West Caucasian tur (Capra caucasica)

Also known as: Western tur
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCetartiodactyla
FamilyBovidae
GenusCapra (1)
SizeMale head-body length: 150 – 165 cm (2)
Female head-body length: 120 – 140 cm (2)
Male shoulder height: 95 – 109 cm (2)
Female shoulder height: 78 – 90 cm (2)
Tail length: 10 – 14 cm (2)
Male weight: 65 – 80 kg (2)
Female weight: 50 – 60 kg (2)

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The West Caucasian tur is a large, robust goat with a long and deep body (2). In summer, its coat is generally a reddish-brown, while in winter it dulls to more of a greyish-brown. The guard hairs and underfur of the coat start growing longer during September and by the end of October the West Caucasian tur has a full winter coat. The winter coat begins to moult in March and continues to moult until mid-June (2). Males, and occasionally also females, have a dark brown beard on the chin which also becomes much longer and thicker during winter (3). The legs are short but strong, which is unsurprising for an animal that has to negotiate precipitous terrain with ease (3). Both male and female West Caucasian turs possess impressive horns, although those of the male are particularly striking, being much longer and thicker than those of the female (2) (4).

The species is endemic to the western part of the Great Caucasus Mountains in Russia and Georgia, between Tchugush Mountain and the upper Baksan River (5) (6). The range of the West Caucasian tur is the smallest of all Capra species, covering just 4,500 square kilometres (2).

The West Caucasian tur inhabits subalpine and alpine regions between 800 metres and 4,000 metres above sea level (1), where it may be found in alpine meadows, rocky, barren areas, or in forest (4). During the harsh winter months, the tur is primarily found on sunny slopes, below the timberline, while in summer, it may be found on a wider range of slopes (1).

The West Caucasian tur predominantly lives in single sex herds, typically containing several dozen individuals (2). Only during the mating season, or rut, which extends from November to early January, do mixed herds form, and continue to live together for up to two months after the rut ends (6). After a gestation period of 150 to 160 days (6), a single young, or ‘kid’, is born, weighing 3.5 to 4.2 kilograms. For around ten days after the birth the female will hang back from the rest of the herd, using her horns to protect the kid (2). The West Caucasian tur lives for up to twelve years (2).

The West Caucasian tur is most active from late afternoon until early morning, when it emerges from cover to start grazing (6). The diet of the West Caucasian tur contains over a hundred different species of plant, primarily grasses. In the winter, foraging is made harder by the snowfall and the tur may be seen using its hooves to scrape away snow to reach the vegetation buried below, or must rely on shrubs and trees for food. The West Caucasian tur is also known to visit salt licks all year-round for natural minerals (2).

The West Caucasian tur undertakes seasonal migrations, moving up to 2,000 kilometres up or down the mountain slope (2). In winter, when deep snow blankets the higher parts of the mountain, the West Caucasian tur struggles to walk, making it vulnerable to predators and exhaustion (6), so it migrates down the slope to escape these harsh conditions. In spring, when the snow begins to thaw at higher altitudes, the tur migrates back up the mountain, to exploit growing vegetation and flee biting insects (2).

The West Caucasian tur faces a number of threats and, as a result, population numbers have declined significantly over recent decades. In the late 1980s, the population was estimated to be around 12,000 animals, while in 2004 it was estimated to be 5,000 to 6,000 (6). Many hunts are organised that focus solely on this imposing species, while there is also intense competition with livestock for natural resources. These threats are exacerbated by harsh winters, which take their toll on the species (1).

Currently, conservation efforts for the West Caucasian tur have focused on the protection of the Nature Reserves that it inhabits. These include the Caucasus Nature Reserve and Teberda Nature Reserve, which are thought to contain about 3,500 turs (1). It is thought that in the future, the most effective way to conserve the West Caucasian tur will be to increase protection in these reserves (1).

For more information on the conservation of the West Caucasian tur and other large herbivores see:

 To learn about conservation in the Caucasus Mountains 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 (May, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Heptner, V.G., Nasimovich, A.A. and Bannikov, A.G. (1989) Mammals of the Soviet Union: Ungulates. Brill Academic Publishers, Leiden.
  3. Sanderson, I.T. (1955) Living Mammals of the World. Hamish Hamilton Ltd, London.
  4. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  5. Weinberg, P.I., Fedosenko, A.K., Arabuli, A.B., Myslenkov, A., Romashin, A.V., Voloshina, I. and Zheleznov, N. (1997) Wild Sheep and Goats and their Relatives. International Union for Conservation of Nature, Gland, Switzerland.
  6. Large Herbivore Foundation (May, 2010)
    http://www.largeherbivore.org/western-tur