128            Rocky Mountain Goat

                         CAPRA AMERICANA.--BLAINVILLE.
                             [Oreamnos americanus]

                              ROCKY MOUNTAIN GOAT.
                                [Mountain Goat]

                        PLATE CXXVIII.--MALE and FEMALE.

     C. Magnitudine ovem arietem adaequans, corpore robusto, cornibus parvis
acutis lente recurvis, pilis albis, cornibus ungulisque nigris.

     Size of the domestic sheep; form of body, robust; horns, small and pointed,
slightly curved backwards.  Colour of hair, totally white.


       Phil., Ann. 1816, p. 80.
     OVIS MONTANA.  Ord, Jour. Acad. N. Sci. Phil., vol. i., part i., p. 8.
       Ann. 1817.
     MAZAMA SERICEA.  Raffinesque Smaltz, Am. Monthly Mag. 1817, p. 44.
     ROCKY MOUNTAIN SHEEP.  Jameson, Wernerian Trans., vol. iii. p. 306.
       Ann. 1821.
     CAPRA MONTANA.  Harlan, Fauna Americana, p. 253.
     CAPRA MONTANA.  Godman, Nat. Hist., vol. ii. p. 326.
     ANTELOPE LANIGERA.  Smith, Linnaean Trans., vol. xiii. p. 38, t. 4.
     CAPRA AMERICANA.  Rich., F. B. A., p. 268, plate 22.


     Form of the body and neck, robust, like that of the common Goat; nose,
nearly straight; ears, pointed, lined with long hair; the horns incline slightly
backwards, tapering gradually and not suddenly, uncinated like those of the
chamois, transversely wrinkled with slight rings for nearly half their length
from the base, and sharp pointed; towards the tip they are smooth and polished.
Tail short, and though clothed with long hair, almost concealed by the hairs
which cover the rump; legs, thick and short; secondary hoofs, flat, grooved on
the soles, and resembling those of the common Goat.
     The coat is composed of two kinds of hair, the outer and longer
considerably straighter than the wool of the sheep, but softer than that of the
common Goat; this long hair is abundant on the shoulders, back, neck, and
thighs; on the chin there is a thick tuft forming a beard like that of the
latter animal; under the long hairs of the body there is a close coat of fine
white silky wool, quite equal to that of the Cashmere Goat in fineness.


     Horns, and hoofs, black; the whole body, white.


                                           Feet.    Inches.

     Length of head and body, .  .  .  .  .  3         4
     Length of tail, .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  0         1
     Length of head, .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  0        11
     Length of horns,.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  0         5
     Diameter of horns at base,  .  .  .  .  0         1


     Standing "at gaze," on a table-rock projecting high above the valley
beyond, and with a lofty ridge of stony and precipitous mountains in the
background, we have placed one of our figures of the Rocky Mountain Goat; and
lying down, a little removed from the edge of the cliff, we have represented
     In the vast ranges of wild and desolate heights, alternating with deep
valleys and tremendous gorges, well named the Rocky mountains, over and through
which the adventurous trapper makes his way in pursuit of the rich fur of the
beaver or the hide of the bison, there are scenes which the soul must be dull
indeed not to admire.  In these majestic solitudes all is on a scale to awaken
the sublimest emotions and fill the heart with a consciousness of the infinite
Being "whose temple is all space, whose altar earth, sea, skies."
     Nothing indeed can compare with the sensations induced by a view from some
lofty peak of these great mountains, for there the imagination may wander
unfettered, may go back without a cheek through ages of time to the period when
an Almighty power upheaved the gigantic masses which lie on all sides far
beneath and around the beholder, and find no spot upon which to arrest the eye
as a place where once dwelt man!  No--we only know the Indian as a wanderer, and
we cannot say here stood the strong fortress, the busy city, or even the humble
cot.  Nature has here been undisturbed and unsubdued, and our eyes may wander
all over the scene to the most distant faint blue line on the horizon which
encircles us, and forget alike the noisy clamour of toiling cities and the sweet
and smiling quiet of the well cultivated fields, where man has made a "home" and
dwelleth in peace.  But in these regions we may find the savage grizzly bear,
the huge bison, the elegant and fleet antelope, the large-horned sheep of the
mountains, and the agile fearless climber of the steeps--the Rocky Mountain
     This snow-white and beautiful animal appears to have been first described,
from skins shown to LEWIS and CLARK, as "the Sheep," in their general
description of the beasts, birds, and plants found by the party in their
expedition.  They say, "The Sheep is found in many places, but mostly in the
timbered parts of the Rocky Mountains.  They live in greater numbers on the
chain of mountains forming the commencement of the woody country on the coast,
and passing the Columbia between the falls and the rapids.  We have only seen
the skins of these animals, which the natives dress with the wool, and the
blankets which they manufacture from the wool.  The animal from this evidence
appears to be of the size of our common sheep, of a white colour.  The wool is
fine on many parts of the body, but in length not equal to that of our domestic
sheep.  On the back, and particularly on the top of the head, this is intermixed
with a considerable portion of long straight hairs.  From the Indian account
these animals have erect pointed horns."
     The Rocky Mountain Goat wanders over the most precipitous rocks, and
springs with great activity from crag to crag, feeding on the plants, grasses,
and mosses of the mountain sides, and seldom or never descends to the luxuriant
valleys, as the Big-Horn does.  This Goat indeed resembles the wild Goat of
Europe, or the chamois, in its habits, and is very difficult to procure.  Now
and then the hunter may observe one browsing on the extreme verge of some
perpendicular rock almost directly above him, far beyond gun-shot, and entirely
out of harm's way.  At another time, after fatiguing and hazardous efforts, the
hungry marksman may reach a spot from whence his rifle will send a ball into the
unsuspecting Goat; then slowly he rises from his hands and knees, on which he
has been creeping, and the muzzle of his heavy gun is "rested" on a loose stone,
behind which he has kept his movements from being observed, and now he pulls the
fatal trigger with deadly aim.  The loud sharp crack of the rifle has hardly
rung back in his ear from the surrounding cliffs when he sees the Goat in its
expiring struggles reach the verge of the dizzy height:  a moment of suspense
and it rolls over, and swiftly falls, striking perchance here and there a
projecting point, and with the clatter of thousands of small stones set in
motion by its rapid passage down the steep slopes which incline outward near the
base of the cliff, disappears, enveloped in a cloud of dust in the deep ravine
beneath; where a day's journey would hardly bring an active man to it, for far
around must he go to accomplish a safe descent, and toilsome and dangerous must
be his progress up the gorge within whose dark recesses his game is likely to
become the food of the ever prowling wolf or the solitary raven.  Indeed cases
have been mentioned to us in which these Goats, when shot, fell on to a jutting
ledge, and there lay fifty or a hundred feet below the hunter, in full view, but
inaccessible from any point whatever.
     Notwithstanding these difficulties, as portions of the mountains are not so
precipitous, the Rocky Mountain Goat is shot and procured tolerably easily, it
is said, by some of the Indian tribes, who make various articles of clothing out
of its skin, and use its soft woolly hair for their rude fabrics.
     According to Sir JOHN RICHARDSON, this animal has been known to the members
of the Northwest and Hudson's Bay Companies from the first establishment of
their trading posts on the banks of the Columbia River and in New Caledonia, and
they have sent several specimens to Europe.  The wool being examined by a
competent judge, under the instructions of the Wernerian Society of Edinburgh,
was reported to be of great fineness and fully an inch and a half long.  "It is
unlike the fleece of the common sheep, which contains a variety of different
kinds of wool suitable to the fabrication of articles very dissimilar in their
nature, and requires much care to distribute them in their proper order.  The
fleece under consideration is wholly fine.  That on the fore part of the skin
has all the apparent qualities of wool.  On the back part it very much resembles
cotton.  The whole fleece is much mixed with hairs, and on those parts where the
hairs are long and pendant, there is almost no wool."
     "Mr. DRUMMOND saw no Goats on the eastern declivity of the mountains, near
the sources of the Elk river, where the sheep are numerous, but he learned from
the Indians that they frequent the steepest precipices, and are much more
difficult to procure than the sheep.  Their manners are said to greatly resemble
those of the domestic Goat.  The exact limits of the range of this animal have
not been ascertained, but it probably extends from the fortieth to the
sixty-fourth or sixty-fifth degree of latitude.  It is common on the elevated
part of the Rocky Mountain range that gives origin to four great tributaries to
as many different seas, viz. the Mackenzie, the Columbia, the Nelson, and the
Missouri rivers."--F. B. A., p. 269.
     The flesh of this species is hard and dry, and is not so much relished as
that of the Big-Horn, the Elk, &c., by the hunters or travellers who have
journeyed towards the Pacific across the wild ranges of mountains inhabited by
these animals.

                           GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION.

     The Rocky Mountain Goat inhabits the most elevated portions of the
mountains from which it derives its name, where it dwells between the fortieth
and sixtieth or sixty-fourth degree of north latitude.  It is also found on the
head waters of the Mackenzie, Columbia, and Missouri rivers.  Mr. MACKENZIE
informs us that the country near the sources of the Muddy river (Maria's river
of LEWIS and CLARK), Saskatchewan, and Athabasca, is inhabited by these animals,
but they are said to be scarcer on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains
than on the western.

                                GENERAL REMARKS.

     It is believed by some naturalists that Fathers PICCOLO and DE SALVATIERRA
discovered this animal on the higher mountains of California.  VANCOUVER brought
home a mutilated skin which he obtained on the northwest coast of America.
LEWIS and CLARK (as we have already mentioned) obtained skins in 1804.
     In 1816 M. DE BLAINVILLE published the first scientific account of it.  Mr.
ORD in 1817 described one of the skins brought home by LEWIS and CLARK, and
Major CHARLES HAMILTON SMITH described a specimen in 1821, in the Linnaean
Transactions for that year.
     The resemblance of the animal to some of the antelopes, the chamois, the
Goat, and the sheep, caused it to be placed by these authors under several
genera.  DE BLAINVILLE first made it an antelope, then named it Rupicapra--a
subgenus of antelope to which the chamois belongs.  ORD arranged it in the genus
Ovis.  SMITH called it Antilope lanigera.  Besides these, RAFFINESQUE named it
Mazama sericea.  Dr. HARLAN and RICHARDSON were each correct, as we think, in
placing it in the genus Capra (Goat).  As in the Goat, the facial line in this
species is nearly straight, while in the sheep and antelopes it is more or less
arched.  The sheep and the antelope are beardless, and the Goat is characterized
by its beard, a conspicuous ornament in the present animal, which is moreover,
in the form of its nose, the strength and proportion of the limbs, and the
peculiarities of the hoofs, allied closer to the Goats than to any other
neighbouring genus.