Rocky Mountain Goat - Encyclopedia

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ROCKY MOUNTAIN GOAT, or White Goat (Oreamnus montanus), a North American hollow-horned ruminant of the family Bovidae, distinguished by its white colour. It is, in fact, the only ruminant, with the exception of the white Alaskan wild sheep, which is entirely white at all seasons of the year; and cannot, therefore, be mistaken for any other animal, and its description may consequently be brief. In the winter coat the hair is long and pendent, elongated into a short beard on the sides of the lower jaw behind the chin; and it is also longer than elsewhere on the neck and the chest; at the base of the long hair is a thick growth of short and woolly under-fur. In summer the coat becomes comparatively short. The muzzle is hairy, the ears are of moderate size, and the tail is short, and partially buried among the long hair of the rump. There are no glands on the face; but there is a large globular one at the base of each horn of the size of half a small orange.. The black horns, which are ringed in their basal portion, are comparatively short and not unlike those of the Asiatic serows in general characters, being subcylindrical, and curving slightly backwards. They taper, however, much more rapidly than those of the serows, and diverge much more widely from the middle line. The lateral hoofs are well developed. Although commonly described as white, the hair has a more or less decided tinge of yellow, which appears to be more marked in the summer than in the winter coat. The cannon-bones are remarkably short and wide, and in this respect differ from those of all allied ruminants, except the Tibetan takin. The general shape of the animal is ungainly, owing to a huge hump on the withers, at which point the height is about 3 ft.

The head of a white goat obtained in 1900 from the mountains at the mouth of Copper river, opposite Kyak Island, has been described as a species apart. In addition to certain details in the conformation of the skull, the horns are much more slender than in the ordinary white goat, and instead of bending regularly backwards till near their tips, curve widely outwards from their bases. Their length is nearly equal to that of the longest pair of the ordinary form hitherto recorded, while the tip-to-tip interval is nearly double that of any other known specimen. This animal can scarcely be regarded as more than a local race, and should be styled Oreamnus montanus kennedyi. The affinities of the white goat (which is really a member of a group intermediate between goats and antelopes) are probably with the Asiatic serows and takin, and hence perhaps with the musk-ox.

See a paper by Madison Grant, entitled "The Rocky Mountain Goat," published in the ninth annual report of the New York Zoological Society (1905). (R. L. *)

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