Classification and Range
Gorals (go-rahl) are often described as "goatlike." Indeed, they are the smallest members of the bovid subfamily, called Caprinae which includes goats, sheep and the "goat antelope." Another more familiar member of this subfamily is the North American mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus). Gorals and another goat-like animal, serows, often share habitat. Where this occurs, gorals will inhabit more precipitous and barren slopes than their close relatives, serows.
There are three species of goral in the genus Nemorhaedus. The Chinese red (Nemorhaedus baileyi) ranges from southeast Tibet, Yunnan China and northeast India to north Myanmar (formerly called Burma). The Himalayan (Nemorhaedus goral) ranges from north Pakistan and Nepal to Bhutan and northeast India. The third species of goral, the Chinese gray (Nemorhaedus caudatus), inhabits areas from far east Russia to east China, south to east Myanmar and west Thailand. There are five subspecies of the Chinese gray goral. Woodland Park Zoo has the central Chinese subspecies (Nemorhaedus caudatus arnouxianus) which inhabits areas of eastern-central China.
Gorals dwell in a variety of dry, rocky and steep habitats, usually between 3,000-8,000 feet (915-2,440 m), but sometimes as high as 13,500 feet (4,115 m).
Length and Shoulder Height
Adult length: 32-51 inches (82-130 cm)
Adult shoulder height: 20-31 inches (50-78 cm)
Males 62-93 pounds (28-42 kg); females 49-77 pounds (22-35 kg)
Life span in the wild is approximately 15 years. One captive goral lived 17 years, 7 months.
In the wild: Gorals are predominantly browsers, but in summer, they graze on grasses. In fall and winter, they eat leaves and twigs of trees or shrubs and nuts, including acorns.
At the zoo: Herbivore pellets, alfalfa, timothy grass hay and seasonal browse, fruits and vegetables.
Gorals, like all Bovidae, are ruminants with four-chambered stomachs. They regurgitate and chew partially digested food, called cud. Complete digestion can take up to four days.
Gorals become sexually mature during their second year. One or occasionally two kids are born in May or June after a gestation period of 215 days. Kids stand after only one hour and follow their mothers from the second day. They suckle until late fall and stay with their mothers until the following spring.
Gorals are shy and occur in groups of two to 12, except older males which are solitary. They remain near rocks and cliffs where they can scramble to avoid predators such as leopards and wolves. If necessary, they defend themselves and their young with their horns. In winter, gorals move to lower elevations. They avoid loose snow, where they will quickly become bogged down and exhausted, making them easy prey.
Half and Half
Gorals are halfway between true antelopes and true sheep and goats. They are more heavily built and have heavier, broader hooves than comparable sized antelopes. Females have four teats, while sheep and goat females have only two that are functional. They have short, sharp and curved, backward-pointing horns. Gorals have short, woolly undercoats and long, coarse, rather erect guard hairs. Coloration of upper parts varies over their range and by species from light gray to dark brown or foxy red, with prominent white throat and chest patches and paler lower parts. There is a black stripe on the foreleg and a dark stripe down the middle of the back. Their stout, long limbs are well adapted to climbing and jumping. They have interdigital glands, but preorbital glands are rudimentary or absent. The obsolescent suborbital gland position is marked by a patch of nearly naked skin. There is a terminal tuft on the tail. The conical horns are marked by small, irregular ridges, and the medium long ears have pointed tips.
Gorals might have evolved from serows of the Asian mainland, or both could have a common ancestor. Gorals, or closely related genera (Pachygazella of China), appear in the Pliocene of 7 to 2 million years ago, earlier than other Caprinae. During the following Pleistocene, goat antelopes spread from central Asia to present ranges and evolved into their present forms. Zoo geography indicates gorals appeared after the islands of Japan and Taiwan separated from the Asian mainland. As a result, serows, but not gorals, are present today in Japan and Taiwan.
Location at the Zoo
Gorals can be viewed in a yard northeast of the Raptor Center. One breeding pair, on loan from the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park since 1989, produced seven offspring at Woodland Park Zoo before being transferred to another zoo in 1996. An all-male group will be exhibited until Woodland Park Zoo has an off-site facility to provide support for again breeding this species.
All Caprinae are threatened by over-hunting and poaching. Furthermore, the mountainous terrain in which most of them live is especially fragile and has become fragmented. Gorals are hunted for sport and for meat, often with dogs. Such hounding causes the gorals to become frightened and overexcited. Their hearts and lungs may be injured as a result.
Although there are less than 2,000 Chinese gray gorals in the wild, no field studies or in situ conservation efforts are in progress. Chinese gray gorals are listed as an endangered species. Gorals have been little studied. Development of sound conservation and management measures depends on acquiring basic information.
How You Can Help!
The effort to save endangered species requires cooperation and support at the international, national, regional and individual levels. You can help in this cause. Join and become active in Woodland Park Zoo and other conservation organizations of your choice. Please do not buy products made from wild animal parts. Contact your elected representatives and express your views about conservation of endangered species and wild habitats.
Contact Woodland Park Zoo at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about ways you can support conservation programs at the zoo. Learn other ways you can help conserve wildlife and the habitats they require for survival by visiting our How You Can Help page.
Sources and Suggested Reading
Macdonald, David, ed. 1993. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Facts on File, Inc., New York, NY. 895 p.
Nowak, Ronald M., ed. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World. 5th Edition. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London. 1,629 p.
Felix, Jiri. 1983. Animals of Asia. The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, Artia, Prague, Czechoslovakia. 299 p.
Ricciuti, Edward R. 1979. Wildlife of the Mountains. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, NY. 232 p.