Chamois, Or Gems (Antilope Rupicapra, Pallas), the mountain or Alpine antelope of Europe, and the only animal of that geographical division which partakes in any degree of the character of the antelopes. It is found in the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Carpathian and Grecian mountains, the Caucasus and Taurus ranges, the heights of the Himalaya, and perhaps in other situations of similar character. The chamois is rather more than 3 ft. in length, and a little above 2 ft. in height. Its smooth black horns are about 6 in. long, rising nearly perpendicularly from the fore part of the brow, abruptly hooked backward at their extremities, and nearly parallel through their entire extent. It is beardless, but the body is covered with a short thick fleece of fine wool, to protect the animal from cold, and also with long and silky hair of a deep brown color in winter, brown fawn color in summer, and slightly mixed with gray in spring. The head is silvery yellow, the inside of the thighs and ears white, and the tail black. A small black band winds from the corner of the mouth around each eye. The kids are of a deep yellow color.
Impatient of heat, the chamois remains in the summer on the loftiest ridges, or in snowy valleys, clipping for its food the mountain herbs and the tender shoots of shrubs, and rarely drinking. It is remarkable for its agility, and for its keenness of sight and smell. It scents a man at a long distance, is at once thrown into great agitation, and flies at its utmost speed on his first appearance. It bounds from rock to rock with an admirable grace, and ascends and descends cliffs which few other animals would attempt. It is more closely allied to the prong-horn (antilope Americana) than to any other species of antelope. The structure and form of their horns are nearly similar; and the pelage of each of the two animals is peculiar, though not identical. It is, in some respects, a connecting link between the true antelopes and the goats, although far more closely allied to the former. The chamois is easily tamed, and becomes very familiar and fond of the persons who feed it. The venison is but moderately good, bearing some resemblance to that of the roebuck, but inferior in flavor and quality.
The skin is dressed into a fine light leather, in use for under garments, and for cleaning plate, glass, and the like; though but a small quantity of what is sold as chamois, or, as it is usually termed, shammy leather, is actually made from the hide of this animal. - Of all sports, the pursuit of the chamois is the most difficult and perilous.
Chamois (Antilope rupicapra).
It is also the least profitable, so rare is the beast becoming even in his most difficult and remotest haunts, so small are the chances of success, and so little the value of the game when taken.