Red serow (Capricornis rubidus)

Synonyms: Capricornis sumatraensis rubidus, Naemorhedus sumatraensis rubidus
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCetartiodactyla
FamilyBovidae
GenusCapricornis (1)
SizeHead-body length: 140 - 155 cm (2) (3)
Shoulder height: 85 - 95 cm (2) (3)
Tail length: 8 - 16 cm (2)
Weight110 - 160 kg (3)

Classified as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (4).

Belonging to a group known as the goat-antelopes, the red serow is a rather small, stocky bovid with long, pointed ears, a short mane, a relatively bushy tail, and short, slightly curved horns, which are marked with narrow horizontal ridges (2) (3) (5). As the name suggests, the coat is reddish-brown in colour, usually with a dark stripe down the back and a white patch on the throat. The underparts are white, and the mane is dark reddish. Some individuals are darker in colour, being black with a reddish tone, and it is thought that this species may sometimes hybridise with the Chinese serow, Capricornis milneedwardsi (3). The male and female red serow are similar in appearance, and both possess horns (2) (5).

A number of subspecies of serow were previously recognised, but are generally now considered to be separate species. However, the taxonomy of the group is still not completely resolved (1). The red serow can most easily be distinguished from other serows by its red coat, and from the similar-looking red goral, Naemorhedus baileyi, by its larger size, distinct mane, longer fur, and larger, thicker horns (3). Although all serows can show varying amounts of red and black colouration, the red serow has black rather than white hair bases (1).

The precise range of the red serow is not well known, due partly to confusion with other serow species, but it is believed to occur in northern and possibly also western Myanmar (1) (3). It may also occur in parts of China, northeast India and Bangladesh (1) (3) (6), although serows in these areas are now generally thought to represent other species, such as the Himalayan serow (Capricornis thar) in northeast India (1).

Very little is currently known about the red serow, but it is likely to inhabit forest, mainly in steep, rugged hills and rocky areas (1) (2) (3).

Virtually nothing is known about the biology of the red serow (1). However, like other serows, it is likely to be mainly solitary, although sometimes forming small groups. Most serows inhabit a distinct home range, which is marked with well-defined trails, dung heaps, ‘horn rubs’ on small trees, and scent marks from the large preorbital glands in front of the eyes. Serows can be quite aggressive, using the dagger-like horns to chase away intruders or defend against predators (2) (5). The diet is likely to consist of grass, leaves and shoots, with most feeding taking place in the early morning and late evening, the serow sheltering at other times in favoured resting places, such as in a cave or under an overhanging rock or cliff (2). Although less specialised for climbing than many other goat-antelopes (5), serows are still sure-footed when negotiating steep, rocky terrain (2).

As in other serows, the red serow is likely to mate between October and November, and to give birth to a single offspring the following spring, after a gestation period of around seven months. Females may reach sexual maturity at about 30 months, and males from 30 to 36 months (2).

There is currently no information on the precise population size or status of the red serow (1), but it is believed to be declining as a result of overhunting and ongoing habitat loss (1) (3). In Myanmar, serows are one of the most heavily traded species in local trade, being hunted for meat and for body parts, which are used in traditional medicines (1) (2). Despite being protected by law throughout South East Asia (1) and banned from international trade (4), these laws do not appear to be well enforced on the ground, and hunters in Myanmar have reported serow declines in all areas surveyed (1).

The red serow is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that international trade in the species is prohibited (4). It may also occur in several protected areas throughout its range, although this has yet to be confirmed. Measures need to be taken to protect this little-known mammal from illegal hunting, and urgent research is needed into its range, populations, taxonomy, and the threats it faces, to enable the species’ true status to be assessed and appropriate conservation measures put into place (1).

For more information on this and other serows see:

To find out more about the conservation of serows and other caprid species see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Nowak, R.M. (1991) Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
  3. Francis, C.M. (2008) A Field Guide to the Mammals of South-East Asia. New Holland Publishers, London.
  4. CITES (February, 2010)
    http://www.cites.org
  5. Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. Shackleton, D.M. (1997) Wild Sheep and Goats and their Relatives: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan for Caprinae. IUCN/SSC Caprinae Specialist Group, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.