A mix between a goat and an antelope
Goral Scientific Classification
Goral Conservation Status
Gorals belong to the genus Naemorhedus in the goat-antelope subfamily Caprinae. Found throughout central and eastern Asia, gorals feature short, backward-facing horns and light-gray or reddish-brown coats. They can scale rocky terrain with ease and live in some of the most inaccessible mountain habitats in the world. Due to habitat loss and hunting, the IUCN lists all 4 extant goral species as Vulnerable or Near Threatened.
5 Goral Facts
- While younger gorals often live in groups, particularly females, older male gorals usually live alone.
- World gorals can live between 10 and 15 years, but gorals in captivity can live over 20 years.
- Gorals are excellent climbers and can move along steep slopes with amazing speed and dexterity.
- Young gorals can stand and walk almost immediately after birth and reach sexual maturity after approximately 3 years.
- Due to overhunting and habitat loss, most goral populations are in steady decline and listed as Vulnerable or Near Threatened by the IUCN.
All 4 extant goral species belong to the genus Naemorhedus. The genus name derives from the Latin words nemus, from nemoris meaning “grove” or “forest,” and haedus, meaning “little goat” or “young goat.” Their tribe, Oviboni, belongs to the subfamily Caprinae, thereby making gorals caprines or goat-antelopes. This nickname comes from their mixed appearance, as all caprines, including gorals, possess both goat and antelope qualities. Like all caprines, gorals are part of the family Bovidae, which also includes bovids like cattle, bison, buffalo, and antelopes. Meanwhile, the name goral comes from the word used in eastern India to refer to the Himalayan goral.
The four extant species of goral include:
- Himalayan goral or gray goral – Naemorhedus goral
- Long-tailed goral, Amur goral, or Chinese gray – Naemorhedus caudatus
- Red goral – Naemorhedus baileyi
- Chinese goral, gray long-tailed goral, or central Chinese goral – Naemorhedus griseus
The Himalayan goral serves as the nominative species and receives the honor of having “goral” in its scientific name. It also goes by the name the gray goral due to its gray coat. The long-tailed goral’s scientific name, caudatus, derives from the Latin words cauda, meaning “tail,” and the suffix -atus, which in this case modifies the noun to mean “long,” or “long-tailed.” As their scientific name implies, long-tailed gorals have relatively long tails, hence their common name. The red goral’s scientific name, baileyi, honors the British explorer Frederick Marshman Bailey, who explored parts of China and Tibet. Finally, the Chinese goral, N. griseus, gets its scientific name from the Latin word for “gray.” In certain regions, gorals go by different common names, such as the Amur goral, or central Chinese goral. These names simply reflect regional differences in how people name and identify goral species.
Generally speaking, gorals share a number of similarities in terms of appearance. Overall, most gorals weigh between 55 and 88 pounds and measure 31 to 51 inches long. They feature short, backward-facing horns and thick double coats; a wooly undercoat, and an upper coat made of long, coarse hair. The coat often sports a dark stripe down the spine and appears lighter on the throat, chest, or underside. Females feature four teats, and both sexes have broad, cloven hooves. While gorals share many of these traits, small differences occur between species in terms of color, size, and horn structure.
The average Chinese goral stands 20 to 31 inches tall and measures 32 to 51 inches long. Their coat varies from light gray to dark reddish-brown. Himalayan gorals measure slightly larger, at 37 to 51 inches long, and weigh between 77 and 93 pounds. They possess either a gray or grayish-brown coat, and the males often sport a mane around the neck. Long-tailed gorals weigh between 49 and 93 pounds, with males usually weighing more than females. They stand between 20 and 31 inches tall and measure 32 to 51 inches long. Their coat often has brown patches of gray, while the long, busy tail looks black or dark brown. Red gorals weigh between 44 and 66 pounds and measure up to 39 inches long. Unlike other gorals, red gorals have bright red coats, hence their name.
Goral horns can vary widely in terms of appearance depending on the age and sex of the animal. Typically, females have thinner, straighter horns, while the horns on the males appear thicker and curvier. That said, the horns of some species – such as the red goral – feature a more noticeably prominent curve. Additionally, the horns on the males often wear down over time. Sometimes the horns may sport prominent rings at the base, center, or along the entire horn length. Occasionally, the rings wear down to the point that they are practically absent. Horns’ lengths vary but often range between 2.9 and 8 inches.
Evolution and History
The first gorals emerged sometime during the Miocene Epoch, between 5 and 23 million years ago. However, they likely achieved their greatest level of diversity sometime during the most recent ice age. Around that time, gorals adapted to live in the mountainous habitats where they continue to live to this day. Their bodies adapted to the steep, rocky terrain, and they learned how to quickly navigate the environment to defend themselves against predators. Today, the gorals’ closest relatives are the serow in the genus Capricornis, which until recently used to be grouped into the same genus as the gorals.
Most gorals live in small groups containing no more than 12 individuals. These groups may consist of only females or a mix of young males and females. However, red gorals serve as the exception to this rule, as most red gorals are solitary. That said, they may gather in small family groups. Regardless of species, older males almost always live alone. Gorals are diurnal, although they are most active in the early morning or late evening. They tend to retreat to higher elevations at night and rest on rocky ledges to keep them safe from predators. Gorals can swiftly navigate steep mountainous terrain thanks to their broad, cloven hooves. They can jump over 1.8 meters high from a standing position and make horizontal leaps of almost twice that distance. Gorals typically avoid confrontation and are known for their shy, solitary nature.
You can find gorals throughout central and eastern Asia. Himalayan gorals live in northwestern and northeastern India, Nepal, and Bhutan. Long-tailed gorals range throughout eastern Russia, western Thailand, eastern Myanmar, and parts of the Korean Peninsula. Red gorals live in China, Tibet, northeastern India, and northern Myanmar. Finally, you can find Chinese gorals in China and southeastern Asia, including Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Laos. Gorals spend most of their time in mountainous terrain, although they may also move into forested areas or woodlands. They typically move to lower terrain to feed and then retreat to rocky ledges at night to rest.
Gorals are herbivorous browsers and forages that eat a wide variety of native plants. Their diet primarily consists of soft leaves, twigs, and grasses. They may also eat some fruits and nuts, such as acorns.
Goral Predators and Threats
Several animals prey on gorals depending on the region. Common predators include lynxes, tigers, jackals, wolves, and snow leopards. Young gorals are most at risk of predation, as their small size makes them susceptible to all manner of predators, including large birds of prey such as eagles.
The primary threat to gorals comes from human activities. Hunters kill gorals for their fur and meat, as well as for use in traditional medicine. Although gorals receive protections under Appendix I of CITES, regulations are often poorly enforced. Poachers ignore the boundaries designated as protected reserves and continue to hunt gorals due to the lucrative trade in black market goods. Meanwhile, slash-and-burn techniques deployed by farmers and ranchers remove more and more territory where gorals historically browse each and every year.
Goral Reproduction and Life Cycle
Most gorals breed in late spring. During the breeding season, males follow females closely to determine if they are receptive to mating. Receptive females will raise their tails, while non-receptive females may flee or butt males away. The gestation period varies depending on the species and varies between 170 and 215 days. Females give birth to one or two offspring, known as kids. Kids can stand and walk at birth and usually wean themselves off their mother’s milk after 7 or 8 months. Gorals usually reach sexual maturity at 3 years old and live between 10 and 15 years. That said, captive gorals can live approximately 20 years.
Due to habitat loss and hunting, most goral populations are currently in decline. For instance, researchers estimate the number of wild red gorals at around 10,000 mature individuals. Meanwhile, the majority of wild long-tailed gorals live in Russia, where the population is below 600. Elsewhere, most long-tailed goral populations number less than 200. Similar statistics exist for the Chinese goral and Himalayan goral. Captive breeding programs are hard at work to help boost goral numbers, and numerous zoos keep goral populations. Although captive populations exist in zoos, these populations should not serve as a replacement for wild gorals. As a result, the IUCN lists all 4 goral species as either Near Threatened (Himalayan goral) or Vulnerable (Chinese goral, long-tailed goral, red goral).
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Goral FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Are gorals carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores?
Gorals are herbivores that primarily graze on twigs, leaves, and grasses, but also eat some nuts and fruits.
Where are gorals found?
You can find gorals throughout central and eastern Asia. Their range varies depending on the species, but includes China, Russia, India, and Korea.
Is a goral a goat?
Gorals are small, goatlike mammals in the genus Naemorhedus of the caprine subfamily caprine. They possess goat and antelope features, hence the name “goat-antelope” used to refer to gorals and other caprines.
What does a goral look like?
Gorals possess flat faces and close-set eyes. The coat varies from brown to gray to red depending on the species, but typically features a dark stripe along the spine and light underparts. They have short, curved horns and broad, cloven feet.
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