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Takin (Budorcas spp.) Fact Sheet: Taxonomy & History

Taxonomy and Nomenclature

  • Takins have been classified in the subfamilies Antilopinae (Lydekker 1913-1916), in the Rupicaprinae (Allen 1940), and in the Caprinae (Simpson 1945)
  • Scientific names: former subspecies elevated to species-level recognition
  • Common Name: Takin; also many local names such as jin-mao-niu-jiao-ling which means "golden-hair-twisting-horn-antelope-cow" in Chinese; also golden-fleeced cow, goat antelope, and goat ox (Neas & Hoffmann 1987) (Anderson 1920)
  • Scientific Name: Budorcas from Greek bous ("ox" or "cow") and dorkas ("gazelle"); taxicolor from Latin taxus ("badger") and color ("hue") referring to badger-like coloration (Neas & Hoffmann 1987)

Evolutionary History

  • Bovids are well-known from African rocks about 16 million years old. (Carroll 1988)
    • The spread of this group probably was tied to development of savannas
  • A great diversity of the goat/antelope branch of bovids evolved in the Old World beginning around 4 million years ago. (Geist 1984)
  • Takins evolved in Asia (Neas & Hoffmann 1987)
  • Earliest known fossil member of Budorcas genus:
    • Budorcas teilhardi from about 4 to 2 million year-old rocks (Upper Pliocene) in Shaanxi Province, China. (Neas & Hoffmann 1987)
    • Named in honor of the Jesuit priest, Teilhard de Chardin, who studied and published descriptions of many Chinese fossils
  • Over time takins and their relatives came to occupy many extreme environments (hot deserts, artic tundra, alpine plateaus) as well as their evolutionary "home" in humid tropics. (Geist 1984)
  • Studies of morphology and behavior previously suggested muskox (Ovibos) were closely related to the takin (Gentry 1992)
  • DNA sequencing more recently reveals various sheep are closer relatives (Groves & Shields 1997)
    • Goats, tahrs, sheep, bharals, Barbary sheep are takin relatives. (Tree of Life Web Project 2006)
    • Sheep and takins don't necessarily share a common ancestor (Hassanin et al 1998)
    • Similarities in takin and muskox anatomy and behavior most likely due to convergent evolution.
  • Genetic variability in takins is less than for many other mammals (Li et al 2003)
    • Perhaps lack of variation due to genetic "bottlenecks" at the end of the Ice Ages
  • Hybrids have not been described.


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia (Linnaeus, 1758)

Order: *Artiodactyla (Owen, 1848) — even-toed hoofed animals; includes pigs, sheep goats, cattle, deer

Family: Bovidae (Gray, 1821) — cattle, water buffalo, bison, antelopes, goats, sheep and more

Genus: Budorcas (Hodgson, 1850)

Species: Budorcas taxicolor – Mishmi takin
Species: Budorcas bedfordi  golden takin
Species: Budorca tibetana – Sichuan takin
Species: Budorcas whitei – Bhutan takin

Sources: Groves and Leslie (2011); Castelló (2016)


*New anatomical and DNA evidence on the relationship between Artiodactyla (even-toed ungulates) and Cetacea (whales and dolphins) recently led to a merging of the two orders into a new group, Cetartiodactyla (Montgelard, 1997; reviewed in Kulemzina, 2009). As of October 2012, experts had not agreed on whether to define Cetartiodactyla as an official taxonomic order that would replace Artiodactyla and Cetacea. Some continue to list takin in the order Artiodactyla (Franklin, 2011) or use the term Cetartiodactyla without defining it as an order (IUCN, 2008).

Page Citations

Carroll (1988)
Geist (1984)
Groves & Shields (1997)
Grubb (2005)
Li et al. (2003)
Neas & Hoffmann (1987)
Simpson (1945)

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