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Japanese Serow

Capricornis crispus


This goat has long fur that varies from white to purplish black in color, giving a mottled grey appearance on the upper parts and being lighter on the under parts. The ears are covered in brown hair, the bridge of the nose is dark and naked, the legs are dark brown or black, and there are conspicuous white cheek beards. Body length ranges from 2.5 to 6 feet, shoulder height from 1.5 to 3 feet, and weight from 65 to 100 pounds. Both sexes are similar in size and color, and both males and females have slightly curved horns of about 4.5 to 6 inches in length. There are also prominent scent glands under the eyes.

Japanese serow

Distribution and Habitat

The Japanese serow's range is restricted to the main Japanese islands of Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku. It lives in forested areas on mountains from 2,000 to 8,000 feet.

Habits and Behaviors

The Japanese serow feeds during the early morning and late afternoon, sheltering in caves and under rock ledges during the rest of the day.

Although they move with a slow, clumsy gait, they are sure-footed and steady, negotiating steep rocky slopes with ease.

For most of the year, the Japanese serow lives in small, discrete home ranges.  For individuals, they vary from 3 to 11 acres in size, while family groups inhabit areas of 24 to 54 acres. These may constitute exclusive territories, defended against members of the same sex. During conflicts, the opponents chase each other, inflicting serious injuries by stabbing with their sharp horns. Both sexes mark their home ranges with the secretion from their preorbital glands. Regular paths are established within these ranges, leading to specific defecation and resting spots.


Japanese serows usually form monogamous pairs, but some males mate with two and occasionally three females in the same breeding season. Usually male territories almost completely overlap those of a female, but sometimes male territories include territories of more than one female. In these cases, those males are polygynous. Mated pairs remain together every year, perhaps because they hold consistent territories. When a mate is displaced from their territory, their mate remains in the same territory and mates with the individual that takes over the territory of the displaced animal.

Breeding takes place September to November, and 1 (rarely 2 or 3) young is born 200-230 days later (between May and June). The young serow is weaned at about 5 months but will stay with its mother for about a year. Sexual maturity is reached at 2.5-3 years, at which time the young serow will establish its own territory; a young female may inherit its mother's territory. The male provides no parental care but will usually allow the young to stay in its territory until reaching sexual maturity.

A Japanese serow can live 20-22 years in the wild.


Japanese serows are browsers that feed primarily on the buds and leaves of deciduous broad-leaved trees. They also feed on the leaves of evergreen coniferous trees and fallen acorns, as well as flowers and fruits.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Mammalia
order Artiodactyla
family Bovidae
subfamily Caprinae
genus & species Capricornis crispus

Animal Diversity Web
Ultimate Ungulate

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The Robinson Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Mammals >> Order Artiodactyla >> Family Bovidae

This page was last updated on September 07, 2017.