Goats are cloven-hoofed, ruminant members of the bovidae family most often found on farms and grasslands. However, the common domesticated goat has four wild goat cousins that make up the genus, Capra. These wild goats mainly inhabit mountainous Eastern Europe and the Middle East, where they are common sights to those who live in the region.
The wild goat (Capra aegagrus) is not to be confused with the domesticated goat; the two are separate, distinct species. The wild goat inhabits the Middle East from Afghanistan through Pakistan, Iran and Turkey. They prefer rocky plateaus and terrain where they feed on grasses, shrubs and herbaceous plants. Their coat comes in a variety of creams, grays and browns, and their horns are medium-sized and curved backward. Due to a dramatic decline in population -- more than 30 percent over the last three generations as a result of exploitation and habitat destruction -- the IUCN Red List of Threatened species has the wild goat listed as “vulnerable,” one category away from endangered.
The ibexes form another group of wild goats, except this group has characteristically long, thick horns that curve backward past their shoulders. Five distinct varieties of ibex exist throughout Europe, Asia and Africa: the Spanish ibex (Capra pyrenaica), the Alpine ibex (Capra ibex), the Nubian ibex (Capra nubiana), the Siberian ibex (Capra sibirica) and the Walia ibex (Capra walie). Of all ibexes, the Walia ibex is the only one listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened species. This species is the only wild goat found in Africa -- less than 500 individuals inhabit Simien Mountains National Park in Ethiopia.
The turs consist of the west Caucasian tur (Capra caucasica) and the east Caucasian tur (Capra caucasica cylindricornis). The west Caucasian tur is endemic to the region between the eastern Caucasus mountain range in Georgia and Babadagh Mountain in Azerbaijan. The east Caucasian tur is indigenous to the western portion of the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia and Russia (see ref 5). Both varieties have stocky, thick bodies with short legs and shorter beards than their wild goat counterparts. The west Caucasian tur is listed as endangered, while east Caucasian tur populations have fared slightly better and are listed as “near threatened."
Markhors (Capra falconeri), unlike other wild goats, sport unique vertically twisted horns. Their horns resemble corkscrews, and a male markhor’s horns can reach lengths upwards of five feet. These unique wild goats are occasionally found in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Categorized as endangered in 1996, less than 2,500 individuals live in fragmented populations throughout the region.
- The Goat Handbook; Ulrich Jaudas; 2006
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Capra aegagrus
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Capra walie
- Animal Diversity Web: Capra caucasica cylindricornis
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Capra caucasica
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Capra cylindricornis
- Animal Diversity Web: Capra falconeri
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Capra falconeri
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Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.