The takin is a large ungulate related to sheep and antelope which is native to the Himalayas. There are four subspecies of takin, the Bhutan takin (which is the national animal of Bhutan), the golden takin, the Mishmi takin, and the Sichuan takin.
Takin have long, shaggy fur that varies in color. They commonly have a dark stripe down their backs, and males have dark faces, as well. Their coloration can range from dark brown to reddish-brown to even a creamy yellow. This last may have been the inspiration for the story of the Golden Fleece in Greek mythology.
Although stocky and heavy, takin are somewhat short. They measure less than five feet at the shoulder and about seven feet from nose to tail. There are conflicting reports about whether male or female takin are larger. Some of the largest takin weigh up to 1,000 pounds.
The community structure of takin seems to be small family groups of 20 or so individuals, with males forming their own smaller bands. Takin frequently come together, though, where there is abundant food and salt or hot springs. Takin feed on grasses, leaves, and bamboo shoots. They sometimes stand on their hind legs to reach leaves above their heads.
In the mating season of July and August, male takin fight by butting heads to impress females. Pregnancies result in one kid most of the time. The mother seeks out a secluded and soft location to give birth. Within three days, the kid is able to follow their mother out of hiding and join the herd. Kids have darker fur than adults, which makes it easier for them to hide from predators.
Takin are usually quiet animals but they do have a variety of vocalizations. If a kid is separated from their mother, the kid has a call that sounds like a lion cub. The mother responds with a guttural call back and the kid comes running to her. To assert dominance, takin make a deep “whup” sound. To warn of danger, takin make a call that sounds like a cough.
The takin is a protected animal in China, Bhutan, and India, and hunting them is illegal. However, poachers and habitat loss still have a big impact on takin populations. Conversion of their land for farming and the melting of glaciers due to climate change are both big threats to takin. They are categorized as Vulnerable. Breeding programs around the world are helping to increase the wild population size and save them from extinction.
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