Less than 2,500 left in the wild!
Markhor Scientific Classification
- Scientific Name
- Capra falconeri
Markhor Conservation Status
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The Markhor is the national animal of Pakistan.
The markhor is an animal that was considered to be the most challenging game in British India due to the dangers of hunting them at high altitudes. The name “Markhor” is a combination of two Persian and Pashto words: “Mar” means snake and “khor” means eater. Also known as the screw-horned goat or called Shakhawat, is a species of large, wild goat that is native to the mountains and high-altitude monsoon forests of western and central Asia. Five subspecies exist.
- The markhor was featured on the World Wide Fund for Nature Conservation Coin Collection in 1976, along with 72 other animals.
- Afghan puppet shows known as buz-baz use markhor marionettes.
- It has been on the new revised livery of Pakistan’s flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines, since 2018.
- It is on the logo of the Inter-Services Intelligence.
- Allahyar and the Legend of Markhor, a Pakistani computer-animated film, mentions the markhor.
Markhor Scientific Name
Capra falconeri is the scientific name of the markhor. Capra refers to a genus of mammals, specifically the genus of goats, and includes wild goats, markhor, and ibexes. Falconeri refers to the species. However, there are several subspecies of markhor goats that are recognized according to the shape of their horns:
- Astor or Pir Panjal: Aegoceros (Capra) falconeri falconeri
- Bukharan, Tajik, Turkmenian or Heptner’s markhor: Capra falconeri heptneri
- Kabul: Capra falconeri megaceros
- Kashmir: Capra falconeri cashmiriensis
- Suleiman: Capra falconeri jerdoni
On the other hand, the IUCN only recognizes three subspecies: Astor, Bukharan and Kabul. Astor is usually synonymous with Kashmir.
Markhor are animals that have grizzled, long hair which may come in brown, grey-black, white, or tan, or any combination thereof. It is short and smooth in summer and longer and thicker in winter. Most notable however are its unique horns which usually grow up to 5ft long in mature males. Their lower legs are usually black and white. They are 65-115cm (26-45in) in height at the shoulder, 132-186cm (52-73in) in length, and 32-110kg (71-243lbs). Only the Siberian ibex exceeds its weight and length, but they have the highest shoulder length in the Capra genus.
The species is sexually dimorphic. Males have longer hair on the chin, throat, chest and shanks, while females having shorter, redder hair, a short black beard, and no mane. Both have horns, but while that of the males can grow up to 160cm (63n) that of the females grow up to 25cm (10in). The males also have a strong odor which is stronger than that of the domestic goat.
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Markhor’s incredible horns explained
In Pakistan, the markhor is called a screw horn or a screw-horned goat due to the corkscrew shape of its horns. All subspecies have long, flaring, usually curled horns that resemble snakes. However, it is possible for their horns to differ even within the same herd on a particular mountain range.
- Astor or Pir Panjal has large, flat and wide-branching horns that go up and have a half-turn. They are wider than the Kashmir.
- Bukharan, Tajik, Turkmenian or Heptner’s markhor has horns with three half-turns.
- Kabul is also called the straight-horned markhor.
- Kashmir has heavy, flat horns with flaring, loose corkscrew-style twisting showing two half-turns.
- Suleima has horns with tight corkscrew-style twisting resulting in four half-turns.
People believe according to the local folklore that because of their horns, the markhor has special abilities, such as being an eater or killer of snakes. After chewing its cud, the markhor has a foam-like substance that drips from its mouth. the local people seek it for extracting snake poison.
The males are loners and females gather into herds of 9. As a crepuscular diurnal species, they are active during the day and mostly in the early morning and late afternoon. They are excellent at climbing and jumping on rocky, high altitudes. When threatened, they have an alarm call that sounds like a domestic goat’s bleating. The males remain in the woods during the summer, while the females climb the highest terrain. They descend to lower altitudes in the winter to avoid extreme cold. They forage 8-12 hours a day except for the middle of the day, when they stop to rest and chew their cud.
The markhor’s habitat varies depending on its subspecies, but they generally live in the scrublands, open woodlands and mountains of central Asia, Karkoram and the Himalayas. Their range of scattered herds includes Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and nothern India.
Astor or Pir Panjal lives in the Indian region of Kashmir, northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan at altitudes of up to 3,600m (11,800ft). Bukharan, Tajik, Turkmenian or Heptner’s markhor live in Tajikistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and possibly parts of Afghanistan, up to 13,000ft above sea level. Kabul and Suleiman live in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Kashmir live in Afghanistan.
It competes with domestic goats over food. This is due to the greater numbers of herds of domestic goats, which drive the wild goats away from food sources. Their typical diet is grass, leaves and shoots. During spring and summer they graze and during winter they browse trees.
Markhor Predators and Threats
Snow leopards and wolves prey upon markhor. Hunters and poachers are also a threat to markhor, pursuing them in India for both foods and due to the desire for their unique horns, which they value as trophies. They are commonly hunted along with the Himalayan ibex and in Afghanistan, it is traditional to hunt them in Nuristan and Laghman. Foreign trophy hunters and powerful Pakistanis overhunted and poached markhor so much that in the 1960s and 70s they were endangered. It was in the 1970s that Pakistan passed conservation legislation. However, hunting still goes on in spite of its being illegal in all three countries.
Markhor Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan
Male markhor fight for the attention of females by locking horns and then twisting and pushing against the other male. Mating season is in the winter when males start rutting, and both sexes reach maturity at 18-30 months.
As a mammal, markhor mothers give birth to live young. After a gestation period of 135-170 days, they give birth to 1-2 kids. The kids are weaned at 5-6 months. Markhor can be expected to live at least 12-13 years.
The largest population of Astor or Kashmir markhor is currently found in Chitral National Park in Pakistan, where they now exceed 1,000 in number. The population increased by about 20% during the last decade. Its conservation status is Near Threatened since 2015 according to the IUCN Red List.
Markhor In the Zoo
These animals are commonly housed with other wild goats. For example, in the Bronx Zoo, they live with a herd of Himalayan Tahr. Zoos in several countries are common international conservation sites for markhor, while parks serve the same purpose on the local level.View all 84 animals that start with M
Markhor FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is a markhor?
A markhor is a species of large, wild goat in central and western Asia.
What does a markhor eat?
Markhors eat grass, leaves, and shoots on the ground and in trees, bushes, and other shrubbery.
How far can a markhor jump?
Markhor can jump at least 8 feet high.
Is the markhor endangered?
It has been endangered due to poaching. Currently, there are less than 2,500 left in the wild. The IUCN Red List of Endangered Species considers it to be near-threatened, meaning it could reach Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered in the near future. This change from its past “endangered” status was due to conservation efforts. It is a fully protected (Schedule I) species in India, under Jammu and Kashmir’s Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1978.
Where do markhor live?
Markhor in the scrublands, open woodlands, and mountains of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.
What are the markhor's special abilities?
Markhor can jump in rocky terrain to reach higher altitudes. It also drools a foamy substance after chewing its cud, which the local people use for extracting snake poison.
What Kingdom do Markhors belong to?
Markhors belong to the Kingdom Animalia.
What class do Markhors belong to?
Markhors belong to the class Mammalia.
What phylum to Markhors belong to?
Markhors belong to the phylum Chordata.
What family do Markhors belong to?
Markhors belong to the family Bovidae.
What order do Markhors belong to?
Markhors belong to the order Artiodactyla.
What genus do Markhors belong to?
Markhors belong to the genus Capra.
What type of covering do Markhors have?
Markhors are covered in Hair.
What are some predators of Markhors?
Predators of Markhors include wolves, snow leopards, and lynx.
What are some distinguishing features of Markhors?
Markhors have long winter hair and large, spiraled horns.
How many babies do Markhors have?
The average number of babies a Markhor has is 1.
What is an interesting fact about Markhors?
There are less than 2,500 Markhors left in the wild!
What is the scientific name for the Markhor?
The scientific name for the Markhor is Capra falconeri.
What is the lifespan of a Markhor?
Markhors can live for 10 to 13 years.
How fast is a Markhor?
A Markhor can travel at speeds of up to 10 miles per hour.
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- Tom Jackson, Lorenz Books (2007) The World Encyclopedia Of Animals
- David Burnie, Kingfisher (2011) The Kingfisher Animal Encyclopedia
- Richard Mackay, University of California Press (2009) The Atlas Of Endangered Species
- David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2008) Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Animals
- Dorling Kindersley (2006) Dorling Kindersley Encyclopedia Of Animals
- David W. Macdonald, Oxford University Press (2010) The Encyclopedia Of Mammals
- Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Markhor
- Facts and Details, Available here: http://factsanddetails.com/central-asia/Central_Asian_Topics/sub8_8i/entry-4557.html
- WCS Pakistan, Available here: https://pakistan.wcs.org/Wildlife/Markhor#:~:text=Threats%20include%20intense%20hunting%20pressure,is%20largely%20within%20Pakistan's%20borders.
- Animal Corner, Available here: https://animalcorner.org/animals/markhor/#:~:text=Markhor%20Reproduction&text=Fights%20involve%20horn%20locking%20and,young%20(kids)%20are%20born.
- Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens , Available here: https://www.lazoo.org/animals/mammals/tadjik-markhor/
- New England Zoo, Available here: https://www.zoonewengland.org/stone-zoo/our-animals/mammals/markhor/