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Animal Biodiversity and Conservation. Volume 44.1 (2021) Pages: 1-16

The names of southwestern European goats: is Iberian ibex the best common name for Capra pyrenaica?

García-González, R., Herrero, J., Nores, C.





The common name designated to a species is important because it connects specialists with non–experts. The matter of the correct common name is relevant to the conservation and management of conspicuous or flag species. The English name ‘Spanish ibex’ to designate Capra pyrenaica is extensive in the scientific literature, and some have defended its appropriateness. However, in our opinion, it is not the best term to designate this species. We propose that ‘Iberian wild goat’ should be used. Herein, we review the etymology, history, taxonomy and public use of the names used to designate goats (domestic and wild) in southwestern Europe during the last two millennia. Used first by Pliny the Elder, the name ‘ibex’ has been applied most often for the Alpine wild goat (C. ibex), and few authors applied this name to C. pyrenaica until the 20th century when some influential works extended its use in the scientific literature. Adult males of C. pyrenaica have lyre–shaped, and typically smooth horns that do not match the ibex morphotype, which has scimitar–shaped knotted horns. Although C. pyrenaica and C. ibex are probably phylogenetically close, their common names do not necessarily have to match. The rules of common names differ from those of scientific names. Cabra montés or cabra brava (wild goat) is the common name used by most authors in the Iberian peninsula. This name is deeply entrenched in the Iberian languages and has been used since the earliest references to the species in mediaeval times. We propose the adoption of ‘Iberian wild goat’ for legal and scientific communication and when interacting with the media.


Caprinae, Wild goat, Spanish ibex, Conservation value, Historical taxonomy, Capra ibex


García-González, R., Herrero, J., Nores, C., 2021. The names of southwestern European goats: is Iberian ibex the best common name for Capra pyrenaica?. Animal Biodiversity and Conservation, 44: 1-16, DOI:

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