Nilgiri Tahr

Nilgiri Tahr
Nilgiri Tahr
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Caprinae
Genus: Nilgiritragus
Ropiquet & Hassanin, 2005
Species: N. hylocrius
Binomial name
Nilgiritragus hylocrius
(Ogilby, 1838)

Hemitragus hylocrius

The Nilgiri Tahr, Nilgiritragus hylocrius, known locally as the Nilgiri Ibex or simply Ibex, is an ungulate that is endemic to the Nilgiri Hills and the southern portion of the Western Ghats in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in southern India. It is the state animal of Tamil Nadu.[2] Despite its local name, it is more closely related to the sheep of the Ovis genus than the ibex and wild goats of the Capra genus.



Nilgiri Tahr, spotted in Eravikulam National Park, Kerala, India

In the Tamil Language it is called varaiaadu, the term being composed of two Tamil words, wurrai a precipice, and aadu, a goat. It is also the state animal of Tamil Nadu.[3] It was previously named Capra warryato by Gray.[4]

Its closest relatives are sheep (genus Ovis). Until 2005, it was placed with the Himalayan Tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus) and the Arabian Tahr (Arabitragus jayakari) in the genus Hemitragus. However, it has recently been transferred to a new genus Nilgiritragus because it is genetically more similar to members of the genus Ovis than to other tahrs.[5]


An adult male Nilgiri Tahr from the foothills of Valparai, Tamilnadu, India

The Nilgiri Tahrs are stocky goats with short, coarse fur and a bristly mane. Males are larger than the females, and have a darker color when mature. Both sexes have curved horns, which are larger in the males, reaching up to 40 centimetres (16 in) for males and 30 centimetres (12 in) for females. Adult males weigh 80 to 100 kilograms (180 to 220 lb) and stand about 100 centimetres (39 in) tall at the shoulder. Adult males develop a light grey area on their backs and are thus called "saddlebacks".


Nilgiri Tahr family at the mountain grasslands.

These tahrs inhabit the open montane grassland habitat of the South Western Ghats montane rain forests ecoregion. At elevations from 1,200 to 2,600 metres (3,900 to 8,500 ft), the forests open into grasslands interspersed with pockets of stunted forests, known as sholas. These grassland habitats are surrounded by dense forests at the lower elevations. The Nilgiri Tahrs formerly ranged over these grasslands in large herds, but hunting and poaching in the nineteenth century reduced their population to as few as 100 animals by the early 20th century. Since that time their populations have increased somewhat, and presently number about 2000 individuals. Their range extends over 400 kilometres (250 mi) from north to south, and Eravikulam National Park is home to the largest population. The other significant concentration is in the Nilgiri Hills, with smaller populations in the Anamalai Hills, Periyar National Park, Palni Hills and other pockets in the Western Ghats south of Eravikulam, almost to India's southern tip.


  1. ^ Alempath, M. & Rice, C. (2008). Nilgiritragus hylocrius. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 5 April 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of endangered.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Prater, S.H. 1948, 1971. The book of Indian Animals, Bombay Natural History Society and Oxford University Press, India. 324 pages. ISBN 0195621697.
  4. ^ Hamilton, General Douglas (1892). Hamilton, Edward. ed. Records of sport in southern India chiefly on the Annamullay, Nielgherry and Pulney mountains, also including notes on Singapore, Java and Labuan, from journals written between 1844 and 1870. London: R. H. Porter. pp. Illustrated, photo. Frontis of the author. Numerous illustrations, some full page. 284 pages. Quarto. (ref=page 113). OCLC 4008435. 
  5. ^ Ropiquet, A. & Hassanin, A. 2005. Molecular evidence for the polyphyly of the genus Hemitragus (Mammalia, Bovidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 36(1):154-168

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