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Vervet Monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) Fact Sheet: Physical Characteristics

Physical Characteristics

Attribute Male Female
Body Weight 3.9-8.0 kg (8.6-18 lb) 3.4-5.3 kg (7.5-12 lb)
Head & Body Length 490 mm (19 in) 446 mm (18 in)
Tail Length 600-750 mm (24-30 in) 485-653 mm (19-26 in)


Body measurements summarized from Isbell and Enstam-Jaffe 2013.

General Appearance

Body Shape (from Isbell and Enstam-Jaffe 2013)

  • Medium-sized, semi-terrestrial monkey
  • Tail
    • Long
    • Darker dorsally, tipped with black

Adult Pelage/Coat (from Isbell and Enstam-Jaffe 2013)

  • Mottled back and sides
    • Light brown, grayish-brown, tawny, olive-brown, olive-green, or brownish-yellow
  • Belly and inner limbs
    • White or off-white
  • Outer limbs
    • Grayish-brown
  • Feet and hands
    • Black, more pronounced in adult males

Facial Characteristics (from Isbell and Enstam-Jaffe 2013 unless otherwise noted)

  • Face
    • Black, ringed in white
      Formed from white cheek whiskers and brow fur
  • Crown
    • Color variable, as with coat
  • Eyes
    • Black
    • Lids pinkish; sharply contrasts with the black face when the brow is retracted in aggression (Struhsaker 1967e)
  • Ears
    • Black

Infants (from Isbell and Enstam-Jaffe 2013)

  • Dark, brownish-gray at birth
    • Acquire adult color by 6 months
  • Pink face and ears darken with age

Sexual Dimorphism

Males weigh more than females (from Isbell and Enstam-Jaffe 2013 unless otherwise noted)

  • c. 30% larger

Coat color similar between sexes (from Isbell and Enstam-Jaffe 2013 unless otherwise noted)

Colors of ano-genital regions identify adult gender (from Isbell and Enstam-Jaffe 2013 unless otherwise noted)

  • Male
    • Scrotum turquoise blue; surrounded by white hairs
    • Red hair at tail base
    • Peri-anal skin and penis red
    • Perineal stripe white
  • Female
    • Perineum pink
    • Vulvar area blue
    • Lack perineal stripe


Anatomically adapted to a semi-terrestrial life (Isbell and Enstam-Jaffe 2013)

  • Terrestrial adaptations(Isbell and Enstam-Jaffe 2013)
    • Trunk length short relative to body weight
    • Humerus short relative to the femur
    • Elongate forearm relative to entire arm length
  • Arboreal adaptations(Isbell and Enstam-Jaffe 2013)
    • Heads of humerus and talus (an ankle bone) wide
    • Tibia shortened
    • Tail long

Other Characteristics

Chromosome number

  • 30 pairs of chromosomes (2n=60) (Isbell and Enstam-Jaffe 2013)

Shared Cercopithecinae traits (Butynski 2002)

  • Cheek pouches
    • Elastic buccal sacs (Kingdon and Groves 2013)
    • Enable storage of rapidly gathered food items for later processing (Kingdon and Groves 2013)
  • Lack lingual enamel on lower incisors
  • Elongate nasal bones
  • Low cranial vault
  • Elongate face
  • Mesaxonic feet, third/middle digit elongate

Sympatric species traits (Isbell and Enstam-Jaffe 2013; Mittermeier et al. 2013)

SpeciesDistribution OverlapIdentifying Male Characteristics
Chlorocebus aethiops Regions of Ethiopia Often with white moustache; hands pale
C. djamdjamensis Regions of Ethiopia White moustache; face lacks white ring
C. tantalus Regions of Uganda Lacks black on hands, feet, and tip of tail
C. cynosuros Data Lacking Face pale, pinkish

Vervet Appearance

a vervet monkey

Vervets are medium-sized, semi-terrestrial monkeys. Their backs are mottled combinations of grayish-brown, tawny, olive-brown or green, or brownish yellow. Similar Chlorocebus species typically lack the black hands, feet, and tail tip seen in C. pygerythrus.

Image credit: © Gary Simmons from FlickrSome rights reserved.

Page Citations

Butynski (2002)
Isbell and Enstam-Jaffe (2013)
Kingdon and Groves (2013)
Mittermeier et al. (2013)
Struhsaker (1967e)

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