed that takins share more in common with sheep in the genus Ovis. Scientists now group them in the tribe Caprini. Its closest relatives include the mountain goat in the genus Oreamnos, followed closely by the chamois in the genus Rupicapra. According to fossil records, the first caprines emerged during the Miocene epoch, approximately 23 to five million years ago. Bhutan takins slowly adapted to their environment and evolved to live in cold, mountainous habitats.
Bhutan Takin Behavior
During the winter, these large mammals gather in herds of 10 to 50 individuals, with an average of about 20. This ensures that the group can access enough food during the lean winter months. Then in summer, they congregate in large groups to breed. However, older males often live alone year-round. Bhutan takins can act very territorial, particularly during the breeding season. Males may lock horns or butt heads, and both males and females spray urine to mark their territory. Takins can also secrete oils from their skin which they then use to mark trees and other objects. They are most active during the day, especially in the early morning and late afternoon.
Bhutan Takin Habitat
As their name suggests, you can find them throughout Bhutan, as well as northeastern India, Tibet, and parts of western China. They commonly congregate in bamboo forests at altitudes between 3,300 and 15,000 feet above sea level. Bhutan takins normally move to higher elevations during summer to breed and lower elevations during winter to feed. In Bhutan, many takins live in reserves such as Jigme Dorji National Park.
Bhutan Takin Diet
These mammals are opportunistic herbivores that will eat just about anything that they can find. Their diet primarily consists of grass, forbs, leaves, shrubs, bamboo shoots, and flower buds. Bhutan takins generally browse for easy-to-reach food but may also stand up on their hind legs to access hard-to-reach leaves. Alternatively, they may also knock over trees or shrubs. Bhutan takins don’t spend much time chewing their food like other bovines. Instead, they regurgitate their food and rechew it as cud to aid in digestion. They love salt and will regularly stay at mineral deposits for several days to lick the salt off the rocks.
Predators and threats
Adults have few to no natural predators. Due to their large size, the only animals capable of preying on adult takins include bears or wolves. On the other hand, calves are more susceptible to predation. In addition to bears and wolves, they must also watch out for snow leopards and large birds of prey like eagles, which can drag the calves off ledges and cause them to fall to their death.
That said, the greatest threat to Bhutan takins doesn’t come from predators but from human activity. Hunting and habitat loss represent the two greatest threats. Every year, they lose more territory as their native habitat is taken for farming or raising livestock. Meanwhile, hunters target takins for their fur, horns, and meat. The horns, in particular, can fetch a high price in markets for use as souvenirs.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
The breeding season typically falls sometime between July and August. At this time, takins move to mountain slopes at high elevations from their lower elevation, forested winter-feeding grounds. The small groups common in the winter give way to larger herds that can contain 100 individuals or more. Both female and male use tactics to assert dominance and find a suitable mate. For example, males and females use urine to mark their territory. Meanwhile, males will compete with each other for mates by sparring with their horns. After mating, females will give birth to a single calf after a gestation period of seven to eight months. Calves wean off their mother’s milk after about two months but remain with the mother for the first year of life. Wild Bhutan takins live around 16 years but can live up to 20 years in captivity.
Bhutan Takin Population
Even historically, the Bhutan takin never ranked as a particularly common animal. They live in such a restricted range and in such small numbers that their total population, by design, has always been small. Additionally, the females only give birth to a single calf, which further lowers their fecundity. However, the population has declined considerably in the past few decades. Overhunting and habitat loss are the primary culprits threatening the remaining Bhutan takins. Despite protections, poachers continue to target takins for their horns and meat. As a result, the IUCN lists them as a Vulnerable species.
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Bhutan Takin FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Are Bhutan takins carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores?
Bhutan takins are herbivores that graze on grass, bark, leaves, bamboo shoots, and flower buds.
Where are Bhutan takins found?
You can find Bhutan takins in bamboo forests and mountainous terrain in Bhutan, northeastern India, western China, and Tibet.
How big is a Bhutan takin?
Bhutan takins can weigh between 550 and 770 pounds, with males typically measuring larger than females.
How many takins are there in Bhutan?
No one knows for certain how many Bhutan takins live in Bhutan. During winter, they congregate in groups of 10 to 50 animals, and herds of 100 or more individuals in summer.
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- NWF.org, Available here: https://www.nwf.org/Magazines/National-Wildlife/2006/The-Takins-Tale
- Nature.org, Available here: https://blog.nature.org/science/2018/01/22/meet-the-takin-the-largest-mammal-youve-never-heard-of/