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Douc Langurs (Pygathrix spp.) Fact Sheet: Behavior & Ecology

Douc Langurs (Pygathrix spp.)

Activity Cycle

  • Diurnal
  • Arboreal; never seen on the ground in the wild.
  • In the wild, colobids spend at least 50% of the day feeding. In managed care they are offered food several times a day.
  • There is considerable play within a family group. Animals of the same age tend to play together
  • Social grooming in the wild occurs most frequently in the afternoon, before napping. Episodes last a few seconds to 1 hour
  • Sleep in elevated positions; pairs sleep together and females sleep with their offspring

Social Behavior

  • Group size is variable depending on habitat and human disturbance. Sightings range from 3-50. Solitary animals have also been observed
  • Groups are overwhelmingly multi-male and multi-female with a sex ratio of 2.5 females to each male.
  • Both male and female dispersal occurs. Females probably leave as a result of female- female aggression. Juvenile males disperse and join all-male or non-reproductive groups of both sexes.
  • Female association attributed to kinship and spatial distribution of preferred food resources. (Unripe Fruit/seeds)
  • Colobine aggression increases with group size
  • Alloparental care as with most Asian colobine species (gives mother time to forage, ensures social integration of new infants and improved parenting skills)
  • Allogrooming somewhat more frequent than solitary auto grooming. Seen frequently among females. Males invited grooming but infrequently reciprocated.


Displays / Visual signals

  • Male observed to "threaten" intruders by brachiating back and forth. May leap toward an intruder. Then quickly retreat
  • Rapid jumping from branch to branch combined with hand slapping
  • Panic diarrhea common
  • Threatening behavior toward others by males after the birth of a new born: flattening ears against the head, stretching the neck forward and making threatening growls


  • Make few vocalizations. Most are very soft.
  • Threat elicits a loud call or bark
  • Low pitched growl given as a threat to others
  • Loss of a long-time mate elicited several days of mournful howling in one male

Territorial Behavior


  • Group ranges overlap considerably
  • Ability to exploit mature foliage which is available year round may explain why colobines appear to be less aggressive than non-colobines

Other Behaviors


  • Considerable play in a family group. During first few months, infants engage in hopping, running, jumping and climbing.
  • Usually directed at social partner or animal of same age
  • To initiate play an animal throws back its head and opens its mouth

Interspecies Interactions

  • Dominance hierarchies among managed care groups
  • Female-female allogrooming
  • Intragroup relationships in wild poorly documented presumably because of poor visibility of arboreal species
  • Ethogram: available in Abbot et al. (1997-2000), Douc langur project, p. 10: Table 4


  • Quadrupedal movement though established arboreal pathways
  • Little brachiation or bipedal locomotion
  • Horizontal jumps begin like a dive, arms held above the head and legs thrust forward. Able to Land on rear feet 5-6 m away 
  • Traveling
    • Travel through the rainforest in single file.
    • Movement less organized in dense areas 

Red-shanked Douc Langur

Red-shanked douc langur

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Lippold (1977)
Lippold (1998)
Whitehead & Jolly (2000)

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