Sumatran serow (Capricornis sumatraensis)

Sumatran serow
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Sumatran serow fact file

Sumatran serow description

GenusCapricornis (1)

Belonging to a group known as the goat-antelopes, the Sumatran serow is a rather small-bodied animal (4), with dark upperparts and whitish underparts (2) (4). The hair of the coat is long and coarse, and a long mane of white, brown or black occurs on the neck (2) (4). Male and female serows are similar in appearance (4), with both bearing stout, slightly curved horns which can be used to defend themselves to deadly effect (2). The long ears are narrow and pointed, the face bears large scent glands below the eyes, and the tail is fairly bushy (2). A number of subspecies of serow were previously recognised, but are now considered full species. However, the taxonomy of the serow is not resolved and further research is needed (1) (5).

Also known as
mainland serow.
Head-body length: 140 – 180 cm (2)
Tail length: 8 – 16 cm (2)
Shoulder height: 85 – 94 cm (2)
50 – 140 kg (2)

Sumatran serow biology

The Sumatran serow is generally a solitary animal, although it may sometimes move about in groups of several individuals (2). Each serow inhabits a small area which is well marked with trails, dung heaps, and scents (4). This small area of habitat is selected so it can provide all the needs of the serow, such as sufficient grass, shoots and leaves on which to feed on during the early morning and late evening, and suitable sheltered resting places in caves or under overhanging rocks and cliffs (2). This home range is defended against any intruding serows by using their dagger-like horns, which are also used by this rather aggressive goat-antelope to fight off predators (4).

Although less specialised for climbing rugged mountains than some of its relatives (4), and with a somewhat slow and clumsy gait, the serow is nevertheless adept at descending steep, rocky slopes (2), and is also even known to swim between small islands in Malaysia (2).

Serows are thought to mate primarily between October and November. The gestation period lasts for about seven months, with a single young usually born in the spring. Female serows usually reach sexual maturity at around 30 months, while males become sexually mature between 30 and 36 months of age (2).


Sumatran serow range

The Sumatran serow occurs in Indonesia (Sumatra), peninsular Malaysia and southern Thailand (1) (2) (5).


Sumatran serow habitat

Serows inhabit rugged mountains and rocky outcrops, covered with thick, moist vegetation or forest, up to an elevation of 2,700 metres (2) (4).


Sumatran serow status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Sumatran serow threats

Throughout its range, the Sumatran serow faces a number of significant and varied threats, the impact of each depending on location (6). The Sumatran serow is heavily hunted for its meat and fur, as well as for other body parts which are believed to hold some medicinal value (2).   Habitat destruction poses a considerable threat, with logging and clearance for agriculture greatly affecting the habitat of the serow in numerous areas, and mining may impact the habitat of populations in Malaysia. In addition, serows can often become trapped in snares set for other animals (6). The serows of peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra are particularly threatened, having been greatly reduced in numbers and distribution through habitat loss and excessive hunting (2).


Sumatran serow conservation

The Sumatran serow occurs in numerous protected areas throughout its range (6), and is also listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that international commercial trade in this species is prohibited (3). However, more specific conservation measures may be necessary for this species’ long-term survival (6).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

To find out more about the conservation of the serow and other Caprinae species, see:



Professor Sandro Lovari, Research Unit of Behavioural Ecology, Ethology and Wildlife Management, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Siena.


The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.


  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
  2. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker's Mammals of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  3. CITES (February, 2008)
  4. Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Wilson, D.E. and Reeder, D.M. (2005) Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Third Edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. Available at:
  6. Shackleton, D.M. (1997) Wild Sheep and Goats and their Relatives. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan for the Caprinae. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Image credit

Sumatran serow  
Sumatran serow

© Daniel Heuclin /

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