The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Chamois

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CHAMOIS, shăm-wä or shăm'ĭ, a horned animal (Rupicapra tragus) classed among the goat-antelopes, and native to the mountains of middle and southern Europe from the Pyrenees to the Caucasus and Georgian Mountains, and as far east as Persia. The chamois found in the Pyrenees and in the Caucasus differ in local peculiaries from the Tyrolese, which is the race-type. This is about the size of a goat; but its neck is somewhat longer in proportion than that of the goat and is more graceful. The general color is brown; the head pale, almost yellow, with a dark marking on each cheek; the nails black. The short black horns rise straight from the forehead, and are recurved at the tip. The chamois may be found in summer, in the highest Alpine altitudes, close to, and indeed beyond, the snow-line. In winter it seeks the forests, where it is somewhat protected. In the Alps, where they have been much hunted, the herds are small. The chamois is now rare in Switzerland. The breeding season is in May and June. The chamois is famous for its agility. The creature is timid; and when feeding in flocks, one is always on the watch to announce danger by a peculiar whistling noise. Chamois-hunting as a sport is almost impossible in the Alps, as the numbers have been so reduced by continuous hunting that the remaining ones are protected by law — only a few being annually at the disposal of the hunter; but in the Carpathians and eastward the sport is not restricted. Chamois leather is valuable commercially for its softness and warmth. (See Leather). Ordinary “chamois leather,” however, is prepared from sheep-skin or goat-skin. The flesh of the chamois is esteemed a table delicacy. The horns are used for ornamental purposes, especially in making souvenirs of Alpine tourist resorts.