Why Are the Mountain Goats Living in Rocky Regions from Spain to Mongolia so Good at Climbing?
The ibex also known as the the Alpine ibex (Capra ibex), steinbock, bouquetin, is a species of wild goats living in rocky or mountainous regions from Spain to Mongolia. They migrate to the lower slopes during winter. They have typical goat-like bodies but have enormous, backward-curving horns. It is sometimes called the Rock Goat, or Wild Goat. Ibex is an excellent climber and jumper in its mountain habitat. Ibex can jump more than 6 feet (1.8 meters) straight up without a running start. This helps them climb mountainous terrain with ease.
The mountain goat’s feet are well-suited for climbing rocky slopes with pitches exceeding 60°, with inner pads that provide traction and cloven hooves that can spread apart. Ibex hooves have sharp edges and concave undersides that act like suction cups to help them grip the sides of steep, rocky cliffs. For example, Alpine ibex climb up the side of the Cingino Dam in the Italian Alps to lick salt and lichens from the stones. The tips of their feet have sharp dewclaws that keep them from slipping. They have powerful shoulder and neck muscles that help propel them up steep slopes.
The ibex feeds during the night in the highest woods that grow on the mountains; but as soon as the sun rises it begins to climb, eating the grass or whatever it finds, till it has got up where it is too high for trees to grow. Ibex are social and live in groups called herds. The herds are segregated by gender, meaning males will have a herd, and the females and offspring will be in another herd. The two herds usually meet only during breeding season.
The male herd is called a bachelor herd. Sometimes, males will wander without a herd. Female herds can have 10 to 20 members. They go in small companies of eight or ten, and lie down in sunny places among the rocks while the sun is hot; but about three or four o’clock in the afternoon they begin to go down again towards the woods. They can climb up rather more easily than they can get down, because their fore legs are shorter than the others.
People have hunted the ibex for thousands of years. They provided humans with meat to eat and hide to use as clothing. About 8,000 to 10,000 years ago in southwest Asia and the Middle East, humans began domesticating wild goats.