Spellbinding Facts About Golden Snub-nosed Monkeys

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Facts about the Golden Snub-nosed Monkey

Golden snub-nosed monkeys are endemic to the temperate forests of China. AnimalSake tells you more on this rare species of primates.

The name of the species roxellana is inspired by the supposedly snub-nosed courtesan of Suleiman the Magnificent (a 16th century Sultan of the Ottoman Empire).

The golden snub-nosed monkey is an Old World monkey belonging to the Colobinae subfamily. This monkey is indigenous to southwestern part of China, having a Chinese name as Sichuan golden hair monkey. These monkeys are named after the peculiar shape of their nose and bright golden-colored fur. Having a well-defined social organization, golden snub-nosed monkeys live in troops as big as 600 and get divided into groups of 60 to 70 during winter.

Today, biologists recognize 3 subspecies of this monkey:

  • Rhinopithecus roxellana roxellana – distributed in western Sichuan, southern Shaanxi, and southern Gansu
  • Rhinopithecus roxellana qinlingensis – found in southern Shaanxi (Qinling Mountains)
  • Rhinopithecus roxellana hubeiensis – occurs in northeastern Sichuan (Shennongjia forest region of Daba Mountain) and western Hubei

Golden snub-nosed monkey
Scientific classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Primates
Family Cercopithecidae
Genus Rhinopithecus
Species R. roxellana

The following are some interesting facts about these primates.

Range and Habitat

The golden snub-nosed monkey, that is endemic to China, is limited to the provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi, Gansu, and Hubei.

Wild golden snub-nosed monkeys are highly arboreal and spend most of their lives on trees. Inhabiting up to the elevations of around 3,000 m, these monkeys prefer temperate regions, living in deciduous-broadleaf trees and a mix of conifers (evergreen) and deciduous-broadleaf. It lives between the elevations 1,400 to 2,800 m in the mixed deciduous-broadleaf forests of the Qinling Mountains. Golden snub-nosed monkeys often keep shifting their home depending on the season, and are found in forests where the snow cover is present up to 6 months in a year.

Physical Features

Golden snub nosed monkey

The head-to-body length of this monkey is 57 – 76 cm, with a tail length of 51 – 72 cm. Average weight of males is 20 kg, while that of females is 12.5 kg. While the back of the golden snub-nosed monkey is covered with long silver hair, the upper arms, back, tail, and shoulders are blackish-gray in color. The neck, forehead, and sides of the neck are golden-colored in males.

The golden snub-nosed monkey displays prominent differences between males and females, especially the adult and sub-adult monkey. Females are usually distinguished from males by the presence of darker tones (black) on their forehead and upper parts. Infants have a light brown coat that generally looks white in sunlight.


Primarily diurnal herbivores, the diet of these monkeys varies with each season. Since lichens are present throughout the year, they largely feed on them―especially the lichens belonging to the family Usneaceae, followed by young leaves, buds, fruits or seeds, shrubs, and vines.

During the months of May – July, the golden snub-nosed monkeys’ diet is dominated by lichens and leaves, August – October by lichens, seeds, and fruits, and from November – April, lichens take almost entire portion of their diet.


Being highly social, the two main social groups that golden snub-nosed monkeys display are the multi-female one-male unit (OMU) and the all-male unit (AMU). The AMUs often contain 3 – 6 males, whereas in the OMU, it is possible in rare cases, to have more than one male as the highest-ranking monkey. In the OMU, males lead as well as follow the troop, and the OMUs travel at the middle. The total number of primates in the OMU range between 9 – 18 on an average, while in the AMU, the range is between 4 – 7.

These monkeys communicate in ventriloquial manner, that is, they have the ability to vocalize (here, in almost 18 different types) without any visible sign. Studies state that in the wild, the golden snub-nosed monkey uses 5 major calls for communication―alarm calls, warning calls, amazement calls, peaceful calls, and contacting calls. They also show aggressive interactions and friendly behavior.


Male and female golden monkey

Following a polygynous mating system, copulation takes place between September and November and is at its peak in the month of November. Generally, the female initiates the mating, and is rarely led by males. After a gestation period of 6 months, the females give birth between March and May.

In the wild, the infant monkeys are observed to stray away from mothers when they are around 23 days old, and social skills are developed after 2 to 3 months. The entire group becomes immensely protective about the offspring and can resort to violent behavior if they spot a threat.

Owing to the rapid decline of the population of the golden snub-nosed monkey, the IUCN has classified this species as Endangered. The Chinese government has now exercised stringent laws and formed protective reserves, which has led to a significant rise in the monkey’s extant population.

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