Chamois

Rupicapra rupicapra

Chamois on Monte Aiera | APAM Archive, A. Rivelli

Scientific name: Rupicapra rupicapra
Class: Mammals
Order: Artiodactyls
Super order: Ungulates
Common name: Alpine chamois


Distribution and habitat

Chamois is found in all the European mountains. In Italy, it can be found along the entire Alpine range, while on the main Apennine massifs the rarer Apennine chamois of the same genus lives Rupicapra pyrenaica ornata. Chamois live at high altitudes, in rocky areas that also include forests and pastures. Its hoofs are suited to moving over difficult terrain.


Sexual dimorphism

The chamois is a light brown in summer and dark brown in winter; the lower cheeks, throat and upper part of the muzzle remain white in all seasons. Two black bands go from the muzzle to the ears, passing through the eyes on the upper cheeks. It measures about 75 cm in height for about 130 cm in length and weighs between 25 and 50 kg. Male and female have hook shaped horns.


Alimentation

It's a generic ruminant. Being able both to graze and to feed on young buds and leaves, it is able to make the most of even the least appetizing resources (lichens and pine needles).


Reproduction

The mating period goes from the end of October to mid-December, depending on climatic conditions. The female gives birth in June to one kid, rarely two, every year or every two.


Did you know that ..?

The chamois has undergone morphological and physiological adaptations that have allowed it to survive in steep and snowy environments.
Particularly suitable for life in the mountains is the two-digit hoof (3rd and 4th finger) with different hard and softer parts: the outer edge, hard and sharp, can take advantage of the smallest holds on the rock; the soft hoof pads, increase friction and prevent falls and slips downhill.
The fingers of the hoof are spreadable with an interdigital membrane that provides a larger support surface, allowing easy movement even on snow.
The heart, which is relatively large, is equipped with thick muscle walls which can maintain a heart rate of two hundred beats per minute and a high blood flow rate; this allows the chamois to climb long, steep slopes without excessive effort.
A large lung capacity and a high number of red blood cells (11-13 million per mm³) provide excellent oxygenation of the blood even in high altitude conditions, where the air is more rarefied.