Portuguese Ibex - Capra pyrenaica lusitanica

Kingdom Animalia (Animals)

Portuguese Ibex by Cabrera (1914)

A male Portuguese Ibex by A. Cabrera (1914). Image courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library: http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org. This image has been released under the  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license.
Phylum Chordata (Chordates)
Class Mammalia (Mammals)
Order Artiodactyla (Even-toed ungulates)
Family Bovidae (Bovids)
Subfamily Caprinae (Goat-Antelopes)
Genus Capra
Species Capra pyrenaica
Subspecies Capra pyrenaica lusitanica
Authority Schlegel, 1872
TSEW Status Extinct (EX), Year assessed: 2012
IUCN Status Not evaluated
English Name Portuguese Ibex
Chinese Name 波圖格薩北山羊
Dutch Name Portugese Steenbok
French Name Bouquetin du Gerez
German Name Portugiesische Steinbock, Nordwestiberischer Steinbock
Italian Name Stambecco Portoghese
Portuguese Name Íbex-português, Cabra Montez de Portugal, Cabra do Gerez , Cabro
Spanish Name Cabra Montés Portuguesa, Mueyu

The different Iberian ibex populations show differences in body size, horn shape and hair colour pattern (Perez et al. 2002). Based on these different characteristics, Angel Cabrera (1911, 1914) recognised four Capra pyrenaica subspecies (Perez et al. 2002). The Portuguese Ibex is one of Cabrera's subspecies. Franca (1917) considered the Portuguese Ibex a distinct species (Capra lusitanica), not merely a subspecies of Capra pyrenaica lusitanica (Harper, 1945).

Iberian Ibex subspecies

A: C. p. pyrenaicaB: C. p. victoriaeC: C. p. hispanicaD: C. p. lusitanica


Image: males of the four subspecies of the Iberian Ibex (Capra pyrenaica). This image is based on images made by A. Cabrera (1914) and created by Peter Maas for The Sixth Extinction website. Original images courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library: http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org. This adapted image has been released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license (as are the original images).

The validity of Cabrera's four Capra pyrenaica-subspecies is questioned and discussed (Couturier, 1962; Clouet, 1979; Shackleton, 1997; Manceau et al. 1999). This taxonomy is questionable because it is based on only two morphological criteria which are variable within Iberian Ibex populations (Couturier, 1962; Clouet, 1979; Manceau et al. 1999), namely coat colour and horn morphology (Cabrera 1911; Manceau et al. 1999). Recent genetic analyses have cast doubt on the generally accepted taxonomy of the species (Acevedo & Cassinello 2009; Manceau et al. 1999). Based on their mitochondrial DNA sequence polymorphism it does propose the distinction of two Capra pyrenaica-subspecies (Acevedo & Cassinello 2009; Manceau et al. 1999). Genetic analysis did not support the recognition of the subspecies Capra pyrenaica hispanica and Capra pyrenaica victoriae (Manceau et al. 1999). The Portuguese subspecies Capra pyrenaica lusitanica was not included into this genetic study, because it was extinct at the time (Manceau et al. 1999). However, the genetic analysis showed that the Pyrenean population was distinctive from other Spanish populations (Manceau et al. 1999). There is a need for comprehensive revision that integrates genetic and morphological approaches resulting in a definitive description and differentiation of the subspecies (Acevedo & Cassinello 2009). (Perez et al. 2002; Wilson and Reeder 2005) 


In size and colouration it was much like the Spanish animals, though inclining towards brown rather than black markings (Cabrera, 1914). In pelage it is intermediate between C. p. victoriae and C. p.hispanica(Harper, 1945). The Portuguese Ibex was a subspecies of the same size of the true C. p. pyrenaica, but of the colour and reduced black markings of C. p. hispanica (Cabrera, 1914)General colour of the summer coat is similar to that of C. p. hispanica, which is brown tinged blonde, with the black markings not much spread, specially on flanks and tights (Cabrera, 1914). Its belly, inside of limbs, space about eyes and near muzzle are coloured isabelline (pale grey-yellowish), while the front of the limbs are coloured dark brown (Harper, 1945). Females are of the same colour of males, but without black markings (Cabrera, 1914). The male had a slight brown mane and a short, dark brown beard, both longer in winter (Harper, 1945). In winter, the dorsal line tend to widen on the withers to form a rounded patch there (Cabrera, 1914) and reaching the tail (Harper, 1945). The winter pelage of the female has the same blackish markings as the male's, but less intense and less clear (Harper, 1945).

Its horns were strikingly different from any of the other Iberian subspecies (Day, 1981; Harper, 1945). The horns are small in relation to the size of the animal and to the size in other subspecies, and generally not much opened side wards (Cabrera, 1914). The horns were shorter and less curved than those of the other Iberian subspecies, but but of greater circumference and closer together toward the base (Harper, 1945). For example, they were only half the length of the Pyrenean Ibex (Day, 1981). 

The type specimen is of a sub-adult male. Its length (head and body) is 142 cm and it shoulder height is 73 cm. The length of the horns along the curve is 36 cm. An older male from the Coimbra Museum measures a shoulder height of 76 cm and its horns measure along the curve 48 cm. The horns of a female in the same museum measures only 18 cm. (Cabrera, 1914)


Its diet consisted of grass, herbs and lichens (Caprinae Specialist Group 2000).

Range & Habitat

Rangemap In former times the range of the Portuguese Ibex probably extended to all the large mountains in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula, and about the middle of the last century a few individuals still existed in Galicia, Spain. Its last refuge was in the Gerês mountains (Serra do Gerês) in northern Portugal (Região Norte) (Cabrera, 1914).

Image: map with the geographic distribution of the Iberian ibex (based on Manceau et al. 1999). The recent distribution of the Pyrenean Ibex (C. p. pyrenaica) is coloured red, that of the also extinct Portuguese Ibex (C. p. lusitanica) is coloured yellow, that of the Gredos Ibex (C. p. victoriae) is coloured blue and that of the Beceite Ibex (C. p. hispanica) is coloured green. Created by Peter Maas for The Extinction Website. This image has been released under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 3.0 licence.

History & Population

This ibex was still abundant at the end of the eighteenth century, and that its range then extended from Borrageiro to Montalegre (Harper, 1945). Thereafter its decline was rapid as hunting pressure increased (Day, 1981). Du Bocage (1857) records five specimens taken in the Serra do Gerês, northern Portugal, in 1852, and quotes H.F. Link and J.C. von Hoffmansegg (1808) to the effect that this is the only area in the country where the species is found (Harper, 1945). He attributes the survival of this Ibex to the difficulties and perils of the chase (Harper, 1945).

By 1870 this ibex was a rare animal (Day, 1981; Harper, 1945). Single males were killed in 1874, 1876, and 1885 (Harper, 1945). A dozen animals, the last herd were seen in 1886 (Day, 1981; Harper, 1945). An old female was captured alive in September 1889, but only survived for three days. Two more females were found dead next year, victims of a Galician avalanche (Day, 1981). A young Portuguese Ibex was caught alive in 1890 (Harper, 1945). The individual was appearently photographed (Gadow, 1897; Harper, 1945), but it is not known how long it survived. The last one to be captured was an old female taken alive in September 1890; it died a few days later (Harper, 1945). Two others were found dead in 1890 and 1891; the latter was the victim of an avalanche (Harper, 1945).

The last known Portuguese ibex in Spain died in 1890 (Day, 1981), and the very last known sighting was a female (Day, 1981) near Lomba do Pau in the Serra do Gerês in Portugal in 1892 (Day, 1981; Harper, 1945). Nowadays another subspecies, the Gredos ibex Capra pyrenaica victoriae Cabrera, 1911, has been introduced in the former range of the Portuguese ibex (Day, 1981).

Extinction Causes

Hunting pressure from humans may be the cause of extinction. It was much hunted by the inhabitants (Harper, 1945). Local people hunted it for its meat and for the bezoar stones in its stomach which were regarded as potent medicine and antidotes for poisons of all kind (Day, 1981). A hunter who would gladly sell the hide esteemed the flesh too highly to part with it (Harper, 1945). Coverlets were made of the hide, and the horns were used for ornament in the houses (Day, 1981; Harper, 1945). In later times the use of the horns as trumpets is mentioned (Harper, 1945), to call across the narrow valleys of the north-western mountains (Day, 1981). Hunting was especially destructive in May, when local hunters did not respect the closed hunting seasons (Day, 1981) and shot Portuguese ibexes when the herds with small young descended to lower altitudes in May (Day, 1981; Harper, 1945).

Some authors (Harper, 1945) have pointed to other factors than human interference as reason for the decline of the Portuguese Ibex. Grey wolves and golden eagles could be another reason why the population declined so fast, disease from domestic herds and a disproportionate number of males. The last point seems especially dubious, the bucks were naturally the most hunted and recorded. Beside that, the last recorded sightings were all females. But there is little doubt that the only significant enemies were humans. (Day, 1981)

Museum Specimens

Specimens can be found in Iberian museums. Two males and five females are preserved in the Lisbon Museum, Coimbra Museum and in the Lisbon Polytechnic School (Cabrera, 1914). A male in the Coimbra Museum can be seen in this pdf. Do you know which museum has remains of the Portuguese Ibex in its collection? Please contact this website.


The Portuguese Ibex was one of the four described subspecies of the Spanish or Iberian Ibex (Capra pyrenaica Schinz, 1838). Two so-called subspecies can still be found on the Iberian peninsula, namely the Western Spanish Ibex or Gredos Ibex (Capra pyrenaica victoriae Cabrera, 1911) and the South-eastern Spanish Ibex or Beceite Ibex (Capra pyrenaica hispanica Schimper, 1848). The Pyrenean Ibex (Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica Schinz, 1838) became extinct on 6 January 2000 when the last individual was found dead on 6 January 2000 under a fallen tree in Ordesa National Park in Spain (Caprinae Specialist Group 2000; McCarthy 2000). In January 2009, the Pyrenean Ibex became the first extinct animal to be resurrected by cloning (Gray and Dobson 2009). This newborn Pyrenean Ibex died after seven minutes due to breathing difficulties (Gray and Dobson 2009).

Image Image Image

Photos: the left-hand photo shows a male Western Spanish Ibex (Capra pyrenaica victoriae) from Sierra de Gredos. Photographed by Javier García Diz in 1996. This photographhas been released under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 licence (see also Wikimedia Commons). The middle photo shows a male South-eastern Spanish Ibex (Capra pyrenaica hispanica) from Sierra Nevada. Photographed by José M. Gómez on 19 November 1996. This photograph has been released under the GNU Free Documentation License (see also Wikimedia Commons). The right-hand photo shows a juvenile male South-eastern Spanish Ibex (Capra pyrenaica hispanica) from Reserva Nacional dels Ports de Beseit. Photographed by Achim Christoph on 9 September 2005. This photograph has been released under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 licence (see alsoWikimedia Commons). 


Portuguese Ibex - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Capra pyrenaica - Wikispecies

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Capra pyrenaica (Iberian Wild Goat, Spanish Ibex, Pyrenean Ibex)


Almaça, C. (1992). Notes on Capra pyrenaica lusitanica Schlegel, 1872, Mammalia, Paris, 56: 121-124.

Acevedo, P.& Cassinello, J. (2009). Biology, ecology and status of Iberian ibex Capra pyrenaica: a critical review and research prospectus. Mammal Review, Volume 39, Number 1, January 2009, pp 17-32.

Cabrera, A. (1911): The subspecies of the Spanish ibex. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1911, 963–967.

Cabrera, A. (1914): Fauna Ibérica. Mamiferos. Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales. Madrid. p 311. This book is available online: http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/54474 or http://archive.org/details/faunaibricamam00cabr.

Caprinae Specialist Group (2000). Capra pyrenaica ssp. pyrenaica. In: IUCN 2004. 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. <www.redlist.org>. Downloaded on 20 October 2005.

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França, C. 1908. Descrição da nova espécie, Capra lusitanica França, 1908, in: Le Professeur Barbosa du Bocage - 1823-1907. Bulletin de la Société Portugaise de Sciences Naturelles, II (1-2), pág. 144. 

França, C. 1917. Le bouquetin du Gerez : Capra Lusitanica ; notes sur une espèce éteinte / Carlos França IN: Arquivos da Universidade de Lisboa: Lisboa , vol. 4, 1917, p. 19-53.  Fauna - Serra do Gerez (Portugal) / Cabra Lusitana .

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Herrero, J. & Pérez, J.M. (2008). Capra pyrenaica. In: IUCN 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 01 February 2009.

Manceau, V., J.-P. Crampe, P. Boursot, and P. Taberlet. (1999). Identification of evolutionary significant units in the Spanish wild goat, Capra pyrenaica (Mammalia, Artiodactyla). Animal Conservation, 2:33-39. Online full-text pdf.

McCarthy, M. (2000). Last Pyrenean ibex killed by tree. The Independent (28 January 2000). Online article.

Perez, J.M., Granados, J.E., Soriguer, R.C., Fandos, P., Marquez, F.J., and Crampe, J.P. (2002). Distribution, status and conservation problems of the Spanish ibex, Capra pyrenaica (Mammalia: Artiodactyla). Mammal Rev. 32(1):26-39. Online full-text pdf. 

Shackleton, D.M. (1997) Wild Sheep and Goats and their Relatives. IUCN, Cambridge, UK. Online book.

Wilson, D.E. and D.M. Reeder (editors). (2005). Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed), Johns Hopkins University Press, 2,142 pp.Online available.

Citation: Maas, P.H.J. (2012). Portuguese Ibex - Capra pyrenaica lusitanica. In: TSEW (). The Sixth Extinction Website. <http://www.petermaas.nl/extinct>. Downloaded on .
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Updated: 15 April 2012


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