from west to east, including the Cantabrian mountains, the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Apennines, the Dinarides, the Tatra and the Carpathian Mountains, the Balkan Mountains, the Rila - Rhodope massif, Pindus, the northeastern mountains of Turkey, and the Caucasus. The chamois has also been introduced to the South Island of New Zealand. Some subspecies of chamois are strictly protected in the EU under the European Habitats Directive. In Greece, the population is presents in Pindus mountain range, Mount Olympus, the Rhodope mountains and from the North-Northwestern mountains. The English name comes from French chamois. The latter is derived from Gaulish camox (attested in Latin, 5th century), itself perhaps borrowing from some Alpine language (Raetic, Ligurian). The Gaulish form also underlies German Gemse, Gams, Gämse, Italian camoscio, Ladin ciamorz.
The usual pronunciation for the animal is UK: /ˈʃæmwɑː/ or US: /ʃæmˈwɑː/, approximating the French pronunciation [ʃaˈmwa]. However, when referring to chamois leather, and in New Zealand often for the animal itself, it is /ˈʃæmi/, and sometimes spelt "shammy" or "chamy". The plural of "chamois" is spelled the same as the singular, and it may be pronounced with the final "s" sounded. However, as with many other quarry species, the plural for the animal is often pronounced the same as the singular.
The Dutch name for the chamois is gems, and the male is called a gemsbok. In Afrikaans, the name "gemsbok" came to refer to a species of Subsaharan antelope of the genus Oryx, and this meaning of "gemsbok" has been adopted into English.
The chamois is a very small bovid. A fully grown chamois reaches a height of 70–80 cm and measures 107–137 cm (the tail is not generally visible except when mating). Males, which weigh 30–60 kg , are slightly larger than females, which weigh 25–45 kg . Both males and females have short, straightness horns which are hooked backwards near the tip, the horn of the male being thicker. In summer, the fur has a rich brown color which turns to a light grey in winter. Distinct characteristics are white contrasting marks on the sides of the head with pronounced black stripes below the eyes, a white rump and a black stripe along the back.
Female chamois and their young live in herds of up to 15 to 30 individuals; adult males tend to live solitarily for most of the year. During the rut (late November/early December in Europe, May in New Zealand), males engage in fierce battles for the attention of unmated females. An impregnated female undergoes a gestation period of 170 days, after which a single kid is usually born in May or early June - on rare occasions, twins may be born. If a mother is killed, other females in the herd may try to raise the young. The kid is weaned at six months of age and is fully grown by one year of age. However, the kids do not reach sexual maturity until they are three to four years old, although some females may mate at as early two years old. At sexual maturity, young males are forced out of their mother's herds by dominant males (who sometimes kill them), and then wander somewhat nomadically until they can establish themselves as mature breeding specimens at eight to nine years of age.
Chamois eat various types of vegetation, including highland grasses and herbs during the summer and conifers, barks and needles from trees in winter. Primarily diurnal in activity, they often rest around mid-day and may actively forage during moonlit nights.
Chamois can reach an age of 22 years in captivity, although the maximum recorded in the wild is from 15 to 17 years of age. Common causes of mortality can include avalanches, epidemics and predation. At present, humans are the main predator of Chamois. In the past, the principal predators were Eurasian lynxes, Persian leopards and gray wolves; with some predation possibly by brown bears and golden eagles.Chamois usually use speed and stealthy evasion to escape predators and can run at 50 kilometers per hour (31 mph) and can jump 2 m vertically into the air or over a distance of 6 m .