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Takin, Sichuan

Sichuan Takin at the LA Zoo Photo Credit Tad Motoyama

Scientific Name: Budorcas taxicolor tibetana

What do you get when you combine a bison’s stocky body, a wildebeest’s horns, a moose’s large nose, a bear’s short tail, and a mountain goat’s feet and agility? A takin (pronounced “TAH-kin”)! This animal may look bizarre at first, but the takin belongs to a group of bovids called goat-antelopes, and shares some features with goats, antelopes, and sheep.

Talkin’ and Walkin’ Takin

Takins make a threatening roar or bellow to intimidate another animal. Aside from bears or wolves, they have few natural enemies because of their strong bodies and prominent horns. They react quickly when startled and make a coughing sound to warn each other of danger.

Large herds of up to 300 members migrate up steep mountains to access vegetation each summer. When food becomes scarce in cooler seasons, smaller groups of 10 to 35 descend to feed in valley forests. Older bulls are mostly solitary except in late summer’s “rutting” (mating) season from July to August. In early spring, cows give birth to one “kid” after seven to eight months’ pregnancy. Within three days, a kid can follow its mother, an ability which is crucial for survival.

Sichuan takin are considered “vulnerable.” Primary threats to their survival are habitat loss, harvesting and hunting, and human disturbance. They are protected by Chinese law, and China has created two reserves for them. Because takin habitat is often inaccessible to humans, specific data on population distribution and size is lacking.

Sichuan takin live in China’s temperate forests, forested valleys, rocky alpine zones, shrublands, and grasslands at elevations of 4,000 to 12,000 feet.

Takin feed on leaves of rhododendrons, oaks, and bamboo, and on grasses, shrubs, bark, and herbs, in early morning and late afternoon. They require salt in their diet and will often linger at salt licks for several days.

Large and stocky, takin measure about 5 to 7 feet in length, and 3 to 4 feet tall at the shoulder. Males, called “bulls,” can weigh up to 790 pounds; females, or “cows,” are smaller and weigh up to 550 pounds. The takin’s long, shaggy coat may be light yellow to reddish-brown with a dark stripe down the back. Takin grow a secondary coat in winter to insulate them from the cold. The coat of the golden takin (Budorcas taxicolor bedfordi) may have inspired the Greek myth of “Jason and the golden fleece.”

The takin’s short legs have large hooves with two toes and a well-developed spur which makes them sure-footed even on treacherous cliffs. Both sexes have prominent arched noses with sizable nasal passages to warm incoming air before it reaches the lungs, thereby conserving body heat. Like cows, takin chew cud and have a four-chambered, ruminating stomach. So they can eat quickly, move to safety, re-chew, and digest their food. The upward-turning horns of the takin measure up to 10 to 12 inches long. Bulls have thicker horns and a darker face than females. Takin live 12 to 15 years in the wild.

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