I've never really understood how mountain goats manage to survive so well in mountainous regions. I've seen them scale almost sheer cliff faces with apparent ease, and they can almost sprint vertically downwards without losing their balance.

How do they manage to do this? I can't see any discernible characteristics that would make them able to achieve this particularly well. For example, snow leopards achieve similar feats, but they have incredibly long tails and large paws to help with balance and agility, yet the skinny legs and hooves of mountain goats seem largely unfit for this purpose.

What adaptations do mountain goats have that allow them to survive in mountainous regions, and how do they work?

I'm hoping mostly for information on how they perform such feats of agility as to move around on very precarious outcroppings and such, but am also interested to hear about any other qualities that they may have to deal with the other mountain conditions (altitude/ cold etc.).

  • $\begingroup$ Pretty sure this answers it: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_goat $\endgroup$
    – Minnow
    Dec 18, 2015 at 3:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Minnow That has a good overview of which features allow it to live in the mountains, but it doesn't really go into the detail of how those adaptations work in order to allow it better chances of survival. $\endgroup$ Dec 21, 2015 at 9:25
  • $\begingroup$ Are you sure? "The mountain goat's feet are well-suited for climbing steep, rocky slopes with pitches exceeding 60°, with inner pads that provide traction and cloven hooves that can spread apart. The tips of their feet have sharp dewclaws that keep them from slipping." $\endgroup$
    – Minnow
    Dec 21, 2015 at 14:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Minnow Dogs have inner pads for traction on their feet too, as well as dewclaws, however they don't live on the sides of mountains. And it doesn't go into any detail whatsoever about how cloven hooves help them to traverse such inhospitable terrain. I'm looking for more specific answers, such as: How do they have such good balance? How can they determine which outcroppings will be stable/ large enough to stand on? Does their eyesight help them to do this, or is it learned from parents? I wanted to keep it reasonably broad, as I'm looking for any and all ways they survive on mountains. $\endgroup$ Dec 21, 2015 at 15:24
  • $\begingroup$ +1 I relent. you want to know more about mountain goat adaption! :) $\endgroup$
    – Minnow
    Dec 21, 2015 at 18:18

1 Answer 1


Mountain goats belong to the subfamily Caprinae, or goat-antelopes. The higher family is the Bovidae (cloven-hoofed mammals). Now members of Caprinae are pretty stocky in their build and have thicker fur both of which help them survive in the higher altitude. Their ability to scale/descend sheer cliffs with such agility comes down to their cloven hooves. Their hooves enable them to grasp onto the the face of the mountain in areas other animals could not as well as shift direction very quickly. Despite the fact that cloven-hooves are not unique to mountain goats or other members of Caprinae it is a trait essential for them to be able to inhabit those harsh environments.

Nubian Ibexes (also a member of subfamily Caprinae) are experts at climbing as well; one of the best Caprinae members in my opinion. Nubian Ibex baby and fox


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .