Sichuan Takin (Tibetan Takin)

Budorcas taxicolor tibetana

Last updated: April 13, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Yan Simkin/Shutterstock.com

The Sichuan takin is a national treasure in China and shares part of its range with the giant panda!


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Sichuan Takin (Tibetan Takin) Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Mammalia
Order
Artiodactyla
Family
Bovidae
Genus
Budorcas
Scientific Name
Budorcas taxicolor tibetana

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Sichuan Takin (Tibetan Takin) Conservation Status

Sichuan Takin (Tibetan Takin) Locations

Sichuan Takin (Tibetan Takin) Locations

Sichuan Takin (Tibetan Takin) Facts

Name Of Young
Calf
Group Behavior
  • Herd
  • Social
Fun Fact
The Sichuan takin is a national treasure in China and shares part of its range with the giant panda!
Estimated Population Size
Unknown, possibly 7,000 to 12,000, but this is a very rough estimate
Biggest Threat
Human activity and habitat degradation
Most Distinctive Feature
Tip of nose is black
Distinctive Feature
Fluffy and oily coat; curved horns on both sexes; beard; body like young bison; short tail; large snout like moose
Other Name(s)
Tibetan takin
Gestation Period
7 to 8 months
Litter Size
1 or 2
Habitat
Mostly forested areas at elevations from 4,000 to 14,000 feet
Predators
Wolves, bears, snow leopards
Diet
Herbivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
  • Herd
Favorite Food
Leaves, grasses, herbs, and shoots
Number Of Species
1
Location
The eastern region of the Tibetan Plateau in China
Group
Herd
Migratory
1

Sichuan Takin (Tibetan Takin) Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Dark Brown
  • Blonde
  • Light-Brown
Skin Type
Hair
Lifespan
16 to 18 years in the wild; 20 years or more in captivity
Weight
500 to 770 pounds
Height
3.3 to 4.5 feet at the shoulder
Length
5 to 7.3 feet
Age of Sexual Maturity
4.5 (female) to 5.5 (male) years
Age of Weaning
2 months
Venomous
No

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The Sichuan takin is a national treasure in China and shares part of its range with the giant panda!

The Sichuan takin, also known as the Tibetan takin, is one of four recognized subspecies of takins. It is native to the remote and mountainous eastern portion of the Tibetan Plateau, and it shares a part of its range with the giant panda. This unique species shares characteristics with many other members of the Bovidae family. It is a member of the Caprinae subfamily of so-called goat-antelopes, but it is neither a goat nor an antelope. It secretes a musky oil that helps to waterproof its fluffy coat, and it sprays itself with urine to send signals to other takins. Although strange looking and smelly, the Sichuan takin is a national treasure in China and is protected by law.

Incredible Sichuan Takin Facts

  • Takin rhymes with rockin’.
  • The Sichuan takin is also known as the Tibetan takin.
  • The Sichuan takin is one of four recognized subspecies of takin.
  • Sichuan takins share part of their range with giant pandas, and they are likewise considered national treasures in China.
  • Although the Sichuan takin’s genus name means “ox gazelle,” and it belongs to a subfamily of “goat antelopes,” it is not an ox, a gazelle, a goat or an antelope.

Where to Find Sichuan Takins

The Sichuan takin is native to the provinces of Sichuan, Gansu and Xinjiang, and the autonomous region of Tibet in the People’s Republic of China. These hoofed mammals live at altitudes from 4,000 to 14,000 feet along the eastern part of the Tibetan Plateau. Their range, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, extends “from the Min mountains along the Sichuan-Gansu provincial border, south through the Qionglai mountains west of Chengdu to the border with Yunnan Province.”

Sichuan takins share their range with giant pandas, and both species forage within the bamboo forests of the region. While giant pandas eat primarily bamboo, Sichuan takin will eat almost any sort of vegetation. These animals live mostly in alpine and temperate forests, including bamboo forests.  

From the spring through the summer, Sichuan takins live higher in the mountains, near the tree line. They migrate in large herds from the lower elevations. In cooler weather they migrate back down the mountains in smaller herds.

Sichuan Takin Scientific Name

The Sichuan takin, also known as the Tibetan takin, is one of four recognized subspecies of Budorcas taxicolor. Its scientific name is Budorcas taxicolor tibetana. The genus name, Budorcas, comes from Greek roots meaning ox, or cow, and gazelle. This is fitting, although roots referring to goats and antelope may have been just as apt. The specific epithet, taxicolor, comes from Latin roots, meaning the color of a badger. The subspecific epithet, tibetana, refers to the region where this subspecies is found.



There are three other subspecies of takins within the Budorcas taxicolor species. The endangered B. t. taxicolor is the nominate subspecies. It is known as the Mishmi takin. The golden takin, B. t. bedfordi, is also endangered. And the Bhutan takin, B. t. whitei, is considered vulnerable.

Budorcas taxicolor is the only living species within the genus, which includes two extinct species identified from fossil evidence from the Pliocene epoch. Takins belong to the Bovidae family, which includes such cloven-hoofed ruminants as cattle, sheep, goats, bison, buffalo, and a wide variety of Eurasian and African antelopes. The Bovidae family also includes the goat-antelopes of the Caprinae subfamily, to which Budorcas taxicolor belongs.

Appearance

Sichuan takins are large animals, reaching lengths between 5 and 7.3 feet and standing between 3.3 and 4.5 feet at the shoulder. Males generally weigh between 750 and 800 pounds, while mature females usually weigh between 500 and 600 pounds.

The Sichuan takin is one of those members of the animal kingdom that seems to be made up of spare parts. Their nose resembles that of a moose, and always has a black tip. Their curved horns look more like those of a wildebeest. They are fluffy, with a coat that can range from pale blonde to brown. Their body is shaped a lot like a youthful bison. They have a full beard much like a mountain goat, and bison-like ears that stick straight out from their head. Their tail is short. Both sexes have horns that begin to show when they are around six months old.

Male and female Sichuan Takin (Tibetan Takin) in a field near a pond.

Male and female Sichuan Takin (Tibetan Takin) in a field near a pond.

©Mark_Kostich/Shutterstock.com

Upon closer examination, it is clear that many of the characteristics of this species are adaptations that help it to survive in the cold climate that is its home. For instance, the moose-like snout has large sinus cavities that allow air to warm more thoroughly before it is taken into the animal’s lungs. This is the same function the snout serves for a moose, which thrives in the cold. Likewise, the fluffy, shaggy coat of the Sichuan takin is layered to provide extra warmth. The coat is also covered with oil that the animal secretes from its skin. This oil serves to waterproof the animal’s coat and helps to defend against the cold, wet climate where it lives.

Sichuan Takin Behavior

Sichuan takins are gregarious, social animals that live mainly in herds. In the spring, when they migrate to higher elevations, they move in large herds numbering around 300 individuals. They use well-worn paths and frequent the same salt licks year after year. In the late summer or fall, the herds break up into smaller units of about 35 or fewer individuals and migrate back to lower elevations. These smaller herds are made up mostly of mature females, or cows, and immature individuals of both sexes. Sichuan takins sometimes form all-male groups, although older males often remain solitary except during breeding.

The herd behaviors of Sichuan takins differ from golden takins in some ways. For instance, golden takins have not been known to form all-male herds. Also, their herds move up and down the mountains more frequently through the year.  

Communication

Sichuan takins communicate with one another through vocalizations and posturing. They use coughs and snorts to warn the herd of danger. They also roar or bellow, particularly during breeding season or when threatened. When threatened, a Sichuan takin may adopt a head-down posture, meant to intimidate a predator or foe. It may fortify its stance, holding its neck rigidly, and cock its head to the side, demonstrating its readiness to fight. Sparring takins may butt one another in head-to-head combat.

Sichuan takins also depend on scents and pheromones to communicate. Males spray themselves with their own urine, and females soak their own tails in urine to give off scents that other takins can easily understand. These odors, combined with the musky scent of the oil that they secrete from their skin, probably make these animals rather unpleasant to smell.

Young Sichuan takins remain with the herd as they grow up. They exhibit playful behavior and are often observed kicking, hopping or jumping straight into the air. They also practice butting things with their heads.

Sichuan takins are excellent climbers. They usually use slow and deliberate movements on slopes but sometimes jump from one spot to another. Adults can jump more than six feet off the ground from a standing position.

Diet

Sichuan takins are herbivores. They eat close to 150 different species of plants, including herbs and grasses, leaves, bark, and twigs from trees and shrubs, and of course, bamboo shoots. They are ruminants, with four stomach chambers much like cattle. The food that they eat must be mixed with digestive fluids and regurgitated back up to the mouth as cud, then chewed thoroughly before it can be fully digested.

The migration pattern of this species follows its food availability. When food is plentiful, they forage in the morning and in the late afternoon, resting the remainder of the day. When food becomes scarce in upper elevations, usually around the end of summer, Sichuan takins move to lower elevations where food is easier to find. They stay there until spring and begin the migration again.

These animals have adapted to survive in tough conditions. They can tolerate plants with bitter oils that many other animals cannot. They can also survive on tough and woody parts of plants, such as twigs and bark, when food is scarce.

Sichuan takins utilize salt licks for needed minerals, and eat dirt, possibly to neutralize toxins in their food. And they can rise up on their back legs to reach leaves that many other animals cannot reach, thus increasing their food supply considerably.

Reproduction

Sichuan takins reproduce during a breeding season known as the rut. This season occurs in late summer, generally July to August. Females reach sexual maturity by about 4.5 years, while males are not ready to reproduce until they are 5.5 years old. Mature males bellow to attract mates and warn off other males. Females emit pheromones when they are ready to mate, which males detect by licking their urogenital region.

The gestational period for a Sichuan takin is seven to eight months. Mothers usually give birth to a single calf, born feet first. Occasionally a mother will give birth to twins. Sichuan takin calves weigh about 11 to 15 pounds. They can stand on their own and nurse within about 30 minutes after they are born. They will nurse from their mother for the first two months of their life, before they are weaned. Offspring usually stay with their mother as part of a multigenerational herd even after the next calves are born.

Predators & Threats

Because of the Sichuan takin’s size, it has few natural predators. Wolves and bears sometimes prey on adult takins. Snow leopards are known to prey on young takins. Humans are perhaps a greater threat to the Sichuan takin, due to excess hunting and habitat degradation.

Lifespan & Conservation

Sichuan takins live about 16 to 18 years in the wild, and up to 20 years or more in captivity. The IUCN Red List for Threatened Species lists this subspecies as vulnerable, although the habitat of the Sichuan takin makes it nearly impossible to accurately estimate the population.

In 2022, researchers in China published a paper urging a reassessment of this species, due to significant changes in the suitable habitat within the distribution range. These researchers found that much of the area included on the IUCN range map actually did not include suitable habitat for the Sichuan takin, mainly due to human activities. Although part of the range of this species is protected, due to shared range with the giant panda, that may not be enough to keep the population from sliding toward extinction.

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About the Author

Tavia Fuller Armstrong is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on birds, mammals, reptiles, and chemistry. Tavia has been researching and writing about animals for approximately 30 years, since she completed an internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Tavia holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology with a wildlife emphasis from the University of Central Oklahoma. A resident of Oklahoma, Tavia has worked at the federal, state, and local level to educate hundreds of young people about science, wildlife, and endangered species.

Sichuan Takin (Tibetan Takin) FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What do Sichuan takins look like?

The Sichuan takin looks like an amalgam of other animals. Their nose resembles that of a moose, and always has a black tip. Their horns look more like those of a wildebeest. They are fluffy, with a coat that can range from pale blonde to brown. Their body is shaped a lot like a youthful bison. They have a full beard much like a mountain goat, and bison-like ears that stick straight out from their head.

How big are Sichuan takins?

Sichuan takins are large animals, reaching lengths between 5 and 7.3 feet and standing between 3.3 and 4.5 feet at the shoulder. Males generally weigh between 750 and 800 pounds, while mature females usually weigh between 500 and 600 pounds.

How fast are Sichuan takins?

Sichuan takins generally move slowly and deliberately. Young calves are more likely to frolic and move about quickly.

How many varieties of Sichuan takins exist?

There is only one takin species, Budorcas taxicolor. The Sichuan takin, B. t. tibetana, is one of four recognized subspecies. The other three subspecies include the Mishmi takin, B. t. taxicolor, the golden takin, B. t. bedfordi, and the Bhutan takin, B. t. whitei.

What makes Sichuan takins special?

The Sichuan takin is a national treasure in China and shares part of its range with the giant panda.

Where do Sichuan takins live?

Sichuan takins live primarily in forests, including bamboo forests, at altitudes from 4,000 to 14,000 feet along the eastern part of the Tibetan Plateau. Their range, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, extends “from the Min mountains along the Sichuan-Gansu provincial border, south through the Qionglai mountains west of Chengdu to the border with Yunnan Province.”

Do Sichuan takins migrate?

Sichuan takins migrate between higher and lower elevations within their range. They move to higher elevations in large herds of up to 300 individuals in the spring and summer. They return to lower elevations in small herds of up to 35 individuals in the late summer, when food becomes scarce.

What do Sichuan takins eat?

Sichuan takins eat a wide variety of vegetation, including nearly 150 recorded plant species. They eat leaves, grasses, herbs, shoots, bark, and twigs.

How many offspring do Sichuan takins produce?

Sichuan takins usually have one calf, but sometimes have twins. Their gestational period is 7 to 8 months long.

How long do Sichuan takins stay with their mother?

Sichuan takins usually stay in herds with their mother at least until after she has given birth to her next offspring, and sometimes longer.

How long do Sichuan takins live?

Sichuan takins live approximately 16 to 18 years in the wild, and 20 years or more in captivity.

Are Sichuan takins rare?

Sichuan takins are listed as a vulnerable species by the IUCN Red List and are considered rare. Population estimates are rough, due to the remote range of the subspecies and the difficult terrain. In 2022, researchers in China asked for a reassessment of the Sichuan takin due to significant changes in the suitable habitat within its range.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources

  1. Ecology and Evolution / Guan Tianpei, et. al. / Published August 29, 2022 / Accessed February 24, 2023
  2. San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance / Published April 1, 2019 / Accessed February 25, 2023
  3. Saint Louis Zoo / Accessed February 26, 2023
  4. IUCN Red List / Published June 30, 2008 / Accessed February 25, 2023

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