Friday, Jan. 25, 2002
* Japanese name: Nihon kamoshika
* Scientific name: Capricornis crispis
* Description: Serows look like a cross between a goat and an antelope, with horizontal pupils and sharp, dagger-like horns. The ears are mule-like, narrow and tasseled, and are longer than the horns. Serows are the most primitive members of an ancient goat/antelope group of animals called the Carprinae. Serow-like fossils appear in rocks from 35 million years ago. Adults grow up to 70-85 cm at the shoulder and weigh 25-80 kg. Coat color varies -- the fur may be brown, gray, black or white.
* Where to find them: Serows are the official animals of Fukui Prefecture, but they can be found on steep, wooded hillsides from Honshu to Kyushu.
* Food: Serows use their lips and tongues to gather and process food -- leaves, grass, bark and bamboo. Like all bovids (a group comprising oxen, sheep, goat and antelopes), serows are specialized browsers called ruminants. They grind vegetation with their large, flat teeth.
* Special features: Mating takes place in autumn or winter, and a single kid is born sometime between May and September. Kids don't have horns (see photo); serows grow them when they become sexually mature at 3 years. At the base of the horns are the preorbital glands, which produce smelly secretions that both sexes use to mark territorial boundaries on rocks and trees. A solitary territory may be as small as 1.2 hectares; that of a family group up to 22 hectares. Serows are resource defenders, patrolling areas containing food plants. They are less agile than goats, but are surefooted on the mountainside and well-adapted to the humid climate. Both males and females are bearded and have acute hearing, vision and smell.