Pyrenean Ibex - Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica

Kingdom Animalia (Animals)

Spanish Tur

Plate 22 (Spanish Tur) from the book 'Wild oxen, sheep & goats of all lands, living and extinct' (1898) by Richard Lydecker. From a sketch by Joseph Wolf in the possession of Lady Brooke. The ram in the foreground was killed in the Val d'Arras. This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. This applies to the European Union, Australia and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years.
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 pyrenaica
Authority (Schinz, 1838)
TSEW Status Extinct (EX), Year assessed: 2012
IUCN Status Not evaluated
English Name Pyrenean Ibex, Pyrenean Wild Goat
Aragonese Name Bucardo Perinenco
Catalan Name Bucarda, Cabra Pirinenca
Chinese Name 普通西班牙羱羊
Danish Name Pyrenæisk Stenbuk
Dutch Name Pyreneeënsteenbok, Pyrenese Steenbok
French Name Bouquetin des Pyrénées
German Name Pyrenäen-Steinbock
Hungarian Name Beceite kőszáli kecske
Italian Name Stambecco dei Pirenei
Latvian Name Pireneju kalnu kaza
Norwegian Name Pyreneersteinbukk
Polish Name Koziorożec Pirenejski
Portuguese Name Íbex-dos-pirenéus
Russian Name Пиренейский козерог, Пиренейский козёл
Spanish Name Cabra Montés del Pirineo, Bucardo
Swedish Name Pyreneisk Stenbock
Turkish Name Pirene dağ keçisi

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 Pyrenean Ibex is one of Cabrera's subspecies (Herrero and Pérez 2008).

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: 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) 


Pyrenean Ibex by Cabrera 1914The Pyrenean Ibex had a very short fur, composed exclusively by true hair in summer and in winter made of both, longer hair and short thick wool. In all seasons the hair was longer above neck, forming a short, stiff mane. In the carpals there is a bare patch. (Cabrera, 1914) Its thick coat suitable for frigid mountain weather (Associated Press 2000; BBC News 2000).

Image: a male Pyrenean Ibex by A. Cabrera (1914). Image courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library: This image has been released under the  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license.

Its male's colour was pale greyish brown in summer, sometimes washed off white if the white hair root is visible. The nape, mane and a wide dorsal stripe (widening on the shoulders, often forming a diamond shaped patch) are black, with some whitish hairs intermingled. Also black are inner and outer forelegs; fore feet black all around above the hooves; the black also spreading upwards on the breast, fore neck and anterior part of the shoulders that, in the old bucks, come to meet the diamond black patch in the withers. The front of the rear feet are also black as around the tibio-tarsal joint and up through the outer tight towards the hindquarters making a big black patch, often reaching the dorsal stripe. A broad black band starts in the tight along the low flank up to near the elbow. Its belly, inner and rear sides of the legs are white and the tail is black. The head is brown, with the forehead and beard blackish and the outer part of the ears buff. In winter its colour was between grey and buff, washed blackish in the flanks; the black markings are not as well defined as in summer and all the lower neck became blackish or very dark brown. The female, of a colour recalling a deer in summer, lacks the mane and the black stripes in the back and sides of the body. The young of both sexes are similar in colour to adult females in their first year. Males in their third year already present a black outer part of the forearms and of tights, as well as the spine stripe and the lower flanks. (Cabrera, 1914)

The Pyrenean Ibex's horns were very big and thick, forming a gentle curve outwards and backwards, then again outwards and downwards and finally inwards and upwards, forming in a half spiral twist, so that the keel has an inner position in the base and a front-outer position in the horn tip; the transverse section is pear shaped, quite rounded apart from the two depressions that go with the front and rear of the keel which is perfectly well marked though not very protruding. The entire horn surface, except the tip, is rough, forming many rings whose number grows with age and which correspond in the border of the keel with the same number of irregular undulations. It was a widespread believe among highlanders and hunters that each ring represent a year; but though it is true that the number of such rings is related to the growing of the horn and therefore the older the male, the bigger the number or rings, its correspondence to the age is nevertheless not as exact as previously supposed. In general it can be said that a buck is a perfect adult when it shows more than five rings in each horn and that it is an old male when the horn tips, after have been twisted inwards are clearly growing upwards. The female horns are very short, lyre shaped and cylindrical, different from those of the young two or three year old males because they lack keel completely. (Cabrera, 1914) The females of the Pyrenean Ibex had horns with a broader base than that of other goats (Associated Press 2000; BBC News 2000).

An adult male from the Aragon Pyrenees had a length (head and body) of 148 cm and a shoulder height of 75 cm. Its tail was 13 cm, the ears 12,6 cm and the rear feet 44 cm. The horn length along the external rim was 80 cm and the distance between the tips was 42 cm. The biggest set of horns known is that of an old buck from Valibierna Valley, whose head is preserved in the Musée de Bagnères at Luchon (France); the horns measure 102 cm. The female is much smaller than the male and its horns are about one quarter of the male horns. Those of an specimen from Ordesa Valley, measures 26,8 cm of length and 18,7 cm between horn tips. (Cabrera, 1914)


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


When the Pyrenean returned to the higher parts of the mountains at the beginning of April, a bit later,  the females left the males and isolated themselves to give birth. Labour took place in May; usually there was only one young born, rarely twins. (Cabrera, 1914)


In winter, the Pyrenean Ibex used to graze in the valleys in snow free meadows, gathering in herds that sometimes got very close to small villages. Their descent from the great heights, where they lived in summer, clashed with the rut season that used to begin the first days of November. At that time, the males fought furiously and, they could be a danger to the domestic livestock and even, sometimes, to man. They used to return to the higher parts of the mountains at the beginning of April. (Cabrera, 1914)

Range & Habitat

RangemapThe Pyrenean Ibex was native to the Pyrenees, a mountain range in Andorra, France and Spain. Probably, no so long ago, it should have been spread over the whole Pyrenees as well as in the eastern part of the Cantabrian Range (Cabrera, 1914).More recently the population was restricted to Parque Nacional Ordesa y Monte Perdido (Ordesa National Park), in the province of Huesca in the autonomous community of Aragon in Spain. The Pyrenean Ibex preferred a rocky, mountainous habitat. (Caprinae Specialist Group 2000)

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

The Pyrenean ibex was still abundant in the fourteenth century (Day 1981). The Pyrenean ibex's population declined due to a "slow but continuous persecution" (Cabrera, 1914; Perez et al. 2002) and disappeared from the French Pyrenees and the eastern Cantabrian mountain range by the mid-nineteenth century (Day 1981; Perez et al. 2002). Its situation has been critical since the beginning of the 20th century (Cabrera, 1914), when it was estimated that the Pyrenean population in Spain numbered only about 100 individuals (Perez et al. 2002). Since the beginning of the 20th century, the population never rose above 40 individuals (Caprinae Specialist Group 2000). Daily forester forms between 1940-1952 show that they encountered Pyrenean Ibexes only about once each hundred days (Woutersen, K. pers. comm. 2009). In 1981, the population was reported to be 30 (Caprinae Specialist Group 2000). At the end of the 1980's the population size was estimated at 6-14 individuals and in 1987 the last breeding data were reported (García-González, 1990;Perez et al. 2002).

The very last living Pyrenean Ibex, a female named Celia, was found dead on 6 January 2000 under a fallen tree in Ordesa National Park in Spain (Caprinae Specialist Group 2000; McCarthy 2000). Forest rangers in the Northeast of the country near the French border found the 13-year-old female with her skull crushed (Associated Press 2000; BBC News 2000; McCarthy 2000).

Extinction Causes

The reasons behind the extinction of this species are largely unknown, although a number of hypotheses have been suggested including the inability to compete well with other species like livestock and Chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica pyrenaica) for food, infections and diseases caught from domestic livestock, poaching, infertility and inbreeding problems, and climatic conditions. (Caprinae Specialist Group 2000; García-González, Escos & Alados, 1996), along with the Pyrenean Ibex's attraction as a hunting trophy (Day 1981). According to Guy Beaufoy, a policy officer of WWF Spain, the "Pyrenean Ibex had disappeared because the Spanish government acted too late to save it. He said "Although hunting had reduced the animal's numbers to fewer than a hundred by the turn of the last century, a management plan to preserve it was not put into place until 1993, when only about 10 individuals remained" (McCarthy 2000). In general it can be said that its extinction is Europe's first great conservation failure of the twenty-first century, as the European Union acted too late as well.

Conservation Attemps

In 1918, the first reserve was created in Ordesa, in the Spanish Pyrenees, and during the 1950s and 1960s a global conservation programme was prompted by establishing a system of national game refuges and reserves, and allowing introductions and reintroductions of ibex stocks (Perez et al. 2002). This animal was declared protected as late as in 1973(Associated Press 2000; BBC News 2000; Gray and Dobson 2009) and the population was protected within Ordesa National Park (Caprinae Specialist Group 2000). Implementation and tighter observance of the European Union's Habitats Directive, the 1992 law that provides for a Europe-wide network of heavily protected sites for threatened species, was needed but not executed as it should be (McCarthy 2000). In 1993, when only about 10 individuals remained, a management plan to preserve the Pyrenean Ibex was put into place(McCarthy 2000). The Pyrenean Ibex was listed as critically endangered by the IUCN in 1996 (Caprinae Specialist Group 2000). The Spanish government made efforts to save the Pyrenean Ibex, but it did not survive well in captivity. After the last male died in 1991, efforts were made to crossbreed the Pyrenean females with other males from the Tortosa and Beceite National Game Reserves ( Capra pyrenaica hispanica ) which have been introduced into the Pyrenees, but have been unsuccessful (García-González & Herrero 1999;Perez et al. 2002).


Celia, Last BucardoIn the spring of 1999, Spanish biologists working for the Aragon regional government captured the last Pyrenean Ibex, named Celia. The biologists took blood, tissue (from her ear) and faeces samples. The samples were taken to preserve the Pyrenean Ibex's cell line for possible future cloning purposes. (Associated Press 2000; BBC News 2000; Perez et al. 2002 ) 

Photo: fearing the worst, Spanish biologists including Alberto Fernandez and José Folch working for the Aragon regional government captured the last Pyrenean Ibex in spring 1999 and took a tissue sample from her ear, to preserve the Pyrenean Ibex's cell line in case they needed to clone it. Then they attached an electronic tracer to the animal and released it. Courtesy Advanced Cell Technology, Inc.. All rights reserved.

On 8 October 2000, Biotech company Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. announced that the Spanish government has agreed to Advanced Cell Technology (ACT)'s offer to use interspecies nuclear transfer cloning technology in collaboration with other scientific partners to clone the extinct Pyrenean Ibex from the tissue that has been taken in 1999. Celia was able to provide perfect tissue samples for cloning. ACT has agreed with the government of Aragón, that the future cloned Pyrenean Ibexes will be returned to their original habitat. (ACT 2000)

In July 2003, scientists announced that the first intent to clone the Pyrenean Ibex has failed. Three teams of scientists, two Spanish and one French, are involved in the cloning project. The project is coordinated by the Service of food and agriculture Investigation of the Government of Aragon (Servicio de Investigación Agroalimentaria del Gobierno de Aragón) and by the National Institute of Investigation and Food and Agrarian Technology (Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria INIA), and also the National Institute of the Agrarian Investigation of France will take part in the project. The director of the project and leader of the Unit of Technology in Animal Production of the Service of food and agriculture Investigation (SIA) of Aragon is José Folch, one of the scientists that captured the last female Celia to take tissue samples. A total of 285 cloned embryos were created en 54 of of them were transferred into twelve Spanish Ibexes of the so-called subspecies Capra pyrenaica hispanica from the Tortosa and Beceite National Game Reserves (Catalonia and Aragón, Spain) and ibex-domestic goat hybrids. However, only two embryos maintained the gestation during near two months. The gestation was interrupted spontaneously in January 2003. ( 2003; El Mundo 2003)

In January 2009, the Pyrenean Ibex became the first extinct animal to be resurrected by cloning. DNA from the tissue taken from the last Pyrenean Ibex named Celia had been transplanted into eggs from domestic goats. From the 439 embryos that had been created 57 were implanted into surrogate female domestic goats. Only seven of the embryos resulted in pregnancies, but only one of the goats gave birth to a female Pyrenean Ibex. This newborn ibex died after seven minutes due to breathing difficulties. Flaws in the DNA may have resulted into physical defects in its lungs. (Gray and Dobson 2009) However, this latest cloning attempt proved that Celia's cells are viable and that domestic goats cab be used as surrogates (Brahic 2009). The project will continue.

Attempts to clone Celia have highlighted a major problem: even if it is possible to produce another healthy Pyrenean ibex, there wouldn’t be a male of the female clone to breed with. One solution could be to cross Celia’s clones with males of another subspecies, although the offspring would be less “Pyrenean ibex” than Celia. A more ambitious plan would be to remove one X chromosome and add a Y chromosome from another still existing subspecies, creating a male Pyrenean ibex. (Zitner 2000)

Museum Specimens

Mounted skin of last bucardoThe type specimen of the Pyrenean Ibex along with another male specimen are kept in the collection of the University of Zurich in Germany (Woutersen, K. pers. comm. 2009). The Paris National Museum of Natural History (Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle) in France has a mounted specimen of a Pyrenean Ibex (or Bouquetin des Pyrénées in French). A head in the Musée de Bagnères in Luchon, France (Cabrera 1914). A skull can be found in the collection of Nantes Museum, France (Cabrera 1914). The mounted skin of the last female can be found in the collection of taxidermist Julián Causapié in Zaragoza, Aragón, Spain. The skulls and horns of the last two females are kept at the Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología (CSIC) in Jaca, Aragón, Spain (Woutersen 2008, 2009).

Photo: the last female's skin mounted in the collection of taxidermist Julián Causapié in Zaragoza, Aragón, Spain. It waits since 2003 for a place in a museum. Photographed by Kees Woutersen on 9 December 2008. Courtesy by . All rights reserved.


The Pyrenean 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 Portuguese Ibex (Capra pyrenaica lusitanica Schlegel, 1872) became extinct in 1892.

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). 


Pyrenean Ibex - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

El Bucardo - La Cabra Montesa del Pirineo

Capra pyrenaica - Wikispecies

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


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Citation: Maas, P.H.J. (2012). Pyenean Ibex - Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica. In: TSEW (). The Sixth Extinction Website. <>. Downloaded on .
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Updated: 15 April 2012


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