The Takins (Budorcas taxicolor) – sometimes also called „cattle chamois“ or „gnu goat“ are four caprinae members found in the Eastern Himalayas, at the eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau and adjacent mountain ranges.


The generic name Budorcas originates from the Greek bous and dorkas, meaning ox and gazelle respectively, i. e. a gazelle like an ox. taxicolor is based on the Latin taxus, a badger, and refers to the badger like colour of the type specimen described by Hodgson in 1850. The name Takin was adopted from the Digaru Mishmees, where the species was first reported by Hodgson. [1]

Bhutanese: Dong Gyem Tsey [1]

Chinese (pinyin): ling niu (meaning: antilope cow) [1, ]

Chinese (various local names): baiyang (white sheep); yeniu (wild cow); zhuniu (bamboo cow); panyang (curved horned sheep) [1]

English: Takin [1]

French: Takin [1, 8]

German: Takin [1, 8]

Russian: Таки́н [1]

Spanish: Takin [1, 8]

Tibetan: as ya go, shing na or jie men ya [1]

tribes along the Eastern Himalayas and their local names for: Akas, Po, Me, Konggo, Abor: shugu-pan, kyimyak, tsimyak, siben-ö; Miju Mishmees: kyem or akron [1]


Takins occur in Bhutan, China – southeastern Gansu, Sichuan, Shaanxi, southeast Tibet, and northwestern Yunnan ; Northeast India – Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim (Singh 2002) and northern Myanmar (Salter 1997). [5]


Genus and species (Budorcas taxicolor) were first described by Hodgson in 1850 based on skins and skulls collected in the Mishmi Hills region of Assam (today: Arunachal Pradesh), India. Hodgson supposed Takin to be related to the Gnu (Connochaetes gnu), but also acknowledged similarities to the Musk Ox (Ovibos moschatos). [1]

Accordingly Takins were later linked with the Muskox (Ovibos) into a common subfamily or tribe (Ovibovini). Today Takins are seen to be more closely related to sheep (Ovis) [3] and Aoudad (Ammotragus). [8] Its similarity to the Muskox is therefore considered an example of convergent evolution. [4]

Takin species / subspecies (detailed info below)

Four Takin phenotypes are recognised. While some authors see them as full species [2, 3, 8], others prefer to separate them as subspecies [1, 5, 6]. The Bhutan Takin has also been seen as a subspecies of the Mishmi Takin. [?] The four Takin phenotypes are differentiated on the basis of body colour and mtDNA analysis of Chinese populations. [8]

Bhutan Takin (Budorcas [taxicolor] whitei), Lydekker 1907

Mishmi Takin (Budorcas [taxicolor] taxicolor), Hodgson 1850

Tibetan or Sichuan Takin (Budorcas [taxicolor] tibetana), Milne-Edwards 1868

Golden Takin (Budorcas [taxicolor] bedfordi), Thomas 1911

The 4 Takin subspecies – males in winter coat: Mishmi Takin (u. l.); Bhutan Takin (u. r.); Sichuan Takin (d. l.); Golden Takin (d. r.). Photos: Bürglin

General description

The Takin’s appearance resembles faintly a small cow. It is tall-framed and compact with a short [6] and massive [1] neck. The dorsal line drops slightly from the withers to the lower back and stronger down the croup. [6] The large [1] head is prominent, stretched and roman-nosed with a broad muzzle. [6] There are striking age changes in both pelage and horns. [3]

length / head-body: 170-237 cm [1]; females: 160-215 cm [1]

shoulder height: 100-150 cm [1]; females: 90-120 cm [1]

weight: Groves (1997) cites Bailey (1912), Cooper (1923), Hodgson (1850), Hume (1887), Smith (1939), Sowerby (1928), Thomas (1911) and Wu (1985) on weights across the subspecies: bulls range from 200 to 400 kg and cows from 150 to 275 kg. [1] Bulls are bigger and sturdier than females. [6]

Matschei (2012) finds indications of up to 600 kg as too high and not consistend with measurements from Tierpark Berlin. There Mishmi Takin males in general way less than 300 kg, and females less than 200 kg. Another source mentions 300 to 350 kg for males and 250 to 300 kg for females. [6]

legs:  sturdy; carry the body fairly high. [6] But Damm & Franco (2014) find the part below the „knees“ (editor’s note: carpals) to be exceptionally short and thick, especially on the front legs. [1] The broad hooves resemble those of cattle. While the main claws of the 3. and 4. digit appear broad and half-rounded, the dew claws of the 2. and 5. digit are long and sturdy [6]. Damm & Franco (2014) call them „highly developed“ and see them as an „adaption to the mountainous environment“. [1] While moving on plane surface, the dew claws don’t touch the ground. [6]

Front foot of a Mishmi Takin. The broad hooves resemble those of cattle. Photo: Bürglin

BU: Front foot of a Mishmi Takin. The broad hooves resemble those of cattle. Photo: Bürglin

muzzle: Only the front parts around the nostrils are shiny; the main part of the muzzle is covered with shortish hair. [1]

eyes: small; positioned close to the horns. [6]

ears: an identification feature. Ears of Takins are small [6], only about 12,5 cm long and protrude laterally [1]. They are sickle-shaped and down-curve and have a semircircular upper rim and straighter lower rim. [1] In young of the year this feature is already clearly discernible. In fact while it is difficult to differentiate the young of various caprinae genera – let’s say goat and sheep – Takins are readily determinable by the shape of their ears.

beard: is found at the lower jaw of adult animals (up to 12 cm long hair). Breast and belly show longer hair too. [6]

tail: short [6], about 10 cm long, triangular in shape and bushy without a terminal tuft [1] It is hairless underneath (1, 6). In Sichuan and Golden Takin it is mostly hidden beneath the shaggy fur. In Mishmi and Bhutan Takin a small, lighter-coloured rump patch can accentuate the tail.

glands: Pre-orbital, postcornual, interdigital and inguinal glands are missing. [6] Instead Takins secrete a strong-smelling oily substance over the whole body that imparts a goat-like aroma and serves as a moisture barrier protecting the coat from fog and rain. [1] According to Matschei (2012) The skin oil of Takins smells of butyric acid. [6]

pelage: dense, long and shaggy, with thick wooly under-fur in winter. [1] The long hair gives the animal a ragged appearance. [6] Hair length in winter may reach 18 to 24 cm along the sides of the neck and up to 10 cm along the back. [1]

coat colour varies considerably, according to subspecies (see below), from pale straw or yellowish dun gray and a golden yellow through rufous to dark brown and almost black. [1] The two southerly species – Bhutan and Mishmi Takin – are generally darker [6]. Apart from race-related differences, Takins also exhibit considerable sexual-, age-related and seasonal differences in coat colouration. [1]

face: is darkish in mature bulls [1] – except for the Golden Takin. Females and young Takins tend to show dark hairs only around the muzzle. [1]

Forehead: In Mishmi Takins the area below the horns may be of lighter colour shades, but there are specimens with an entirely black face too [2]; portrait of a Mishmi Takin male in February. Photo: Bürglin / Chomutov

dorsal stripe: present in adults of Bhutan- and Mishmi Takins; extends from the occiput (back of head) to the tail. In Sichuan- and Golden Takin the dorsal stripe is present in juveniles and vanishes as the animals mature.

pelage colour of young: darker than those of adults and is basically brown. The young of Golden Takin are brown as well. In Mishmi Takins young sometimes have light, often white markings on the forehead or between the horns. These markings disappear when the young mature. Calves show a broad, dark-brown dorsal line, that runs down to the dark tail. After around one month the pelage of young becomes lighter. Young Sichuan and Golden Takin change colour within the first year. The final colouration might not be achieved within that period. In Golden Takins it can take up to three years before the typical uniform pelage colour has developed. During that time Golden Takins might resemble Sichuan Takins with their patchy pelage colour pattern. [6]


Takin sculls show an elevated area in the form of a strong crest, from the sides of which arise the horns. [1] The dark horns of th­e Takin resemble those of the wildebeest (Connochaetes gnu) – hence the name „gnu goat“, that appears in older publications. [6] In respect to the direction of growth, Takin horns may bring to mind those of the Musk Oxen (Ovibos moschatus) as well. In adult animals they are directed horizontally outward and forward from the base, then horizontally backwards, and finally upwards. Takin horns are massiv – less though than those of Musk Oxen. The horns have a trigono-ovoid cross-section (triangular-egg-shaped). [1] Males and females both have horns, which are basically similar, but those of males are bigger and longer. [6] Convergence of horn bases, abrasion and lost horn tips may be a sign of maturity.

horn bases: in general sit closely together. [6] Here the stout, lunately-shaped horns are thickend and almost touch, forming something like a boss. [1] In older animals – mostly males – the bases can converge, although in most cases a conspicuous gap remains. The bases are irregularly transversly ringed, but also show longitudinal striation (Neas and Hoffmann, 1987). There is also a hind keel at the base, which curves obliquely across the front of the horizontal portion. [1] Horns are prone to abrasion, therefore older bulls can show smoothened horn fronts and tips can get lost.

alignment of horn tips: can give a line on the sex of the animal. Horn tips are rear-facing. In females the tips can converge, while the horns in males run rather parallel – but individual differences do occur. [6] Horns of bulls have a greater spread than those of cows. [1]

Groves and Shields (1997) sites Bailey (1912) ), Cooper (1923), Hodgson (1850), Hume (1887), Smith (1939), Sowerby (1928), Thomas (1911) and Wu (1985) on Takin horn dimensions across the subspecies. [4]

Table 1: Horn dimensions across the subspecies

bulls   horn lengths 35,0 – 63,0 cm
cows  horn lengths 35,6 – 40,6 cm
bulls circumference at base 31,9 – 37,5 cm
cows circumference at base 22,5 – 25,0 cm
bulls tip to tip spread 20,0 – 31,9 cm
cows  tip to tip spread 18,1 – 31,9 cm

horn development: At birth horns are not yet developed, but begin to grow after a few weeks. At the end of the first year they protude dagger-like and v-shaped from the forehead. Not until the second year the horns lie down to build a basal arch. Horn growth is enhanced during first year. Only the following year the transverse rings do appear. Horn lengths of young Mishmi Takins at Rangoon Zoo, Myanmar were as follows: Male with 31 month: 39 cm; female with 44 month: 22 cm. [6] Horns of post-prime specimens are worn smooth. Advancing age and constant wear also leads to loss of length at the tips. [1]

The four Takin species/subspecies

Bhutan Takin (Budorcas [taxicolor] whitei), Lydekker 1907

Mishmi Takin (Budorcas [taxicolor] taxicolor), Hodgson 1850

Tibetan or Sichuan Takin (Budorcas [taxicolor] tibetana), Milne-Edwards 1868

Golden Takin (Budorcas [taxicolor] bedfordi), Thomas 1911

Differences between the phenotypes have been based on a DNA study (Li M. et al., 2003) – but Bhutan Takin was not considered. [3] Physical characteristics like size, scull measurements, coat colour and geographical separation of their respective ranges have been an issue too. Damm and Franco (2014) mention also „horn morphology“ [1], but Groves and Grubb (2011) state that scull and horn characters „appear to offer very little differentiations“.

Size of the species/subspecies is a matter of dispute: While Damm and Franco (2014) state: „Generally, the Golden Takin and the Bhutan Takin, at the extrem east and west of the species range, are somewhat smaller than the other two subspecies“ ((editor’s note: no citation)) [1], Matschei (2012) quotes Neas & Hoffmann (1987) saying that the northern forms (Sichuan and Golden Takin) are bigger than the southern species (Bhutan and Mishmi Takin). [6] So does Castelló (2016). [2] A bigger size in the northern areas could be explained with the Bergmann’s Rule.

Table 2: Relative sizes of Takins according to various authors

Mishmi Takin Bhutan T. Sichuan T. Golden T.
Groves and Grubb, 2011 males small in size
Wilson and Mittermeier, 2011 according to other species (head-body: 170-220 cm; shoulder hight: 107-140 cm) according to other species (head-body: 170-220 cm; shoulder hight: 107-140 cm) according to other species (head-body: 170-220 cm; shoulder hight: 107-140 cm) according to other species (head-body: 170-220 cm; shoulder hight: 107-140 cm)
Matschei, Christian, 2012 smaller than Sichuan and Golden smaller than Sichuan and Golden larger than Mishmi and Bhutan larger than Mishmi and Bhutan
Damm and Franco, 2014

like Sichuan Takin;

larger than Bhutan and Golden

smallest Takin; smaller than Sichuan and Mishmi larger than Bhutan and Golden smaller than Sichuan and Mishmi
Castelló, 2016 similar to Bhutan; smaller than Sichuan and Golden smallest Takin largest Takin slightly smaller than Sichuan; larger than Bhutan


The main varying scull character in Takins in the view of Groves and Grubb (2011) concerns the nasals, which are, on average, shorter and less arched in the Golden Takin (B. bedfordi) than in others („Pal nas ht“ i.e., the height of the most convex part of the nasals above the palate) [3]. In simple words that means that the Golden Takin has a flatter nose. But the number of specimens examined (n) does not meet the basic requirements of statistics.

Table 3: Mean height of the most convex part of the nasals above the palate in male Takins – after Groves and Grubb (2011)

Golden Takin 118,5 n=2
Mishmi Takin 137,5 n=6
Sichuan Takin 140,8 n=5
Bhutan Takin 123,0 n=3


Referring to these figures the actual hight difference between the „flattest nose“ (Golden Takin) and the „most arched nose“ (Sichuan Takin) is 22 mm.

horn size: From the records of Rowland Ward (most of the trophies from the early 20th century) it appears that Mishmi Takin have, on average, the longest horns of the four (sub-) species. The horns of Bhutan Takin are the smallest in all aspects. Due to small sample size no assessment can be made for Sichuan and Golden Takin. [1]

Sichuan Takin (Budorcas [taxicolor] tibetana) pelage colour and distribution range: Head, neck, and shoulders are golden yellow washed with gray, gradually passing into gray or blackish on hindquarter and legs. Pelage is duller than that of Golden Takin. Found along the eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau. [2]

Golden Takin (Budorcas [taxicolor] bedfordi) pelage colour and distribution range: Body hairs are white or off-white. [2] With age, the colour gets a somewhat more red-golden tone [3], the gold being somewhat darker in males and creamy in females. Confined to the Qinling Mountains [2], Central China.

While Sichuan and Golden Takin are relatively easy to determine, and both are readily distinguishable from the southern species, differences between Bhutan and Mishmi Takin seem not yet sorted out properly. Descriptions of pelage colour patterns are contradicting. The geographic boundary between the distribution ranges of B. t. taxicolor and B. t. whitei is also uncertain. [5]

Table 4: Pelage colours of Mishmi and Bhutan Takins according to various authors

Mishmi Takin Bhutan T.
Groves and Grubb, 2011) Black extends with age to the whole of the face, under the neck, and to the lower flanks; mixed brindled zone between these areas and the lighter (pale yellow) tone of the upper parts. similar to Mishmi (juveniles and adults)
Wilson and Mittermeier, 2011 black haunches, belly, legs, lower neck, and entire face; black coloration under the neck extends to lower flanks. Upper body parts are pale yellow, with a brindled area between the upper body and the lower dark areas dark brown with a paler back; dipiction (plate 44) shows animal with lighter saddle (compared to Mishmi)
Matschei, Christian, 2012 predominantly grey to redbrown; depiction (p. 84) shows light-coloured, less contrasty specimen predominantly grey to redbrown; depiction (p. 85) shows dark specimen
Damm and Franco, 2014 dark brownish or reddish brown suffused with grayish-yellow; somewhat lighter than Bhutan; depiction (p. 15) with very contrasty pelage (but specimens shown are from Tsangpo Grand Canyon, an intergrading area of Mishmi and Bhutan Takin) darkish brown; some shades darker than Mishmi; depiction (p. 20) with very contrasty pelage
Castelló, 2016 overall smoky brown; less colorful than other subspecies, dipiction of male (p. 458, zoo animal) is less contrasty compared to Bhutan dark brown, on average somewhat darker than the Mishmi; dipiction of male (p. 464, ) is more contrasty compared to Mishmi (lighter back, darker limbs)


There are reasons for contradicting descriptions in Mishmi and Bhutan Takins.

Problem 1: Illustrations that depict Mishmi and Bhutan Takins show partially females and not males [6, 8]. But taxon-specific characteristics show only clearly in males, and best during the rutting season.

Problem 2: Photographs of wild Mishmi Takin are very rare, and photos that show morphological details are even rarer.  But authors refer to photographs, sometimes not knowing the sex of depicted animal.  [1] Illustrators also depend on photographs.

Problem 3: The Mishmi Takin is a widespread species in zoos (2017: 68 institutions) and some authors refer to them [2, 6]. But all animals are descendants of wild animals caught in Myanmar and not the Mishmi Hills, India. (ISIS, pers. comm.)

Problem 4: Authors do not distinguish between summer and winter coats.

Problem 5: Authors speak of  „lighter“ and „darker pelage“ [1, 2] , but what is meant referring to this? There are male Bhutan Takins with very light neck and saddle (lighter than those of Mishmi Takins), whereas lower back and limbs are darker – therefore they appear „light“ on the back, but more contrasty or „darker“ in the darker parts. On the other hand there are Mishmi Takin bulls with neck-saddle areas, that are comparably less light, but which have also lighter-coloured lower backs and limbs – therefore they appear to be less contrasty or lighter in the darker parts.

Is there a geographical pelage colour gradient in Takins? Matschei (2012) states that the Takin pelage becomes lighter from south to north. [6] However the distribution pattern of Takins can not just be seen on a south-north axis. The four ranges follow roughly a sloped sine curve starting in the Southwest (Bhutan) and ending in the Northeast (Qinling Mountains), with the range of the Mishmi Takin lying more southerly than that of the Bhutan Takin and the northern part of the Sichuan Takin range being on the same latitude than the range of the Golden Takin.

So is there a dark-light-gradient concerning pelage colour, that follows roughly a southwest-northeasterly direction, which could be an adaption to latitudinally changing climate distinctions? In fact Bhutan-, Sichuan- and Golden Takin seem to fit in such a gradient, as well as Mishmi-, Sichuan- and Golden Takin. But since the distinctions between Bhutan- and Mishmi Takin is not properly solved, it is not possible to fit in those two.

General biology

The movements of Takins appear to be slow and cumbersome. However when threatend they exibit a fast gallop and even climb steep parts of their habitat with ease. Leaps are rare. [6]

Threatening bulls and cows present their broadside and try to show their whole size. The nape is raised, the head pulled to the chest, so that horn tips are pointed forwards. Ears are layed back. This agonistic behaviour resembles those of Mountain Goat (Oreamnos americanus) and Muskox (Ovibos moschatus). The opponents hit their heads jerkily to the sides. During the actual combat the antagonists clash their horns. Rearing on hind legs – like wild goats or Bighorn Sheep do – is not known in Takins. [6]

When Takins are threatened, they generally retreat into dense thickets. The alarm call resembles a cough; when uttered from one member of a herd, this causes the whole group to flee. Adult bulls have been recorded pressing their bodies close to the ground with their necks stretched out to camouflage themselves. (2, 7) Golden Takin are known to react aggressivly if cornered or frightened. [2] Four instances of Golden Takins attacking humans in the Qinling Mountains are depicted at (in german).


  • about 16-18 years (Smith & Mackinnon, 2008) [5]
  • 21 years and 7 month: Sichuan Takin, female, zoo-kept (Weigl, 2005) [6]
  • 20 years, 8 month: Mishmi Takin „Ottchen“, male, Tierpark Berlin (Pohle, 1994, 2007) [6]
  • 23 years, 5 month: Mishmi Takin „Tanga“, female, Tierpark Berlin (Pohle, 1994, 2007) [6]


Takins overlap in range with multiple potential natural predators including Asiatic Black Bear, Leopard, Tiger, Wolf, Snow Leopard, and Dhole. According to Dang (1967) and Schaller (1977) evidence for predation on Takin exist only for the Snow Leopard. [6] Besides Snow Leopard Castelló (2016) mentions „bear“ and Wolf as actual predators. [2] Indian wildlife photographer Dhritiman Mukherjee has documented a single Dhole attacking a female Mishmi Takin with her calf (pers. comm. – photo below)


sexually maturity: at 3,5 years – according to Helin et al. (1999) and Smith & Mackinnon (2008) [6]; in females at 4.5 years of age; for males at 5.5 years in wild populations of B. bedfordi [5]; Walther (1979/1980) reports of a successful mating of a 3,5 year old female and 2,5 year old male in the Rangoon Zoo, Myanmar. According to Puschmann et al. (2009) sexual maturity in females from Tierpark Berlin started with 2,5 years. Six animals were 3 years old when they first gave birth; seven more were around 4 years of age. [6]

mating season: Breeding season for the Golden Takin starts in early June and lasts to the end of July with a peak from middle of June to middle of July (Wang et al. 2005) [5]. According to Wang et al. (2006) wild Golden Takin showed the maximum number of rutting elements within only 10 days (21. to 30. June). [6] Sichuan Takin mate between July and August. In San Diego Zoo a Sichuan Takin bull copulated with the cows in September and October. [6]

mating behaviour: Takins are polygamous. During the mating season, that lasts two month, the bulls are known to fight intensively for the right to mate. Being close to females bulls sniff at the female’s anal region, whereupon the male shows a flehmen response. Bulls are known to wet themselves with urine. According to Capra species the animals aim to let the urine stream hit front legs, chest and the low-held head. Cows also wet themselves with urine by flipping their tails shut. Copulations can occur all day long, but last only 2 to 4 seconds. [6]

gestation period: 200-220 days [5] = 6,5 to 7 months; according to Walther (1988b): 7 to 8 months; after Smith & Mackinnon (2008): 10 to 11 months.

calving season: Newborn calves are observed in February and March [5] / March or April [5]; between March and June in the wild [6]; in zoos birth days are more dispersed and occur between December and July, but most births are recorded between February and April. Annual litter in zoos is documented. [6]

number of kids born: 1 [5]; twins are documented, but not in zoos [6]

Table 5: weight of young at birth: [6]

5,0 to 7,0 kg Penny (1989)
5,0 to 9,5 kg Mishmi Takin
4,8 kg („exceptionally lightweight, but healthy“) Zoo Dresden, 1998 Brockmann (2000)
8,2 kg Mishmi Takin, female Heitmann (2002)
6,0 kg Mishmi Takin, male Heitmann (2002)
8,0 kg Golden Takin, Tierpark Berlin Kern (2011)
up to 10,0 kg Puschmann et al. (2009)
11 kg Helin et al. (1999)

Newborns in northern forms can be heavier [6](editor’s note: no source cited)

Calves during the first days lie down a lot. Only after three days they follow their mothers increasingly and start getting in contact with other calves. After 1 to 2 month calves feed regularly on plant matter. [6]

Within the first three days Takin calves at Shanghai Zoo got milk once per hour (Kang & Zhang, 2001). The mean drinking period lasted 4,56 minutes +- 0,97. The following days the time between drinking intervals prolonged. Drinking times were reduced to 2 to 3 times a day. Young got milk also during the night. Contacts between the cow and her calf were reduced mainly to the anal region (48,8 %) and the head (25,5 %). [6]

reproductive period: cows in Tierpark Berlin until 18, 19 years [6]


Takins use different habitats. In summer, Takin freqent alpine meadows (above treeline) at up to 4.250 m, where they feed on rocky, grass covered slopes [1] or in alpine shrub [5]. They go as far as the snowline [6]. For the winter they descend to valleys as low as 1.000 m. [1]

On the way between summer and winter habitats they use rocky cliffs, montane forests – especially patches with Rhododendron and Bamboo (Rhododendron sp., Bambus sp., Arundinaria sp.) [6]

Takins within their wide distribution range live in different habitats: The Bhutan Takin – with its westermost distribution – inhabits subtropical to subalpine forests, mainly between 2.000 and 3.500 m, but sometimes moving as low as 1.500 m, or moving up to areas above the timberline. In the Eastern Himalayas Takins are found in alpine shrub, subtropical forest, and possibly temperate forest in Myanmar (Than Zaw, pers. comm. 2006). The Golden Takin – in the Northeast, Foping Nature Reserve – inhabits temperate forests and coniferous forests from 1.300 to 2.800 m and makes seasonal vertical movements (Zeng et al. 2008). [5]

Movements, home range and social organisation

Takins are social animals. [6] Groups mainly comprise females, subadults, young and some adult males. Herds comprise 6 to 80, sometimes 100 individuals. Most herds have 10 to 35 animals. [6] Mean group size of Golden Takins was 10.82 (n=96) in one study from Foping Nature Reserve / China. [9]

Bigger herds can build at saltlicks on summer pastures. 300 individuals in one group are possible. During winter smaller groups are more often observed. Takins are faithful to a habitat. [6]

Densitiy: At Tangjiahe Nature Reserve, Sichuan / China 480 to 520 Takins were counted in an area measuring 400 km². This equals a density of 1,2 to 1,3 individuals per km². [6]

The male:female ratio was 0.49:1 in Golden Takins from Foping Nature Reserve.  [9]

The core social unit of Golden Takin is adult females accompanied by their offspring of more than one generation. 53,1 percent of all groups included more than one adult female, and 63,3 percent of all groups had more than one subadult or calf. [9] These family groups are in general more stable than other groups. [6] According to Zeng et al. (2001) adult cows lead the groups. They can utter acoustical signals prior to moving. [6]

Most solitary, old males were seen during winter at lower elevation. [5] Solitary males can also be seen, for example during the lambing season. [6] During rutting season these males join the herds. [6] According to Wang et al. (2006) the portion of solitary Golden Takin males in Foping Nature Reserve correlated significantly with rutting behaviour. Presumably the chance for mating increases for males which move between female groups. This finding contradicts statements after which solitary bulls are less reproductively sucessful. [6] – (editor’s note: Probably it is not clear how to define a „solitary male“. One could argue that a male that approaches a herd of female looses its status of being „solitary“.)

Song & Zeng (2000b) looked at home ranges of four radio-tracked Golden Takins in the Shaanxi province / China. The home ranges encompassed 50,1 km², 23,2 km², 43,5 km² and 98,5 km² during the course of the year. On average home range was 56,8 km², but it changed with the seasons or seasonal migrations respectively. During spring mean home range was 26,9 km², during summer it was 19,5 km² and during fall and winter 22,1 km². The differences can be attributed to different forage qualities and other habitat qualities. Subadults have larger home ranges than adults. An overlapping of territories could be acertainened, but the animals did not meet. Also territorial behaviour could not be detected. But dominant animals are known to rub their horns. [6]

Takin groups are unstable and group composition can vary over time. Factors responsible for group size variation are [9]:

  • reproductive activity of adult males
  • subadult leavings from their mother’s group
  • human disturbance 

Takins seasonally migrate to preferred habitats. [5] Large herds of up to 100 animals begin to gather during spring and early summer at the uppermost limits of treeline. In summer, Takin feed in alpine meadows up to 4.000 m. During cooler autumn months, when food is less plentiful at higher elevations, herds disband into smaller groups of up to 20 individuals, and move to forested valleys at lower elevations as low as 1.000 m. [5] Takin use narrow trails through the dense growth, which they regularly pass through in traveling between feeding and resting places. [7]

Takin also react in response to the weather: During hot spring months, Takins rather use dense vegetation. On cooler, cloudy or foggy days Takins use open places more often. [6]

For resting shady spots are appreciated. They then lie down like dogs: with the head upright, one leg tucked in under the breast and the other one stretched out. When they put the head down, it is mostly hold straight. Takin like to rest in groups. Also calves rest and play together, they team up to build kindergardens. [6]

Food and Feeding

In terms of their forage Takins are generalists. [6] They feed on a variety of grasses, bamboo shoots, forbs and leaves of shrubs and trees. (1, 5) A study on the Golden Takins lists 163 species of plants being eaten by the species (Zeng and Song 2001). [5] Schaller et al. (1986) counted 138 plant species, that were eaten by Sichuan Takins – most of them forbs and leafed shrubs and trees. [6]

Takins also browse woody plants. Mishmi Takin female in October. Photo: Bürglin / Tierpark Berlin

BU: Takins also browse woody plants. Mishmi Takin female in October. Photo: Bürglin / Tierpark Berlin

Some eaten plant genera: The Sichuan Takin prefers rhubarb (Rheum sp.) during spring, which grow alongside the valleys. Golden Takins take Dwarf Bamboo (Bambus sp.), willows (Salix sp.) and birch (Betula sp.). Ragwort (Senecio sp.), which is toxic for sheep, cattle and horses, is tolerated. But Monk’s hood (Aconitum sp.) is poisenous for Takins too. [6]

Forage quality: Schaller et al. (1986) found that forage plants were rich in protein between spring and summer (10 to 17 %), and essential amino acids were outbalanced at that time. Such food resources were taken quickly and mostly entirely. During the winter months lignin- and cellulose-rich woody plants as well as evergreen grasses were available. Their protein content was measured at only 7 percent. [6] Takin forage in early morning and late afternoon. (5, 6)

Sichuan Takins are capable of bending and breaking stems and branches up to a diameter of 8 to 10 cm. [6] Takins have been observed standing on their hind legs to feed on leaves. (6, 8) That way they can reach up to three meters high. [6]

Takins also regularly visit salt-licks. [5] They are known to cover huge distances to reach these licks and spend several days there in groups. [6] This behaviour renders them very vulnerable to poachers who lay in ambush. [5]


Reported concerns for Takins are (threats vary regionally): deforestation, trapping, disturbance (cane and bamboo cutting, tourism), competition and disease transmission from domestic livestock, habitat fragmentation, road construction, disruption of migration routes and poaching. [5]

Poaching both for hides and highly prized Takin meat is common throughout the distribution area, and local tribesmen continue the tradition of Takin hunting. At present, Takin meat and hides, for personal use and trading, are the only way locals benefit from the presence of these animals. There is little incentive to conserve the Takin in these sometimes remote areas. [1]


In China, all subspecies are protected from direct exploitation by their inclusion under Category I of the National Wildlife Law of 1988. They are not legally hunted in India or Bhutan. Their legal status in Myanmar is uncertain. The species is listed on Appendix II of CITES. [5]

In Sichuan, the forceful conservation drive on behalf of the Giant Panda also benefits mountain ungulates like the Takin which share the panda habitat. [1]

Trophy Hunting

In China a few Takin were harvested in yearly trophy hunts before the Chinese hunting moratorium of 2006. [1]


Tangjiahe in Sichuan, China is probably the most reliable place to see Takin (B. t. tibetana).

The Mayodia Pass area in the Mishmi Hills, Arunachal Pradesh, India has been a place in the past, where Mishmi Takin could be encountered regularly even close to the road (pers. communication to local guide Drama Mekola). It is assumed that poaching lets them avoid these areas today.

During a six-day survey in autumn 2017 in the Mishmi Hills a group of six Takins could be observed in a semi-open area on an opposite valley side. It appeared that members of different Indian birdwatching groups were interested in watching mammals like the Takin too, but their guides were not aware that the animals are still in the area.

Takin in culture

The legend of the „Golden Fleece“, searched for by Jason and the Argonauts, may have been inspired by the lustrous coat of the Golden Takin (B. bedfordi). If the species was indeed known to the ancient Greeks is uncertain. [6]

The Takin is the national animal of Bhutan. Tourist guides in Bhutan keep telling the following legend concerning the creation to the Takin:

When the great saint Lama Drukpa Kunley (called „the divine madman“) visited Bhutan in the 15th century, a large congregation of devotees gathered around the country to witness his magical powers. The people urged the lama to perform a miracle. However, the saint, in his usual unorthodox and outrageous way, demanded that he first be served a whole cow and a goat for lunch. He devoured these with relish and left only bones. After letting out a large and satisfied burp, he took the goat’s head and stuck it onto the bones of the cow. And then with a snap of his fingers, he commanded the strange beast to rise up and graze on the mountainside. To the astonishment of the people the animal arose and ran up to the meadows to graze. This animal came to be known as the dong gyem tsey (Takin) and to this day, these animals can be seen grazing on the mountainsides of Bhutan…“

First year shown in captivty: 1909 (Pohle, 2002) [6]

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 – Antelopes, Gazelles, Cattle, Goats, Sheep, and Relatives. Princton University Press.

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

[4] Groves, Pamela and Shields, Gerald F., 1997: CytochromeBSequences Suggest Convergent Evolution of the Asian Takin and Arctic Muskox. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Volume 8, Issue 3, December 1997, Pages 363-374.

[5] Song, Y.-L., Smith, A.T. & MacKinnon, J. 2008. Budorcas taxicolor. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T3160A9643719. Downloaded on 03 January 2018.

[6] Matschei, Christian, 2012: Böcke, Takine und Moschusochsen. Filander Verlag

[7] Ultimateungulate: Budorcas taxicolor

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

[9] Zeng, Zhi-Gao; Zhong, Wen-Qin; Song, Yan-Ling; Li, Jun-Sheng and Guo, Feng, 2002: Group size, composition and stability of golden Takin in Shaanxi Foping Nature Reserve, China. Folia Zool. – 51(4): 289-298 (2002)