Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin

Nubian Ibex

Capra nubiana


The Nubian ibex is a small species of ibex. Female ibex tend to be smaller than the males; male Nubian ibex can grow to be 62.5 kg with a shoulder height of 75cm while females only grow to be 26.5 kg with a shoulder height of 65cm. The fur of this animal is tan with a white underbelly and patches of black and white on the legs. Males change to a brown-black color on the neck, chest, shoulders, sides of belly front side of thighs and upper forelegs during the month of August. Both males and females have horns for fighting, attracting a mate and defending territory. Male Nubian ibex have large, dark, ringed, semicircular horns. The rings on the back of the horns are annual, growing 12-20 cm over the first 5 years and then continue to grow at a rate of 2-4 cm per year. Only males and older females of this species grow beards.


This species can be found in isolated populations in coastal northeastern Africa, Sinai Peninsula and the southeastern tip and western portion of the Arabian Peninsula. This species lives in mountainous regions between sea level and 3,000 meters; such as gorges, outcrops and scree areas, preferring the highest and steepest cliffs. The Nubian ibex is the only species of ibex to tolerate hot, arid climates with sparse vegetation.

Feeding Behavior and Diet

Nubian ibex feed during twilight hours and occasionally at night. Foraging typically occurs at lower elevations and near a water source. This species is a rudimentary herbivore, consuming herbs, shrubs, tree foliage, buds, fruits and occasionally grass. Nubian ibex prefer to feed on cadaba and camphorweed.


The mating season of this species is known as rutting season, which occurs from October until December. Rutting season is the only time that adult bachelor males and females come together. Mating is polygynous for this species, where males mate with multiple females. Males consume very little food during the rut and much of their energy is spent fighting other males for females. Larger, stronger males with larger horns are the most successful in gaining females for mating. Females produce one or two young (called kids) 150-165 days after mating, usually during May and June. During the first two months, the mother ibex nurses and teaches her young how to forage and establish a position within the social hierarchy. Female ibex are very hostile towards kids that are not their own because they are highly invested in their own kids. Kids are weaned after the first two months. Female Nubian ibex reach sexual maturity after two years while males do not reach sexual maturity until 3-6 years.

Months and Times of Activity

Nubian ibex are most active during twilight. This species rests and ruminates (digestion) during the afternoon and night. This species travels in isolated herds most of the year; males under three years old, females and young create herds of 10-20 individuals while adult bachelor males form hierarchal dominance herds. Older males do not herd during the year; they remain solitary until mating season.

Special Features, Stories, Relationships

•    This species has multiple methods of staying warm and keeping cool. Ibex will seek shelter from rock outcrops or caves during the cold, windy and rainy condition of winter. During the summer months, this species will seek shade or hollow out shallow depressions in the ground, lie down and turn on their sides to stay cool.

•    Nubian ibex mothers use steep-walled canyons as nurseries. As kids wander into these canyons they are not yet mature enough to climb out, mothers then leave groups of kids unattended in the nursery. The kids are protected from predators by the steep terrain and are visited by their mothers often for feeding until they are mature enough to climb out of the cliffs.

•    Nubian ibex is an endangered species with an EN C2a classification (EN; endangered, C2a; population estimate is less than 2,500 adults and an overall declining population trend) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

l•    Children’s book featuring this animal: Buster Tells It All by Carolyn Berry


Tomsen, J. 2007. "Capra nubiana" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 04, 2014 at