Online Encyclopedia

IBEX

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V14, Page 218 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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IBEX, one of the names of the Alpine wild goat, otherwise known as the steinbok and bouquetin, and scientifically as Capra ibex. Formerly the ibex was common on the mountain-ranges of Germany, Switzerland and Tirol, but is now confined to the Alps which separate Valais from Piedmont, and to the lofty peaks of Savoy, where its existence is mainly due to game-laws. The ibex is a handsome animal, measuring about 4.1 ft. in length and standing about 40 in. at the shoulder. The skin is covered in summer with a short fur of an ashy-grey colour, and in winter with much longer yellowish-brown hair concealing a dense fur beneath. The horns of the male rise from the crest of the skull, and after bending gradually backwards terminate in smooth tips; the front surface of the remainder carrying bold transverse ridges or knots. About 1 yd. is the maximum recorded length of ibex-horns. The fact that the fore-legs are somewhat shorter than those behind enables the ibex to ascend mountain slopes with more facility than it can descend, while its hoofs are as hard as steel, rough underneath and when walking over a flat surface capable of being spread out. These, together with its powerful sinews, enable it to take prodigious leaps, to balance itself on the smallest foothold and to scale almost perpendicular rocks. Ibex live habitually at a greater height than chamois or any other Alpine mammals, their vertical limit being the line of perpetual snow. There they rest in sunny nooks during the day, descending at night to the highest woods to graze. Ibex are gregarious, feeding in herds of ten to fifteen individuals; but the old males generally live apart from, and usually at greater elevations than, the females and young. They utter a sharp whistling sound not unlike that of the chamois, but when greatly irritated or frightened make a peculiar snorting noise. The period of gestation in the female is ninety days, after which she produces—usually at the end of June—a single young one which is able at once to follow its mother. Kids when caught young and fed on goat's milk can be readily tamed; and in the 16th century young tamed ibex were frequently driven to the mountains along with the goats, in whose company they would afterwards return. Even wild ibex have been known to stray among the herds of goats, although they shun the society of chamois. Its flesh is said to resemble mutton, but has a flavour of game. By naturalists the name " ibex " has been extended to embrace all the kindred species of wild goats, while by sportsmen it is used in a still more elastic sense, to include not only the true wild goat (known in India as the Sind ibex) but even the short-horned Hemitragus hylocrius of the Nilgiris. Dealing only with species zoologically known as ibex, the one nearest akin to the European kind is the Asiatic or Siberian ibex (Capra The Ibex (Capra ibex). sibirica), which, with several local phases, extends from the northern side of Kashmir over an enormous area in Central Asia. These ibex, especially the race from the Thian Shan, are incomparably finer than the European species, their bold knotted horns sometimes attaining a length of close on 6o in. The Arabian, or Nubian, ibex (C. nubiana) is characterized by the more slender type of horn, in which the front edge is much narrower; while the Simien ibex (C. vali) of Central Abyssinia is a very large and dark-coloured animal, with the horns black instead of brownish, and bearing only slightly marked front ridges. The Caucasian ibex (C. caucasica), or tur, is a wholly fox-coloured animal, in which the horns are still flatter in front, and thus depart yet further from the ibex type. In the Spanish ibex (C. pyrenaica) the horns rare flattened, with ill-defined knobs, and a spiral twist. (SEE GOAT.) (W. H. F.; R. L.*)
End of Article: IBEX
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