During a field trip to the Mishmi Hills, Arunachal Pradesh, India between October 24th and October 31th, 2017 a serow was observed. Comparing physical features of different species helped narrowing down it’s ID.


The Mishmi Hills are situated at the junction of the Northeastern Himalaya and the Indo-Burma Ranges. The area is claimed by India and China. On the Indian side, the Mishmi Hills are located at the northeastern tip of the country, in central Arunachal Pradesh.

Position of the Mishmi Hills on a global scale. Map basis: OpenTopoMap
The Mishmi Hills lie within the drainage basin of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries. Map basis: OpenTopoMap

It appears that the ranges of Himalayan Serow (C. thar), Chinese Serow (C. milneedwardsii), Red Serow (C. rubidus) and of a yet unnamed reddish serow known as Assamese Red Serow, may meet or even overlap in the border regions between India (Arunachal Pradesh), western and northern Myanmar and China. The Mishmi Hills are located within this region. Therefore the distribution ranges of these phenotypes presented in the literature must still be seen as provisional and as very vague. [1] Hybrids are to be expected in such an area.

Accordingly any documented sighting of a serow from this intergrading area can help to narrow down the identity and distribution ranges boundaries of the respective specimen.


For the staying in the Mishmi Hills a car and driver was provided by Aborcountry – aborcountrytravels.com. In the Mishmi Hills driver Khanin Kalita and local guide Drama Mekola helped to manage logistical challenges. We routinely stopped the vehicle at viewpoints to scan open stretches with binoculars. At one of these occasions the serow was spotted crossing a scree field. The animal could only be observed for a few seconds – time enough to take a few photos with a 600 mm lens.

Raw-photos were developed and cropped and the physical features of the serow specimen analysed and compared with those of the four occurring phenotypes. Furthermore the coordinates were determined.


The specimen was located at approximately 28.231601 northern latitude, 95.842986 eastern longitude.

Analysed images

The serow entering the open scree area. Overall pelage colour is black (appearing lighter with a purple hue, due to the image processing); dorsal line clearly visible; rusty colour of the hind limbs goes up the shanks including the tail (tail is actually not visible in this image).
Dorsal line is even better visible in this picture, blending into a nuchal stripe that terminates in the upper third of the neck. Outer side of ears are rusty-coloured.
In this picture the nuchal stripe seems to go even further up the neck; also the dorsal stripe seems to be elongated on the tail as a median strip. However the tail itself is still not really visible, but if there is a tail median strip in place, than the lateral parts of the tail should be rusty-coloured.
Back of ears, crown between the ears and even the neck shows a rusty sheen; the right hind limb below the tarsal joint is lighter than above
lateral view: tail is clearly visible and very short, appearing to be without a tuft; it becomes more clear that the tail colour is indeed rusty (lower two thirds); inner side of left thoracic limb is light rusty-coloured, while the outer side of the right thoracic limb above the carpal joints is darkish; the flanks remain dark, just in front of the right hind shank is a rusty shadow noticeable
White spot visible on chest, interramal region (between lower mandibles) and on right hind fetlock

ID’ing the specimen: Because of the general darkish pelage colour Red Serow (C. rubidus) and reddish Assamese Red Serow could be excluded.

Table 1: Comparison of physical characteristics of Himalayan Serow, Chinese Serow and the serow specimen from Mishmi Hills

Serow (HS)
Serow (CS)
Mishmi Hills specimen
dark black [3]; black tips of the hair becoming redder lower down the flanks. [4]generally black,
grading to reddish on flanks, rump and tail [4, 3] – but less than in HS
black; flanks barely reddish; more like CS
under- partssharply cream-buff [4], paler [3]paler [3], light [4]only white spot on sternum visible
dorsal stripesometimes visible, but not usually marked so [4]  presentclearly marked
manelong, mixed black and white [3, 4], varying, but never with the white predominating [4] typically thick [1], long, shaggy, mainly silvery [3, 4] not present
(young animal?)
tailblack [1]; specimens with mixed black, red and white hairs are knownbushy [3]; black a the tip; russet in middle third; blackish mixed with gray basally [1]reddish; with black median line
limbsblack hair tips on the legs becoming red lower down; below „knees“: creamy white [4]from the „knee“ down: rusty; extends on the hind legs upwards along the edge of the buttocks. [1]inside of thoracic limbs: rusty; hardly any white on fetlocks; outside thoracic limbs above carpal joints: black; as in CS
head / facesometimes lighter than body [4]; broadly white over nose, or only on lip margins; white extending along jaw lines or interramal region or nearly absent. [4] browner than
body [4, 3]; white markings: present, but no remarks found in the literature)
barely lighter than body; only interramal region: white
earslight-coloured inside (only two specimens seen) lined inside with long white hairs [1]outside: reddish; insight: not visible


The specimen observed is not clearly relatable. But some characteristics indicate a relation to the Chinese Serow: The flanks are less reddish, like those of Chinese Serow. The outer side of the right thoracic limb above the carpal joints is black. This is also a feature that is more commonly sighted in Chinese Serow, but not so in Himalayan Serow.

A white mane is not present in the Mishmi Hill specimen (which is said to be typical for the Chinese Serow), in fact there is no mane at all. However Dolan (1963) states that mane colour (length too?) is also a function of age: older animals tending to have more white in the mane. [4]

However Hrabina (pers. comm.) is convinced that the specimen has „typical features of the Himalayan Serow (Capricornis thar)„, i.g. the white rim around the hooves on pelvic limbs. [6]

Conclusion: A presumably rather uncommon serow phenotype has been described. More investigations are needed to outline the scale of physical feature variability in serow species.

Literature / sources

[1] Damm, Gerhard R. and Franco, Nicolás, 2014: The CIC Caprinae Atlas of the World – CIC International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation, Budakeszi, Hungary in cooperation with Rowland Ward Publications RSA (Pty) Ltd., Johannesburg, South Africa.

[2] Duckworth, J.W. & MacKinnon, J. 2008. Capricornis thar. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T3816A10096556. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T3816A10096556.en. Downloaded on 03 May 2017.

[3] Wilson, D.E. and Mittermeier, R.A. [eds], 2011: Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Vol. 2. Hoofed Mammals. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

[4] Groves, Colin and Grubb, Peter, 2011: Ungulate Taxonomy. The John Hopkins University Press.

[5] Castelló, José R., 2016: Bovids of the World – Antelopes, Gazelles, Cattle, Goats, Sheep, and Relatives. Princton University Press.

[6] Hrabina, Petr: Museum of Southeast Moravia in Zlín, Vavrečkova 7040, 760 01 Zlín. Department of Zoology, Fisheries, Hydrobiology and Apiculture, Mendel Univerzity in Brno, Zemědělská 1, 613 00 Brno