Capra ibex

Alpine ibex | APAM Archive

Species name: Capra ibex
Class: Mammals
Order: Artiodactyls
Super order Ungulati
Common name: alpine ibex

Distribution and habitat


Sexual dimorphism

The difference between male and female ibex is very evident in both the different size of their horns and from their body mass: adult males are robust and have notched horns up to one metre long, weighing up to 8 kilograms. To support such a weight,they have a large skull and a neck with a strong muscles. Females are smaller and their horns are thinner and do not exceed 30 centimetres in length. Their coat is lighter than the males': light brown in summer and darker in winter.


Females weigh between 40 and 50 kg on average, while some males can weigh up to 110 kg.


Ibex are herbivorous. Like chamois they feed early in the morning and in the evening; the rest of the day is spent ruminating. Their preferred foods are grasses, legumes, rhododendron leaves, mosses and they are also able to digest lichens.


The breeding period is from mid-December to mid-January. The female gives birth in June to one young, rarely two, every year or every two.


Life expectancy is between 15 and 20 years, but there are documented cases of animals that have reached 22 years of age. Females are longer-lived than males.

Ibex in the Alps

Too confident with humans: they risked extinction, but with human help they gradually returned across the Alps. Ibex don't normally react aggressively in the face of danger, preferring to run for refuge on rocky walls where they feel safe. This strategy has allowed them, over the millennia, to escape from predators, but was not enough to counteract human action, especially after the invention of the rifle. The result was that ibex risked extinction in the 19th century. The species was saved thanks to the protection implemented in Italy, which was home to the last ibex population in the Alps.
Reintroduction projects using animals from the Gran Paradiso National Park and protection in the various Alpine countries have enabled ibex to re-colonise the Alps step by step.

The first reintroduction projects, in the 1920s, were in the Valdieri-Entracque Royal Hunting Reserve, in Italy. From a few head the population developed and thanks to further wildlife operations it extended to a large part of the Maritime-Mercantour transboundary area.
In 1987, the first collaboration project between the Maritime Parks and Mercantour was the reintroduction of Argentera ibexes in Haut Var, the Bachelard and the Haut Verdon of the Parc national du Mercantour. After this operation, the ibexes bred rapidly, extending their distribution.
Generated by a small number of ibexes, the population of the Maritime-Mercantour area has a low genetic variability. To increase it, in 2005 and 2006, (22 females) were brought to Haut Var and Bachelard in Mercantour from the Belledone Massif and Vanoise.

Did you know ...?

Indifferent to the void and very agile, the ibex frequents vertiginous rock faces. Its sense of balance and the grip of its hoofs is so good that they can be likened to climbing shoes, allowing it to move in an environment where no other mammal could survive.