Free Essay. Japanese Macaques

Published: 2023-08-07
Free Essay. Japanese Macaques
Essay type:  Definition essays
Categories:  Animals Asia
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1836 words
16 min read

The Japanese macaques also referred to as the snow monkeys, refer to a typical form of terrestrial old-world monkey species that is native and inhabits various predetermined regions in Japan (Blyth 10). The alternative name, snow monkey, came as a result of some of the Japanese Macaques living in the areas characterized by conspicuous snow coverage on their grounds for several months annually. Japanese Macaques are unique species to live in such colder climatic conditions that are significantly inhabitable by many non-human primates. These monkeys have brown-grey fur on their bodies (Sato et al. 2168). Their faces depict a pinkish-red color and short tails. There are two subspecies of these infamous types of monkeys. Nihonzaru, a combination of the Nihon and the Saru monkey, is the most common species in Japan. This combination also plays a vital role in distinguishing Nihonzaru from other species of monkeys present in Japan. Many people in Japan are very familiar with these types of monkeys to the extent that they predominantly use the word Saru in their reference (Yakahata et al. 339). This paper seeks to provide a comprehensive anthropological analysis of Japanese macaques. The topics covered in the research include the physical description of the species, its global distribution, ecology, social organization, behavior, and a bulleted list of its significant investigations.

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Physical Description

The Japanese macaque provides the best example of a monkey with a wide range of names, including Japanese monkey, Snow monkey, and Macaque japonais (Blyth 22). The name of the monkey tends to change from one region or country to another. However, findings from comparative studies indicate that there are two different subspecies of the Japanese macaque. The first subspecies, Macaca fuscata fuscata, serves as the mainland subspecies of the Japanese macaque (Yakahata et al. 341). The second subspecies, Macaca fuscata yakui, lives exclusively on the island of Yakushima towards the Southern limit of Macaca fuscata. These subspecies are distinct from each other by their body size. However, anthropologists use a wide range of physical features to describe Japanese macaque and distinguish them from different types of monkeys, not only in Japan but across the world. For instance, the fur of the Japanese macaque varies from shades of grey or yellow-brown to an exclusively brown color (Wolfe and Noyes 698). Therefore, the colors of the fur are the most conspicuous feature used to distinguish these types of monkeys from the rest.

Japanese macaques have a pinkish face as well as a posterior with a shortened stump of a tail. According to Sato et al., the tail of a male Japanese macaque average at 3.64 inches, which is, however, longer than that of the female counterpart extends to 3.11 inches only (2169)? However, it is critical to underscore the fact that there exists a certain degree of sexual dimorphism between the male and female types of Japanese macaques. Most of male Japanese macaques weigh comparatively more than their female counterparts (Furuyama et al. 3571). Also, the male macaques have a considerably longer body length than their female colleagues. The average body length of male species is 22.44 inches, while the females are 20.58 inches (Herbst et al. 1). The average body weight of the Japanese monkey is 11.3kg and 8.4kg (Tsuji 1261). There appears to be a significant correlation between climatic conditions of a given place and the body weight of the Japanese macaques with those living in the northern colder regions weighing heavier than those inhabiting warm areas of Japan. However, female Japanese macaques tend to live longer when compared to male ones.

Suzuki-Hashido et al. found that males live for approximately 28 years, with their female colleagues surviving for about 32 years (1). Japanese monkeys' actual lifespan appears to be significantly shorter, with most wild females living for an average of 6.3 years only (Wolfe and Noyes 670). Moreover, it is critical to underscore that most of Japanese macaques are primarily quadrupedal, and many researchers tend to classify them among the semi-terrestrial species. Female Japanese monkeys spend most of their time in trees than males, which predominantly stay on the ground. Leaping is a common physical feature seen in these monkeys with limited suspension from support (Blyth 44). Most of these monkeys are brilliant swimmers and can go for distances exceeding half a kilometer in water. Such macaques’ fur is often a unique adaptation to the cold climatic conditions they inhabit. The thickness of their fur increases with a significant decrease in temperature to allow them to cope with winter temperatures that go as low as -20° C (Garcia et al. 1). Therefore, understanding such features is crucial for identifying Japanese macaques and differentiating them from other types of monkeys.


Japanese macaque remains the only northern-loving non-human private in the contemporary world. The Japanese monkey inhabits three of the four main Islands in Japan, including Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku (Yakahata et al. 343). The northernmost populations of the Japanese macaques inhabit the Shimokita Peninsula area, which is to the northern periphery of Honshu Island. Macaques also occupy a wide range of smaller islands located in Japan. The southernmost population of these monkeys inhabiting Yakushima Island is a typical subspecies of those living on the mainland. An explorative study conducted in Japan in 1989 found that the population of Japanese macaques in the country was approximately 114,431 monkeys (Furuyama et al. 3574). However, it is crucial to underscore the fact that a plethora of Japanese macaques predominantly live in a variety of habitats across the country. For example, the Japanese monkeys inhabit subtropical forests in the southern part of its range alongside the subarctic forests in a plethora of mountainous regions in the northern part of the same range (Sato et al. 2170). Moreover, macaques inhabit both warm and cold forests like the deciduous forests of central and northern Japan alongside the broadleaf woods that are evergreen to the southwest parts of the island.

However, various anthropologists reached a unanimous decision to transplant a whole group of Japanese macaques totaling to 150 individuals from Arashiyama located next to Kyoto on Honshu Island, Japan, to the areas of Laredo in Texas, United States (Hanya et al. 8). The anthropologists established the transplanted species in a typical arid bushland habitat and allowed them to grow. The total number of these species reached approximately 470 individuals in 1989 (Suzuki-Hashido et al. 5). The new habitant also serves as an observatory, enclosed, a ranch-style environment that allows the macaques to roam with limited interference from human beings. A plethora of the macaques perished in the unfamiliar habitat a few years after the transfer process. The macaques that survived had to adapt to the new environment by developing critical strategies to avoid predators, such as rattlesnakes, coyotes, and eagles alongside learning how to forage for mesquite beans, fruits, and cactus. Most of these Japanese monkeys flourished in the new habitat to reach approximately 600 individuals by 1995 (Pflüger et al. 3). However, hunters maimed and killed some of the monkeys that escaped from the ranch in 1996 (Furuyama et al. 3576). As a result, Texas’ authority developed and implemented a wide range of legal restrictions alongside raising more funds to set up a new sanctuary beside Dilley, Texas, to cater to the needs of these macaques adequately.


The ecology of Japanese macaques continues to attract attention from a wide range of researchers. According to Yakahata et al., the Japanese macaque operates as a diurnal being implying that it takes part in a plethora of activities during the day but rests at night (347). These monkeys also feed in between various activities in colder areas, ranging from autumn to early winter. The macaques have approximately two to four feeding patterns every day with limited activities. This feeding pattern changes during the spring and summer seasons with macaques have about two to three bouts of feeding in a day. Daily activities also vary in a wide range of warmer areas like the Yakushima region. The macaques spend different percentages of their day in various activities. For example, macaques are often inactive 20.9% of the day, travel for 22.8%, and feed for 23.5% (Blyth 51). Besides, 27.9% goes to social grooming, 1.2% is for self-grooming, and the remaining activities take 3.7% of the day (Tsuji 1263). Most of the macaques spend their sleep in trees and other areas, including the ground, rocks, and fallen trees. However, macaques prefer huddling together for warmth during the winter while sleeping on the floor.


Findings from comparative studies indicate that Japanese monkeys are mainly omnivorous who consume a wide range of foods in their diets (PflĂĽger et al. 8). These monkeys feed on more than 213 plant species alongside other meals, including barks of trees, insects, and soil (Wolfe and Noyes 673). Yakushima Island provides the best scenery to watch macaques feeding on various types of foods, including fungi, mature leaves, ferns, fruits, fallen seeds, and invertebrates. However, it is crucial to underscore the fact that the diet of these primates varies significantly on Yakushima by feeding on herbs during winter and fruits in the summer season. Macaques mainly feed on fruits and nuts to store adequate fat for winter when food is scarce. This feeding pattern also tends to become distinct, especially on the northern island of Kinkazan, as the macaques mainly feed on herbs, fallen seeds, fruits, and young leaves (Blyth 70). Lastly, macaques can dig up various underground plant parts, including roots and rhizomes, alongside feeding on fish and soil in case their preferred food items become scarce or unavailable.

Behaviors of Japanese Macaques’ Predators and Anti-predators

Japanese macaques depict various behaviors in the presence of their predators and anti-predators. These monkeys have a unique call referred to as gurney that allows them to sense potential predators and flee away in groups in search of safety, security, and protection (Garcia et al. 5). Girney calls also serve as a typical form of appeasement between various individuals in aggressive encounters. Also, macaques exhibit a wide range of alarm calls that serve as a signal for danger. The individuals also supported back up their colleagues in case they are in trouble (Suzuki-Hashido et al. 11). Japanese monkeys have a wide range of predators that threaten their survival, including feral dogs and the mountain hawk eagles.

Other predators include raccoon dogs, which mainly feed on infant macaques. Human beings are the leading anti-predators of these monkeys (Herbst et al. 9). As a result, Japanese macaques often approach people in unity. However, the anti-predatory nature of human beings grew gradually due to their prosperity, making most of the macaques lose their fear for them and increasing their outward presence in rural areas and urban places. Historical evidence also shows that one macaque lived in central Tokyo for several months (Blyth 110). However, human beings are often predators of these monkeys, especially when their crop-raiding and continuous interaction presents significant challenges. As a result, human beings tend to reiterate to this adverse behavior by killing macaques.

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