Monday, February 18, 2013


Chamois (Polish: kozica, Slovak: kamzík) - a fascinating mountain animal which lives in the Carpathians. Do you know how to recognize them? Where and when can you meet chamois? What is the most important form of chamois adaptation to life in a harsh environment? Find out more in the text below.
Female with a young, photo by Andrzej Śliwiński
A chamois is a goat-antilope species living in the European mountains including the Alps, the Carpathians, the Blakans, the Caucasus and some mountain ranges in Turkey. South Island of New Zeland is a place where this mammal has been introduced by men. Chamois is a gregarious animal which lives above the tree line in flocks of 5 to 20 individuals. Sometimes you can observe a herd of chamois including 50 and more animals. Adult chamois is about 80 cm high, 130 cm long and it's weight is more or less 30 kg. Males are bigger and heavier but females are always head of a heard. Both of them have horns which grow up to 30 cm. 

Big heart and lungs is a chamois adaptation to life on high altitude (between 800 and 3600 m a.s.l.) where people have problems with breathing bacause of low content of oxygen in air. Strong legs give a possibility to overcome steep mountain slopes. Special structure of hooves allow moving in difficult places like steep crags or hard snow. Other chamois mountain adaptation is double layer of hair which provides thermal comfort regardless of the season. Colour of the hair changes in time from brown in summer to black in winter.
Chamois pregnancy lasts about 180 days. Young animals are fed on mother's milk but after 5-6 weeks they can forage for themselves. They feed on grass and herbs selecting the most valuable species.
Old he-goat, photo by Andrzej Śliwiński
Chamois is the first protected species of animal in the world (in the Tatra Mountains since 1868). Before that decision it used to be a popular game animal. Because of hunting the number of chamois was decreasing between 18th and 20th century. People were using every part of hunted animal as a food, in medicine and in leather craft. As a result of poaching at the turn of 19th and 20th century chamois in the Tatra mountains was threatened with extinction. In every mountain ridge settled by chamois, this friendly animal had similar problems. Now the most dangerous for them are still people who starle chamois when they are hiking, climbing, skiing.

Pictogram of a chamois is on the logo of the Tatra National Park, both Polish and Slovakian part. In the Carpathians you can meet this animal in many mountain ridges including the Tatra Mountains, the Lower Tatras, the Greater Fatra, the Retezat Mountains, the Rodna Alps, the Fagaras Mountains, the Parang Mountains and so on. Every season of the year is good to observe chamois but the best time for it is a sunny autumn. Then you can meet big herds of this animals formed before the mating season. Be carefull, don't frighten them, make observations from the distance using binoculars! 

All over the world there are thousands of chamois – maybe you will meet some of them in the Carpathians? Good luck!!! :)

Young chamois in the High Tatras, photo by Andrzej Śliwiński

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