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Male Alpine ibex

An ibex (PL: ibex, ibexes or ibices) is any of several species of wild goat (genus Capra), distinguished by the male's large recurved horns, which are transversely ridged in front. Ibex are found in Eurasia, North Africa and East Africa. The name ibex comes from Latin, borrowed from Iberian or Aquitanian, akin to Old Spanish bezerro "bull", modern Spanish becerro "yearling". Ranging in height from 70 to 110 centimetres (27–43 in) and weighing 90 to 120 kilograms (200–270 lb), ibex can live up to 20 years. Three closely related varieties of goats found in the wild are not usually called ibex: the markhor, western tur, and eastern tur.

A male ibex is referred to as a buck, a female is a doe, and young juveniles are called kids.[1] An ibex buck is commonly larger and heavier than a doe. The most noticeable difference between the sexes is the larger size of a buck's horns. The doe grows a pair of smaller, thinner horns which develop considerably more slowly than those of a buck. The ibex's horns appear at birth and continue to grow through the rest of its life. Species of wild goats that are called ibex are:

  • The Asian ibex also known as the Siberian ibex (Capra sibirica) is a wild goat inhabiting long mountain systems in central Asian deserts and the northwestern Himalayas. The animal is 80–100 cm high at shoulder, and weighs an average 60 kg. The adult males have long pointed beards and scimitar-shaped horns with prominent ridges on the frontal surface. The coat is dark brown with greyish underparts, and a dorsal stripe runs from the neck to tail. Adult males also have grey saddle patches on their backs. The species exhibits sexual dimorphism, as the females are smaller with small straight horns that are widely separated at the base. Asiatic ibex is widely distributed over an area stretching from the Hindu-Kush Mountains in Afghanistan to Sayan Mountains in Mongolia. The animals are found most frequently at elevations ranging from 3000 to 5300 m above sea level, but are also known to occur in areas as low as 1000 m in the Altai Mountains. They have a predilection for rugged terrain as an anti-predator strategy.[2]
  • The Alpine Ibex (Capra ibex) is found in the European Alps. Alpine ibex are found in France, Bulgaria, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and Slovenia, and have been introduced to ranches in the United States, Canada and Argentina.
  • The Iberian ibex (Capra pyrenaica), formerly called Spanish ibex, is restricted to mountainous enclaves of the Iberian Peninsula, in Spain, Portugal and including in the French Pyrenees,[3] but in the past it also occurred in southern France. There are approximately 50,000 Spanish ibex on the Iberian Peninsula. Two of its subspecies went extinct, although one, the Pyrenean Ibex, was cloned in 2003 but the resulting individual died very quickly.[4]
  • The Nubian ibex (Capra nubiana) occurs in the Middle East, in the Red Sea hills of Sudan as well as the highlands in Egypt. They are the smallest ibex species and adapted for arid environments with a tan color, white underbelly and rump, black legs, and dark tail. This species is Vulnerable, with less than 4,500 individuals in the wild. The population is declining through most of its range.[5]
  • The Walia or Ethiopian ibex (Capra walie) is found in the Semien Mountains of the Ethiopian Highlands, where it has recently been upgraded from critically endangered to endangered. It is sometimes considered a subspecies of Alpine Ibex. The Ibex was also a national emblem of the Axumite Empire.
  • The wild goat (Capra aegagrus), also known as West Asian ibex,[citation needed] is found in Turkey and the Caucasus in the west to Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east, and is the ancestor of the domestic goat.


Evidence of the ibex is widely present in the archaeological record, particularly in the Near East and Mediterranean regions. Ibex motifs are very common on cylinder seals and pottery, both painted and embossed. Excavations from Minoan Crete at Knossos, for example, have yielded specimens from c. 1800 BCE, including one cylinder seal depicting an ibex defending himself from a hunting dog.[6] From the similar age a gold jewelry ibex image was found at the Akrotiri archaeological site[7] on Santorini in present day Greece.

An Iron Age Capra ibex specimen was recovered at the Aq Kupruk Archaeological site in present day Afghanistan, illustrating either domestication or hunting of the ibex by these early peoples.[clarification needed] However, archaeological records of ibex can be difficult to separate from those of domestic goats.[8]

Earlier evidence of domestication or hunting of the ibex was found identified through DNA analysis of the contents of the stomach of Ötzi, the natural mummy of a Chalcolithic man discovered in the Ötztal Alps in 1991, who lived between 3400 and 3100 BCE. According to DNA reconstruction, the man's penultimate meal contained ibex.[9] There is a myth that says Ibex used to have wings in a time and they used to fly back in dates, by time their wings disappeared and they started climbing the mountain.[citation needed]

In Yemen, the ibex is a longstanding symbol of national identity, representing many positive attributes of the Yemeni people. Numbers of the animal – primarily the Nubian ibex – declined significantly from the late 20th century, due to hunting. In 2022, activists and intellectuals urged the declaration of an annual National Ibex Day, on 22 January, along with calls for greater protection of the animal.[10][11]

Further Information: Nubian ibex § Cultural Significance and Human Exploitation

Rescue from extinction[edit]

When firearms spread in the 15th century, the large population of ibex that spanned many of Europe's mountains decreased as they became easy targets for hunters. The ibex was often hunted for its meat, with other body parts used for medicine. The ibex horns were highly sought-after as a remedy for impotence, while its blood was used for treating kidney stones.

The relentless hunting of the ibex might have led to its extinction were it not for the foresight of the dukes of Savoy. Charles-Felix, Duke of Savoy and King of Sardinia, banned the hunting of the ibex across his estates of the Gran Paradiso after being persuaded by a report on the animal's endangered state. The ban was implemented on 12 September 1821 and its law was soon extended to the rest of the kingdom. In 1856, Victor Emmanuel II, succeeding Charles-Felix as the king, inducted the Gran Paradiso as a protected hunting estate along with appointed gamekeepers to patrol the area.[12]


  1. ^ "Siberian Ibex". AZ Animals. Retrieved 2022-02-09.
  2. ^ Namgail, T. (2006). Winter Habitat Partitioning between Asiatic Ibex and Blue Sheep in Ladakh, Northern India Archived 2009-11-27 at the Wayback Machine. Journal of Mountain Ecology 8: 7-13.
  3. ^ Garnier, A.; Besnard, A.; Crampe, J. P.; Estèbe, J.; Aulagnier, S.; Gonzalez, G. (2021). "Intrinsic factors, release conditions and presence of conspecifics affect post‐release dispersal after translocation of Iberian ibex". Animal Conservation. 24 (4): 626–636. doi:10.1111/acv.12669. ISSN 1367-9430. S2CID 234219572.
  4. ^ Richard Gray and Roger Dobson, Extinct ibex is resurrected by cloning, Telegraph.co.uk, 31/1/2009.
  5. ^ Ross, S., Elalqamy, H., Al Said, T. & Saltz, D. 2020. Capra nubiana. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T3796A22143385. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-2.RLTS.T3796A22143385.en. Accessed on 25 March 2023.
  6. ^ C. Michael Hogan, Knossos fieldnotes, Modern Antiquarian (2007)
  7. ^ M. Uda, G. Demortier, I. Nakai, X-rays for archaeology, 2005, Springer, 308 pages ISBN 1402035802
  8. ^ Pam J. Crabtree, Douglas V. Campana, Kathleen Ryan (1989). Early Animal Domestication and Its Cultural Context, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology ISBN 0924171960
  9. ^ F. Rollo, M. Ubaldi, L. Ermini, I. Marota, "Ötzi's last meals: DNA analysis of the intestinal content of the Neolithic glacier mummy from the Alps". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2002.
  10. ^ Nubian Ibex, San Diego Zoo
  11. ^ Ibex in the Yemeni civilization: a historical symbolism being revived, Global Voices, by Hamdan Alaly, 22 January 2022
  12. ^ Cousquer, Glen (2013). "A mountain to climb-the new threat facing ibex". Veterinary Times: 4–5 – via researchgate.net.


  • Francke, A. H. (1914). Antiquities of Indian Tibet. Two Volumes. Calcutta. 1972 reprint: S. Chand, New Delhi.

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