AskDefine | Define chamois

Dictionary Definition



1 a soft suede leather formerly from the sheep of the chamois antelope but now from sheepskin [syn: chamois leather, chammy, chammy leather, shammy, shammy leather]
2 hoofed mammal of mountains of Eurasia having upright horns with backward-hooked tips [syn: Rupicapra rupicapra]

User Contributed Dictionary



From chamois.


  • Of the chromatic sense (both nounal and adjectival) and of the caprine sense (in the singular):
    • /ˈʃæmwɑː/
  • Of the caprine sense (in the plural):
    • /ˈʃæmwɑːz/
  • Of the chromatic sense (both nounal and adjectival) and of the sense concerning leather (in the singular):
    • /ˈʃæmi/; /'S

Extensive Definition

The chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) is a goat-like animal native to the European Alps, the Corno Grande region of the central Italian Apennines, the Tatra Mountains, the Balkans, parts of Turkey, and the Caucasus. The species was also introduced on the South Island of New Zealand. Chamois are strictly protected animals under the European Habitats Directive.
There are two species of chamois in the genus Rupicapra. In addition to the type species, R. rupicapra, there is the Pyrenean chamois, R. pyrenaica. Chamois are in the subfamily Caprinae of the family Bovidae, along with sheep and goats. The French name chamois comes from Latin camox, a borrowing from Gaulish.
The Dutch name for the chamois is gems. The male is called a gemsbok. In Afrikaans, the term gemsbok became to refer to a species of sub-Saharan antelope of the genus Oryx and this meaning has been adopted in English.


  • Rupicapra rupicapra (chamois):

Biology and behaviour

Chamois live at moderately high altitudes and are adapted to living in steep, rugged, rocky terrain. A fully grown chamois reaches a height of about 75 cm (2½ feet) and weighs about 50 kg (110 pounds). Males and females have short horns which are slightly curled in the posterior direction. In summer, the fur has a rich brown colour which turns to a light grey in winter. Distinct characteristics are a white face with pronounced black infraorbital stripes, a white rump and a black dorsal stripe. Chamois can reach an age of up to 20 years.
Female chamois and their young live in herds; adult males tend to live solitarily for most of the year. During the rut (late November/early December in Europe, May in New Zealand), males engage in fierce battles for the attention of unbred females. An impregnated female undergoes a gestation period of 20 weeks, after which a single kid is born. The kid is fully grown by three years of age.

Distribution and habitat

New Zealand

Alpine chamois arrived in New Zealand in 1907 as a gift from the Austrian Emperor, Franz Joseph I. The first surviving releases were made in the Aoraki/Mount Cook region and these animals gradually spread over much of the South Island.
New Zealand chamois tend to weigh about 20% less than European individuals of the same age, suggesting that food supplies may be limited.

Hunting and wildlife management

As their meat is considered tasty, chamois are popular game animals. Chamois have two traits that are exploited by hunters. The first is that they are most active in the morning and evening when they feed. The second trait is that chamois tend to look for danger from below. This means that a hunter stalking chamois from above is less likely to be observed and more likely to be successful.
The tuft of hair from the back of the neck, the "Gamsbart" (chamois beard), is traditionally worn as a decoration on hats throughout the alpine countries. Treated chamois skin is very smooth and is favored in cleaning and polishing because it produces no streaking.


chamois in Aragonese: Sarrio
chamois in Bavarian: Gàms
chamois in Bulgarian: Дива коза
chamois in Catalan: Isard
chamois in Czech: Kamzík horský
chamois in German: Gämse
chamois in Spanish: Rupicapra rupicapra
chamois in Esperanto: Ĉamo
chamois in French: Chamois
chamois in Ido: Chamo
chamois in Italian: Rupicapra rupicapra
chamois in Georgian: არჩვი
chamois in Lithuanian: Gemzė
chamois in Hungarian: Zerge
chamois in Macedonian: Дивокоза
chamois in Dutch: Gems (dier)
chamois in Japanese: シャモア
chamois in Norwegian: Gems
chamois in Occitan (post 1500): Rupicapra rupicapra
chamois in Polish: Kozica
chamois in Russian: Серна
chamois in Slovak: Kamzík vrchovský
chamois in Slovenian: Gams
chamois in Finnish: Gemssi
chamois in Swedish: Gems
chamois in Ukrainian: Скельниця
chamois in Urdu: چاموعز
chamois in Chinese: 臆羚
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