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Wild Sheep and Goats and their Relatives (Caprinae) of Pakistan


Pakistan is one of the most important countries for Caprinae conservation. It is home to seven species with 11 subspecies of Caprinae, that occupy an array of habitats from the hills in the southern deserts to the high alpine areas of the Himalayas. However, most now survive in small scattered populations, and almost all face the same threats from illegal shooting and, indirectly, from an increasing human population with its demand for grazing lands and fuelwood. Currently, 10 of the 11 subspecies in Pakistan are threatened, with eight classified as Endangered.


Western Himalayan Goral (Naemorhedus goral bedfordi) is the least known of Pakistan's Caprinae, occuring only in the outer Himalayan foothills. There, it occurs from about 800m up to 1950m asl, in habitats with precipitous cliffs in association with scattered chir pine (Pinus roxburghii) and a dense cover of thorny bushes (Roberts 1977).


Wild goat (Capra aegagrus) is scattered throughout the arid and often isolated mountain ranges of southern Baluchistan and southwestern Sind. Two forms are recognized in Pakistan. The scimitar-horned Sind Wild goat (C.a. blythi), know locally as Sind ibex, was given subspecies status by Hume(1875) and distinguised from the wild goat (C. a. aegagrus) living in Iran and Turkey. Pakistan's second wild goat is the Chiltan goat (C.a. chialtanensis). This form has twisted horns and occurs at the species' northern limit in the Chiltan hills southwest of Quetta. The Chiltan wild goat was first described by Lydekker (1913) as a subspecies of markhor (Capra falconeri chialtanensis), and subsequently was hypothesised to be a hybrid either between markhor and domestic goat (Burrard 1925; Dollmann and Burlace 1935) or between markhor and wild goat (Roberts 1969; Epstein 1972; Valdez 1985). Asiatic or Siberian ibex (Capra [ibex] sibirica) may be relatively, the most abundant wild Caprinae in Pakistan. This is an animal of the high alpine zone throughout the Himalaya, and its distribution is probably limited by the high snow cover during winter. Roberts (1969, 1977) described five subspecies of markhor (Capra falconeri) in Pakistan, while Schaller and Khan (1975) recognised only two. We follow the later authors, accepting Kashmir and Astor forms as flare-horned markhor (C.f. falconeri), Kabul and Suleiman forms as straight-horned markhor (C.f. megaceros), and Chiltan markhor as a wild goat.


Two species with very limited ranges in Pakistan are blue sheep (Pseudois nayaur), and Marco Polo sheep (Ovis ammon polii). Both are restricted to areas along the northern border with China. Urial (Ovis orientalis) on the other hand, are the most widespread of Pakistan's carpins, though not in terms of numbers. Urial sheep generally live in arid habitats, scattered throughout the country from around Skardu in the north, southwards, west of the Jhelum river, through Baluchistan and southwestern Sind. Following Schaller (1977), we recognize three subspecies of urial in Pakistan; Afghan urial (O.o.cycloceros), Punjab urial (O.o.punjaniensis), and Ladakh urial (O.o.vignei).

Classification of  the subfamily Caprinae in Pakistan:


The Caprinae are a subfamily of the family Bovidae, the horned ungulates, that include three tribes, the Rupicaprini or goat-antelopes, the Caprini containing sheep and goats, and the Ovibovini with muskoxen and takin. In Pakistan only two tribes are represented, Rupicaprini and Caprini. These are discussed below in detail.


Tribe Rupicaprini is represented in Pakistan by one subspecies, Western Himalayan Goral (Naemorhedus goral bedfordi).

Tribe Caprini

Tribe Caprini is represented in Pakistan by six species and 10 subspecies:




  • Shackelton, D.M. (ed.) and the IUCN/SSC Caprinae Specialist Group. 1997. Wild Sheep and Goats and their Relatives. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan for Caprinae. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. 390+ vii pp.

  • IUCN/SSC Caprinae Specialist Group (http://callisto.si.usherb.ca:8080/caprinae/iucnwork.htm)

  • Nausherwan Ahmed

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