Classification and Range
Serows (suh-ROH) are the most generalized representatives of the bovid subfamily of goat antelopes called Caprinae, all of which probably evolved from a serow-like ancestor. There are six species of serow in the genus Capricornis. The mainland species include Asiatic serow (C. sumatraensis) In Indonesia, Malaysia and southern Thailand; Chinese serow (C. milneedwardii) in China but also occurring in southeastern Asian countries; red serow (C. rubidus) restricted to Myanmar (Burma); and Himalayan serow (C. thar), found along the Himalyan range. Island species of serows are the Japanese serow (C. crispus) on Honshu, Shikoku Island and Kyushu (Japan), and the Taiwanese serow (C. swinhoei) in Taiwan.
Japanese serows live on steep, thickly wooded hillsides above 3,300 feet (1,000 m). Where serows and their close relatives, gorals, share habitat, serows stay mainly in dense brush above timber line. Gorals inhabit more precipitous and barren slopes.
Length and Shoulder Height
Adult length: 39-71 inches (100-180 cm).
Adult shoulder height: 28-43 inches (70-110 cm).
56-309 pounds (25-140 kg); mainland serows are much larger and heavier than Japanese and Taiwanese serows.
Life span in the wild is unknown; serows live over 10 years in zoos.
Ungulates cannot manipulate food with their forelimbs, so their lips, teeth and tongues are modified to take food directly from the plant or ground and grind vegetation like a mill. Serows, like all Bovidae, are specialized herbivores called ruminants.
At the zoo: Herbivore pellets, alfalfa, timothy grass hay and seasonal browse, some fruits and vegetables.
Mating takes place in fall or winter. After a gestation period of 200 to 230 days, a single kid weighing about 8 pounds (3.5 kg) is born during the months of May to September. The kid will reach full size and leave the mother's territory at 12 months and become sexually mature by 3 years.
Serows, especially males, are usually solitary but sometimes are found in pairs or family groups of up to seven. Both sexes mark territories by rubbing onto rocks and branches a secretion from their preorbital glands. The territory of a solitary individual may be only three acres (1.2 ha), while that of a family group may be up to 54 acres (22 ha).
Although they are less agile and move less rapidly than gorals, serows are sure-footed, clambering easily along well-defined trails on mountain slopes. They feed at dawn and dusk. During the heat of the day, they take shelter in favorite resting places among rocks, in caves, under overhanging rocks or cliffs, or in dense underbrush, hidden from predators such as bears, tigers and wolves. Their smell, vision and hearing are acute.
Serows are larger and stronger than gorals and better adapted to humid air. Their long, mule-like ears are narrow, pointed and tasseled, and usually longer than their short, black horns. Both males and females have cheek beards extending from the corners of their mouths to the bases of their ears. Coat color varies greatly by region.
Mainland serows have short beards, a long, heavy mane and less bushy tails than Japanese and Taiwanese serows. Japanese serows have conspicuous white cheek beards, but thin or no manes. With longer, thicker and more woolly coats and shorter ears than Mainland serows, they can tolerate lower temperatures and heavier snowfall. Their black, blackish-gray to dark or reddish-brown hairs can be 4 inches (10 cm) long. Their underparts are whitish and their legs are blackish-brown.
Serows are resource defenders and reflect the ancestral body plan of all Caprinae. Resource defenders are more primitive, tend to be solitary and territorial, and live in small areas of highly productive and diverse habitats which are easily defended. Fossil Caprinae dating back 35 million years closely resemble serows. During the ice ages, most Caprinae species increased in body and horn size, adapted to more severe climates and land forms, and became grazers, roaming over larger areas in cooperative herds. The more familiar goat antelope, the mountain goat Oreamnos americanus, may have evolved from serow-like ancestors in a glacial environment.
Location at the Zoo
Japanese serows can be viewed in the Temperate Forest. The male and female were donated by Kobe City Oji Zoo to Woodland Park Zoo in 1992 and produced three offspring through 1997.
Once numbering as few as 2,000 to 3,000, the Japanese Government in 1955 designated the serow a "special national monument." This designation ended a long period of overhunting. Japanese serows in the wild number about 100,000 today, so are no longer considered endangered. However, all other serow species are vulnerable or endangered due to loss of their wild habitat through logging and conversion into farmlands and plantations. Woodland Park Zoo's experience with Japanese serows will help to refine husbandry and management techniques that may be used to benefit other endangered animals.
How You Can Help!
The effort to save threatened and endangered species often requires cooperation and support at the regional, national and international 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 find out other 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.
Ricciuti, Edward R. 1979. Wildlife of the Mountains. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, NY. 232 p.