Japanese Serow

Japanese Serow

Capricornis crispus
Population size
Life Span
20-25 yrs
30-45 kg
70-85 cm

Japanese serows are small goat-antelopes native to Japan. Their fur is whitish around the neck and on the body may be black, black with a dorsal white spot, dark brown, or whitish; the coat lightens in summer. The fur is very bushy, especially the tail. Both sexes have short, backward-curving horns and are difficult to distinguish by sight.


Japanese serows are native to three of the four main islands of Japan: primarily northern and central Honshu, and small areas in Shikoku and Kyushu. These animals are found in open grassland and forests; they prefer temperate deciduous forest, but also live in the broad-leaved or subalpine coniferous forest made up of Japanese beech Japanese oak, alpine meadow, and coniferous plantations.



Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Japanese serows are usually found solitary, in pairs, or in small family groups. They are active during the day and at night use caves to rest in. These animals are sedentary and territorial, and mark trees with sweet-sour-smelling preorbital gland secretions to indicate their territory. Males and females establish separate, overlapping ranges and the male's territories are typically larger than the female's. Aggression between serows is rare but they may react with hostility to territorial breaches. Japanese serows are agile, sure-footed mountain dweller that is able to sprint up mountains and to jump from cliff to cliff to safety. Hunters even have likened the agility of these animals to the ninja.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Japanese serows are herbivorous (folivorous) animals. They feed primarily on fleshy or coniferous leaves, plant shoots, and acorns. Their diet also includes alder, sedge, Japanese witch-hazel, and Japanese cedar.

Mating Habits

210-220 days
1 kid
1-2 years
doe, nanny
buck, billy
kid, billy

Japanese serows are monogamous which means that a mated pair stays together every year and raises their young. Breeding takes place once a year, between September and January. In a courtship ritual resembling that of goats or gazelles, the male Japanese serow licks the female's mouth, strikes her on the hind legs with his forelegs, and both sexes display Flehmen responses. during flehmening animal curls back its upper lip exposing its front teeth inhales with the nostrils usually closed, and then often holds this position for several seconds. A single kid is usually born between June and August after a gestation period of about 210-220 days. The kid stays with its mother for a year or two. It then moves gradually from its mother's range until it establishes its own territory. Young that do not disperse on their own may be chased away by the mother. Females reach reproductive maturity at 30 months of age and first breeding takes place at age 2.5-3 years.


Population threats

In the mid-20th century, Japanese serows were hunted to near-extinction. In 1955 the Japanese government declared Japanese serows a "Special Natural Monument" to protect them from poachers. Populations started to grow and post-War monoculture conifer plantations created favorable environments for the animal. Foresters have raised concerns that the rising serow populations have interfered with post-War mountainside reforestation efforts, as the animal feeds on the saplings of Japanese cypress, Japanese cedar, and Japanese red pine, species with commercial significance. Serows have caused damage to farm crops in mountain villages, and the villagers have objected to conservationists' efforts. Damage by serows to forests has been characterized in parts of Japan in criminal or martial terms: the media have referred to the problems as ningen to shika no sensō ("the war between humans and deer") and kamoshika sensō ("serow war"). Currently, the Sika deer population is increasing throughout Japan in recent years, and undergrowth of forest is decreasing by the grazing and browsing, and the interspecific competition with Sika deer might affect serow population.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of Japanese serows is around 100,000 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are increasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The Japanese serow is a national symbol of Japan and are protected in conservation areas. They are labeled a "living national treasure of the forest".
  • In Japan, serows are widely thought of as a kind of deer, though deer and serows are in different families. In the past, the Japanese word "kamoshika" was written using the Chinese character for shika, meaning "deer". Today, when written using Chinese characters, the characters for "antelope" and "sheep" are used.
  • These animals have a very sensitive hearing and strong eyesight. The serow is able to detect and react to movement from a distance, and it can see well in low lighting.
  • Japanese serows also have a very strong sense of smell, that's why they often raise their head and sniff the air around them.
  • In Japan, the Japanese serow is most commonly known as kamoshika or kamoshishi. It has historically been given a variety of names, often based on its appearance, some of which translate as "mountain sheep", "wool deer", "nine tail cow", and "cow demon". Regional names abound, some of which translate as "dancing beast", "foolish beast", or "idiot". Japanese people often characterize the serow as "weird" or "abnormal", and it is seen as a "phantom animal" as it tends to live alone in the depths of distant forests and appears to observe forest workers from areas high in the mountains.
  • In Japanese, the word "ochiru" means both "to fail an exam" and "to fall"; as the serow is known for its sure-footedness on mountain cliffs, students can buy omamori charms marked with a serow hoofprint in the hope it will help them pass exams.


1. Japanese Serow on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_serow
2. Japanese Serow on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/3811/10097895

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