Gorals are small caprinae species with a goat- or antelope-like appearance. There are six species, occurring in South Asia and Far East.


The vernacular name „goral“ stems from the Hindi language. The scientific name Nemorhaedus is derived from Latin nemoralis meaning „of woods, or groves“ and haedus „young goat“. [1]

The spelling of the name Nemorhaedus is controversial. In the original publication, 1827, Hamilton Smith used Naemorhedus [3]. Many authors in recent years prefer Nemorhaedus [2, 3, 4]. The correct derivation of the name (see above) would be indeed Naemorhedus. But Corbet & Hill (1992:270) wrote (quoted in Groves and Grubb (2011): „Subsequent variation of spelling such as the etymological correct Nemorhaedus are unjustified emendations; there is no evidence of an error in the original publication.“

At the time of writing this chapter (2019-11-25), the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) had not decided on the correct spelling of Nemorhaedus / Naemorhedus. Hence in this work the more familiar spelling Nemorhaedus is retained pending further notice.


Information board at the Himalayan Goral enclosure, National Zoological Park Delhi, India. Since taxonomists do not agree on the right spelling, you don’t have to wonder that institutions like zoos, who depend on the work of taxonomists, come up with their own versions. Photo: Ralf Bürglin

In respect of the two Himalayan Goral phenotypes Hrabina (2015) suggests a name change: Formerly the scientific name of the Western Himalayan Goral was Nemorhaedus bedfordi or Nemorhaedus goral bedfordi respectively, and the name for the Eastern Himalayan Goral was Nemorhaedus goral or Nemorhaedus goral goral respectively.  According to Hrabina the name Nemorhaedus goral should be borne by the Western Himalayan Goral species, while the Eastern Himalayan species should be referred to as Nemorhaedus hodgsoni. The explanation for this step follows in the chapter for the Himalayan Gorals.


Until 1985 only one species of goral was recognised. Then Groves and Grubb (1985) split it into three species: the Long-tailed Goral (Nemorhaedus caudatus) from Asia Far East), the Red Goral (Nemorhaedus bailey),  from North Myanmar, North-East India and South China, and the Brown Goral (Nemorhaedus goral), all along the Himalayas, up to North-East Pakistan. [8]

Later on, Grubb (2005) split the Grey Goral (Nemorhaedus griseus) from East-Central China, Myanmar and Thailand, from Nemorhaedus caudatus (North China, Korean peninsula, East Russia), increasing the total number of goral species to four. [8]

Eventually, Valdez (2011) recognised six goral species by separating the Himalayan Goral (Nemorhaedus bedfordi), Western Himalayas to North-East Pakistan, and the Burmese Goral (Nemorhaedus evansi) from Myanmar and Thailand, formerly subspecies of Nemorhaedus goral and Nemorhaedus griseus, respectively. [8]

Hrabina (2015) presented detailed descriptions of pelage features of all the extant taxa and defines determination features, which help to identify individual species. The results of his study, based on the research of 979 field photographs of animals and 84 skins collected by museums around the world, confirm the existence of six species. [7]

Genetics: There have been several studies based on mitochondrial DNA, but all of them – except Liu and Jiang (2017) for goral – have suffered from limited data, especially in terms of populations sampled (Min et al. 2004, Hassanin et al. 2009, Liu et al. 2013, Dou et al. 2016). [8]

Mori et al. (2019) have revised the taxonomy and phylogeny of gorals, for the first time using the total mitochondrial genome of all taxa. They confirm the existence of three goral species. They couldn’t find a justification for the existence of Chinese Goral, Himalayan Goral and Burmese Goral on a species level and suggest to pool these three taxa, Nemorhaedus griseus, Nemorhaedus bedfordi and Nemorhaedus evansi, within one species: Brown Goral (Nemorhaedus goral). [8]

The same authors suggest that Red Goral and Red Serow are the most similar to the common ancestor. In the course of glaciation and deglaciation, population movements may have led to an extensive geographic differentiation. It is likely that glacial-time populations, pushed away from the higher mountain ranges, were more nearly contiguous than those of the present day. Therefore, a rhythm of near-panmixia and isolation must have occurred, although glaciations brought other barriers than those existing at the present day. [8]

Similar Taxa

The genus that is closest to the gorals is Capricornis, the genus of the serows. Superficially seen, the two genera show similarities, but they differ consistently in some characteristics, particularly features of the scull and other morphological differences. And there is also behavioral and ecological distinctions. [1]

Red Goral (Nemorhaedus baileyi) and Red Serow (Capricornis rubidus) share a number of morphological features (Valdez 2011): 1) the reddish colour pattern of their coats separates them from the other gorals and serows; 2) they share a relatively uniform coat, with an attenuated gular patch, whereas the throat markings of the other goral and serow species are much sharper; 3) in contrast to the other species of mainland serow, the Red Serow lacks a prominent mane, a feature it has in common with gorals. [8]


Gorals are comparably small and lightweight. They weigh 20-47 kg. Shoulder hight is 50-75 cm. [4] The Red Goral (N. baileyi) is the smallest goral species [1], the Longtailed Goral (N. caudatus) the biggest. [4] Males and females are of similar size.

The pelage consists of a short, wooly undercoat covered with long, coarse outer hair. [1] Coloration differs between species. It ranges from light gray, gray-brown, dark red-brown to foxy red. There is a white, yellowish or pale orange throat patch. Some forms have a black dorsal stripe. Gorals have no beard.

The tails of the various species are of different length and colour. The tail length is in so far of importance, since it is eponymous, i.e. being the basis for the naming of two taxa. Damm and Franco (2014) indicate the Long-tailed Goral (Nemorhaedus caudatus) as having the longest tail of all goral species, 15 cm without hair! [1]. (With hair it was found to be 37-48 cm long.) [4]. Presumably because they found the Chinese Goral (Nemorhaedus griseus) to have a similar long tail (13 cm), they named it „Gray-Long-tailed Goral“ – which is confusing, because the two taxa are different species.

The very long white hairs that grow on the lateral surfaces of the tail in Long-tailed Goral are very conspicuous – in fact they constitute one of the most distinctive features for determining this species. [7]


Posterior view of Chinese Goral (top left), Himalayan Gray Goral (top right), Armur long-tailed Goral (bottom left), Red Goral (bottom right). (Note that the tail of the Himalayan Gray Goral (top right) is actually very short. What looks like the lower part of it is actually the scrotum.) Photos: Ralf Bürglin


A very quaint peculiarity in gorals is a white double crescent on the upper lip. Chinese Goral (up left), Himalayan Brown Goral (up right), Red Goral (bottom left), Long-tailed Goral (bottom right). Photos: Ralf Bürglin


Another peculiarity in gorals is a tuft of dark hair that appears only in juveniles. Himalayan Brown Goral (up left), Chinese Goral (up right), Himalayan Gray Goral (bottom left), Himalayan Brown Goral (bottom right). Photos: Ralf Bürglin

Horns: Gorals have short, black conical, curved and sharply pointed horns. They show irregular rings at the lower part, being rather smooth further up. [1] In the Chinese Goral the rings are more prominent. [3] The horns can be battered and rings vanished in older specimens.


Male Chinese Goral with prominently ringed horns. Photo: Ralf Bürglin

Horns are present in both sexes and are in general very similar. Horns of ewes are shorter and the rings are less distinct than in rams. The horns of very old rams show more of a terminal curve. [1] Find out more about  how to tell the sex of gorals by the horns.



Himalayan Gray Goral habitat at Majathal Sanctuary, Himachal Pradesh, India. Photo: Ralf Bürglin

Gorals often inhabit steep terrain at elevations between 80-4000 m. [4] They occur in forests, but also in open terrain above treeline.

Activity pattern

Gorals are crepuscular, most active in the morning and evening, but can be also active throughout the day. They typically live in small groups of 4 to 12 individuals, with older males being usually solitary. The diet consists of grasses, leaves, twigs and nuts. Goral are extremely agile and can move at high speeds across rough terrain. The lifespan is said to be up to 15 years. [1]


Goral are extremely agile and can move at high speeds across rough terrain. Photo: Ralf Bürglin, Majathal Sanctuary


Castelló (2016) mentions dhole, leopard, lynx, tiger, marten and wolf as predators for Himalayan gorals. [2] In Pakistan wolf and jackal are named to go after Himalayan Gray Gorals [6]. Major predators of Long-tailed Gorals are Gray Wolves and Eurasian Lynxes [4] and rarely Sibirian Tiger. [1]


The remains of a freshly killed Chinese Goral at Foping Nature Reserve, China. Note the rips chewed into pieces. Predator could not be identified. Photo: Ralf Bürglin


What looks like teasing, is presumably testing for condition. A Large-billed Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos) pinches a Himalayan Gray Goral at Kufri Zoo, India. Photo: Ralf Bürglin


Goral hunting by locals is widespread. They are killed for meat, fur, horns and medicine. In Thailand, goral have been hunted by locals for the oil that comes from boiling heads and bones. Habitat loss is a less serious problem, as the goral is largely confirmed to rugged, inaccessible areas. Competiton with livestock is a problem in some places. [1]


Two Himalayan Gray Gorals at Majathal Sanctuary, where local women have cut grass for fodder previously. Goral can occur in good numbers if suitable habitats are available and grass and fodder cutting is moderate. [1] Photo: Ralf Bürglin

Trophy Hunting

In the past Nepal and China have offered goral hunting to foreign hunters, but not any more. For several years now, hunting has not been permitted in any of the range countries. [1]

Goral species

Considering the comparably low magnitude of distinguishing morphological characteristics in some subspecies of the Rupicaprini tribe (such as Rupicapra pyrenaica pyrenaica vs. Rupicapra pyrenaica parva or Rupicapra rupicapra rupicapra vs. Rupicapra rupicapra tatrica), the differences of diagnostic features between the six goral taxa mentioned above are so considerably more evident, that they are covered below as full species:

Himalayan Brown Goral (Nemorhaedus hodgsoni) [7]

The Himalayan Brown Goral (Nemorhaedus hodgsoni) is brownish in colour and rather small in size. [3] It is native to Nepal, Bhutan and northeastern India. [1] Photo: Dhritiman Mukherjee, Zulik, East-Sikkim

Himalayan Gray Goral (Nemorhaedus goral) [7]

The Himalayan Gray Goral (Nemorhaedus goral) is often greyish and shows the small size of its eastern counterpart. [3] It can be found in Pakistan and Northwest India. [1] Photo: Ralf Bürglin

Chinese Goral (Nemorhaedus griseus)

The Chinese Goral (Nemorhaedus griseus) is among the bigger species and distributed through China and Northeast India. Photo: Ralf Bürglin

Burmese Goral (Nemorhaedus evansi)

The Burmese Goral is a split from the Chinese Goral. It appears small in size and short-horned. Photo: Smith Sutibut, Thailand

Long-tailed Goral (Nemorhaedus caudatus)

The Long-tailed Goral (Nemorhaedus caudatus) is among the bigger gorals. [4]. A striking features is the „tail with a very long brush“ [3]. In fact the white hairs that grow on the lateral surfaces of the tail constitute one of the most distinctive features for determining this species. [7] It can be found in the Far East: Russia, Northeast China, North Korea and South Korea [1]. Photo: Park Jongwoo, Hwacheon, South Korea. Adult female with young in summer coat, July 7, 2010.

 Red Goral (Nemorhaedus baileyi)

The Red Goral (Nemorhaedus baileyi) is about the small size of the Himalayan Gorals. [3]. It inhabits the extrem East of the Indian Himalayas and beyond that areas in Southwest China and Northern Myanmar. [1] Photo: Dr. Siegfried Czernay

Literature cited

[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] Castelló, José R., 2016: Bovids of the world – Princeton Field Guides. Princeton University Press.

[3] Groves, Colin and Grubb, Peter, 2011: Ungulate taxonomy. The Johns Hopkins University Press.

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

[5] The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-3. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 10 January 2017.

[6] Perveen, Farzanaand and Khan, Anzela: „Migratory status of the goral, Nemorhaedus goral (Hardwicke) (Artiodactyla: Bovidae) in Kohistan, Pakistan.“ International Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation Vol. 5 (10) 2013, pp. 671-677

[7] Hrabina, Petr: „A new insight into the taxonomy and zoogeography of recent species of goral (Nemorhaedus, Bovidae, Ruminantia)“, Gazella 42, 2015, Zoo Praha

[8] Mori, Emiliano; Nerva, Luca; Lovari, Sandro, 2019: Reclassification of the serows and gorals: the end of a neverending story? Mammal Review ISSN 0305-1838.