chamois (shămˈē) [key], hollow-horned, hoofed mammal, Rupicapra rupicapra, found in the mountains of Europe and the E Mediterranean. It is about the size of a large goat and is light brown with a black tail, a black back stripe, and black markings on its face. In winter its coat is darker. Its uniquely shaped horns are erect, with terminal hooks pointed backward. The hooves can cling to rocky surfaces because of their elasticity, and the animal is able to leap with agility. It ranges to the snow line in summer, but in winter stays in lower areas. In autumn the adult males, which live apart from the herds of females and young, return for mating. The young are born in spring. The skin was the original chamois leather, but the name is now applied also to leather made from the skins of other animals. The chamois has been introduced into New Zealand. Chamois are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Bovidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.