Markhor, Tadjik

Markhor, Tadjik

Scientific Name: Capra falconeri heptneri

Status: Endangered

Habitat: Hillsides of the Himalayan Mountains in central Asia

Diet: Herbivorous, grazing on grasses, and browsing on leaves, shrubs, and twigs

Length: 26–45 inches at the shoulder, 52–73 inches in length

Weight: 176–242 pounds

The markhor’s name comes from the ancient Persian words “mar” and “khor,” which translates as “the snake eater.” Although markhor have been known to sometimes defensively stomp on snakes and kill them, they are obligate herbivores, and do not actually consume the snakes. Well suited to their alpine habitat, markhor are sensational climbers. Their hooves are flexible with hard, horny edges and act as suction cups, allowing these goats to climb precarious surfaces. They can even climb into trees.

Charles Darwin wrote extensively about sexual selection, a theory that addresses the question of why so many male animals have evolved seemingly useless and garishly ornamental features (such as the male markhor’s massive spiraling horns). Darwin believed that such ostentatious displays were the result of myriad evolutionary criteria applied by females when selecting the best mate.

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