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mountain antelope

Rebecos (Rupicapra pyrenaica parva)

Rupicapra rupicapra. Chamois live in the Alps, where restaurants in autumn or winter might offer a roast cuissot (thigh) or gigot (leg) or civet de chamois.

The isard is a Pyrenean subspecies of chamois that was almost hunted to extinction in the 1960s, but has since revived and prospered in the Pyrenees National Park, so much so that hunting has been allowed again to a limited extent.

In southwest France, the skin of the chamois or isard was tanned in codfish oil, which made it into a soft, non-abrasive and highly absorbent leather, initially used for making gloves for coachmen and to polish coaches. When cars were invented, a chamois (or ‘shammy’ as it was pronounced in the USA), naturally became the cloth of choice for polishing cars.

Today most are made of sheepskin rather than mountain antelope.


Text © Dana Facaros

Image by Juan Lacruz