Stump-tailed macaque

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Suborder: Haplorrhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Superfamily: Cercopithecoidea
Family: Cercopithecidae
Subfamily: Cercopithecinae
Genus: Macaca
Species: M. arctoides

Other names: bear macaque or stump-tailed macaque; chhotoleji banar (Bengali); macaque brun (French); macaca ursin (Spanish); björnmakak (Swedish)

Conservation status: please search the IUCN Red List.

Life span: 30 years
Total population: Unknown
Regions: China, India, Burma, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand
Gestation: about 6 months (177 days)
Height: 517 to 650 mm (M), 485 to 585 mm (F)
Weight: 9.9 to 10.2 kg (M), 7.5 to 9.1 kg (F)


Stump-tailed macaque sitting on ground
Macaca arctoides

Aptly named after a few distinguishing characteristics, bear macaques or stump-tailed macaques have thick, long, dark brown fur covering their bodies and short tails which measure between 3.2 and 69 mm (.12 and 2.7 in) (Fa 1989). Stump-tailed macaques have bright pink or red faces which darken to brown or nearly black as they age and are exposed to sunlight. They are covered with long, shaggy fur, but their short tails and faces are hairless and they go bald with age. Infants are born white and darken with age (Fa 1989; Rowe 1996; Groves 2001). Males are much larger than females, measuring between 517 and 650 mm (20.4 to 25.6 in) and weighing between 9.9 and 10.2 kg (21.8 and 22.5 lb). Females have an average height between 485 and 585 mm (19.1 and 23.0 in) and weigh between 7.5 and 9.1 kg (16.5 and 20.1 lb) (Fa 1989). This sexual dimorphism extends to more than just body size; male stump-tailed macaques have elongated canine teeth compared to females, which are important for establishing dominance within social groups. All macaques, including stumptails, have pouches in their cheeks to store food for short periods of time (Rowe 1996). They travel quadrupedally and usually on the ground for they are not very agile in trees (Rowe 1996; Srivastava 1999). They are not known to swim, as do other species of macaques (Macaca) (Fooden 1990).


Macaca arctoides

Stump-tailed macaques are distributed from northeastern India and southern China into the northwestern tip of West Malaysia on the Malay Peninsula. They are also found in Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, and far eastern Bangladesh (Fooden 1990; Groves 2001). A study population was introduced to Tanaxpillo, an uninhabited island in Lake Catemaco, Veracruz, Mexico in 1974, where they range in semi-natural conditions (Brereton 1994).

There have been very few long-term studies of stump-tailed macaques in the wild and most information comes from the introduced population on Tanaxpillo or other captive settings (Srivastava 1999).


In general, stump-tailed macaques are found in subtropical and tropical broadleaf evergreen forest (Fa 1989). Found in different habitats at different elevations, they live in dense evergreen rainforests below 1500 m (4921 ft) and subtropical evergreen forest between 1800 and 2500 m (5905 and 8202 ft), depending on the amount of rainfall in the area. They depend on rainforests for food and shelter and are not found in dry forests except where they range in the Himalayan region of India (Fooden et al. 1985; Gupta 2002). They do not spend much time in secondary forests and only do so if they are bordering primary tropical forest (Fooden 1990; Srivastava 1999).

The tropical flora on Tanaxpillo consists of evergreen trees, vines, shrubs, grasses, cacti and water plants and the stump-tailed macaques coexist with iguanas, lizards, frogs, snakes, mice, birds and insects, some of which are native to Mexico (Brereton 1994).


Stump-tailed macaque
Macaca arctoides

Starting the day at dawn, stump-tailed macaques spend the early morning, until midday, traveling and feeding. They are frugivoreomnivores and a significant part of their diet is devoted to fruits. They also eat seeds, flowers, leaves, roots, freshwater crabs, frogs, birds, bird eggs, and insects (Fooden 1990; Rowe 1996; Srivastava 1999). They also raid crops prefering corn and other cultivated fruits. During the middle of the day, the group stops traveling and rests in the shade, spending time on social activities such as grooming while juveniles and adolescents play (Fooden et al. 1985). In the late afternoon foraging begins again as they travel to their sleeping site, usually large trees or cliffs. The daily range of stump-tailed macaques is between two and three kilometers (1.24 to 1.86 mi), but they do not have to travel as far during the rainy season when food is more abundant. Home range is unknown but thought to be several square kilometers (Srivastava 1999). Though they spend the majority of the day traveling on the ground, usually along the banks of rivers and streams, stump-tailed macaques also forage for fruit and leaves in trees and flee to trees when in danger (Fooden 1990).

In Mexico, stump-tailed macaques readily experiment with new foods, including native Mexican plants that would obviously not be encountered anywhere in their natural range in Asia. The Mexican stumptails hunt spiders, worms, snails, insects, frogs, lizards, birds and field mice and also search out turtle and bird eggs (Fooden 1990). Their diet is also supplemented by researchers in the form of a prefabricated pellet diet as well as assorted fruits and vegetables (Brereton 1994).

Potential predators of stump-tailed macaques include clouded leopards, leopards, dogs, and large raptors. When predatory animals are near, they respond by assuming threatening postures, shaking trees and branches, and baring their canine teeth in threat. No predation event has been recorded (Srivastava 1999; Chetry et al. 2002-2003).


Like some human males, stumptail macaques become partially bald as they age. This process of balding is similar to male-pattern baldness seen in humans because hair loss starts at the forehead and advances toward the back of the skull over time, but unlike humans, this pattern is seen in both male and female stumptails (Uno et al. 1967). Researchers have studied balding in stumptail macaques and have developed treatments for baldness, namely minoxidil, or as it is commercially marketed, Rogaine (Uno 1986). Minoxidil was originally developed as a drug to treat high blood pressure, but one of the side effects identified was excessive hair growth. Testing of the drug on stumptail macaques revealed hair regrowth and maintenance of newly regrown areas on balding scalps (Uno 1986). By first testing its efficacy and safeness on nonhuman primates, researchers were able to develop the drug for human use.

Content last modified: October 4, 2005

Written by Kristina Cawthon Lang. Reviewed by Hideo Uno.

Cite this page as:
Cawthon Lang KA. 2005 October 4. Primate Factsheets: Stump-tailed macaque (Macaca arctoides) Taxonomy, Morphology, & Ecology . <>. Accessed 2020 July 9.


Group of stump-tailed macaques
Macaca arctoides

Stump-tailed macaques live in large, multi-male/multi-female groups of five to 60 individuals (Fooden 1990; Rowe 1996; Srivastava 1999). Females remain in their natal groups while males leave before sexual maturity and immigrate into a new group to breed (Fooden 1990). Stump-tailed macaques exhibit female philopatry, and matrilineal hierarchies are enforced by both contact (slapping, hitting, and biting) and non-contact (threatening displays) aggression. Aggressive behavior between female stump-tailed macaques is not as physically dangerous as it is for other macaque species, which are more tyrannical (Butovskaya 1993). Adult males, after immigrating into a new group, also form a strict dominance hierarchy through fighting, but are characterized as egalitarian because they are quick to reconcile comapred to other macaque species. After a fight, stump-tailed macaques have ritualized reconciliation behaviors: the subordinate presents his rump to the dominant individual that acknowledges the gesture. The dominant male may embrace and kiss the subordinate, which will respond with “teeth chattering” and “lip smacking,” both signs of submission. Finally, the subordinate offers a hand to the dominant individual who will softly mouth or “mock bite” the hand. After this interaction, the bond is purportedly restored and the dominance hierarchy is reinforced (de Waal 1993; Srivastava 1999). Males are dominant over females, and the alpha male guides the groups travel and he and several males who rank directly below him in the hierarchy guard against predators while the group forages (Fooden et al. 1985; Srivastava 1999). Adult males protect infants and juveniles if they are in potential danger and interfere in female-female interactions (Srivastava 1999).

The behavior of stump-tailed macaques based on whether they live in captive or semi-free ranging colonies or in wild groups. They have been described as tractable and egalitarian in captivity but they have been reported to attack and kill humans in the wild, if provoked (Fooden 1990).


Stump-tailed macaques have low reproductive rates compared to other macaque species. Females reach sexual maturity around four years of age and have an ovarian cycle lasting 30 days. Most mating occurs in October and November in the wild, during February and March in Mexico, and is not seasonal in captivity (Brereton 1994). Females begin to produce offspring between 4.5 and five years of age and will reproduce until about 17 years of age (Fooden 1990). Males reach sexual maturity around four years of age as well, but do not reach adult size until around six years.

Mother and infant stump-tailed macaque
Macaca arctoides

Frequency of mating correlates with dominance rank among stump-tailed macaques. The highest-ranking males monopolize receptive females while the highest-ranking females are also the most likely to do the most mating (Brereton 1994). Lower-ranking male stump-tailed macaques use alternative methods to gain mating opportunities. One way they do this is by lagging behind with a reproductively active female as the group travels. When the dominant males are out of sight, the lower-ranking male mates with the female and the couple then moves to rejoin the group (Brereton 1992). Both males and females solicit mating, females by presenting their rumps to males and maintaining eye contact over one of their shoulders, and males by approaching a female, sitting next to her, and giving a “teeth chattering with grimace” display (Brereton 1994). During copulation, other members of the group harass the pair (Srivastava 1999). Gestation lasts 177 days and females give birth about every two years in the wild (Fooden 1990; Srivastava 1999).


Macaque mothers are the primary caregivers for their offspring, though all of the females in the group direct attention to infants and will approach, play with, carry, groom and protect them, especially if they are born to a high-ranking mother. By protecting a high-ranking female’s infant, a lower-ranking female may expect rewards of tolerance and reduced aggression by the high-ranking female (Estrada & Estrada 1984). High-ranking adult males also direct some attention towards and give protection to infants within the group. This may be because higher-ranking males have more chances to mate with females and because there is increased likelihood that infants in the group are their offspring, males have some interest in protecting them from danger (Bauers & Hearn 1994). Stump-tailed macaques are considered permissive mothers compared to other species, and early on they allow the infant to independently explore the surrounding environment (Maestripieri 1995). They may be this lenient because other group members are interested in infants but never treat them roughly or “kidnap” them as is seen in other macaques (e.g., M. nemestrina and M. fascicularis) (Bauers & Hearn 1994). Stump-tailed macaque infants are dependent for the first nine months of life, after which they are weaned, and become increasingly independence until adolescence, at 18 months (Srivastava 1999).


Stump-tailed macaque grimace
Macaca arctoides

Communication between stump-tailed macaques largely takes the form of vocal or gestural signals. Frequently seen gestures or postures are used to reinforce the dominance hierarchy and reconcile after aggressive interactions. “Hindquarter presentation” is the most common gesture seen among stump-tailed macaques and is displayed by subordinates to appease dominants. Other submissive signals include “bared-teeth,” “lip-smack,” “teeth-chatter,” and “present-arm,” in which one arm is put directly in front of the face of the dominant individual to be bitten (Maestripieri 1996).

Vocal communication is also important among stump-tailed macaques. The most common vocalization is the “coo” heard in a variety of contexts, but especially relevant as group members maintain contact with each other while foraging and when approaching one another to initiate friendly interactions such as grooming or huddling (Rowe 1996). “Basic grunts” are another ubiquitous signal among stump-tailed macaques; they are commonly heard between animals who are greeting one another, after aggressive interactions and when one animal is interested in another (Bauers 1989). Alpha males use a “roar” when displaying against predators or threats. Infants use “trilled-whistles” as a signal of distress to their mothers when they are out of visual contact with them or if they need to be retrieved because they cannot descend a structure that they have climbed (Bauers 1989; Maestripieri 1995).

Content last modified: October 4, 2005

Written by Kristina Cawthon Lang. Reviewed by Hideo Uno.

Cite this page as:
Cawthon Lang KA. 2005 October 4. Primate Factsheets: Stump-tailed macaque (Macaca arctoides) Behavior . <>. Accessed 2020 July 9.


For individual primate species conservation status, please search the IUCN Red List.
Also search the current scientific literature for primate conservation status (overall as well as for individual species), and visit CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

Conservation information last updated in 2005 follows, for comparison:

Stump-tailed macaque sitting on ground
Macaca arctoides

The most critically threatened populations of stumptails are found in India and Bangladesh where they have not been seen since 1990 and may have already gone extinct. In both areas, major threats include habitat destruction and hunting (Molur et al. 2003). They are also a rarity in Malaysia and neighboring Thailand; in 1991, they had not been recorded by researchers since 1976 but were reportedly seen on occasion by local people (Sharma et al. 1996).


Threat: Human-Induced Habitat Loss and Degradation

Stump-tailed macaques shy away from human settlement and are rarely found near areas of established human colonization But as human populations grow, especially in India, and colonization of primary forest begins, stumptail macaques are increasingly threatened. The practice of shifting agriculture, called jhum in India, has forced stump-tailed macaques closer to humans in addition to destroying their habitat (Srivastava 1999; Choudhury 2002). Furthermore, as individual families clear land for gardens the primary forest is fragmented and groups of stump-tailed macaques are isolated from each other. The human population growth in northeastern India has reached 500,000 annually and is putting immense pressure on natural resources in that country. In addition to land clearance for subsistence gardens, commercialized logging, harvesting bamboo for paper mills, mining and oil extraction are problematic and threaten stump-tailed macaque habitat in India (Choudhury 2002; Molur et al. 2003).

Potential Solutions

Protected areas in India afford safety to stump-tailed macaques not because of enforcement restriction of settlement in these areas, but because sheer size prohibits humans from easily reaching the areas of densest forest (Choudhury 2002). Continuing to designate protected areas, in addition to enforcing protection in areas closest to human settlement, is an important step in preserving habitat. Furthermore, education programs focusing on the effects of shifting agriculture as well as alternative opportunities for subsistence cultivation should be established (Choudhury 2002).

Threat: Harvesting (hunting/gathering)

Once humans begin to impede on their range, stump-tailed macaques become the victims of indiscriminate hunting. They are large-bodied primates and are therefore utilized as a protein source by traditional people as well as forest settlers (Srivastava 1999; Srivastava & Mohnot 2001; Choudhury 2002). The availability of semi-automatic weapons has also had an effect on the rates of stumptail macaque hunting; rather than hunting with traditional weapons such as muzzle-loading guns or snare traps, the proliferation of semi-automatics has been effective in killing more macaques in a shorter period of time (Choudhury 2002). They are also hunted because of their use in traditional medicine (Molur et al. 2003).

Potential Solutions

Stump-tailed macaques are legally protected in India, but the lack of enforcement of these laws has made them ineffective. Furthermore, surveys conducted among local people reveal that they are unaware of the legal prohibitions against collecting these and other forest animals (Choudhury 2002). One way to potentially decrease the amount of poaching is to increase education, highlighting the status of threatened species in this area.

Threat: Persecution

Stump-tailed macaques are very shy and wary of people and do not often raid crops, but when they do, they are usually quite destructive. Farmers often shoot and kill raiding macaques (Srivastava 1999; Choudhury 2002).





Content last modified: October 4, 2005

Written by Kristina Cawthon Lang. Reviewed by Hideo Uno.

Cite this page as:
Cawthon Lang KA. 2005 October 4. Primate Factsheets: Stump-tailed macaque (Macaca arctoides) Conservation . <>. Accessed 2020 July 9.

The following references were used in the writing of this factsheet. To find current references for Macaca arctoides, search PrimateLit.


Bauers KA. 1989. The role of vocal communication in the intra-group social dynamics of stumptailed macaques (Macaca arctoides). Ph.D dissertation, University of Wisconsin. 395 p.

Bauers KA, Hearn JP. 1994. Patterns of paternity in relation to male social rank in the stumptailed macaque, Macaca arctoides. Behaviour 129(3-4): 149-76.

Brereton AR. 1992. Alternative reproductive tactics in stumptail macaques (Macaca arctoides). Folia Primatol 59(4): 208-12.

Brereton AR. 1994. Copulatory behavior in a free-ranging population of stumptail macaques (Macaca arctoides) in Mexico. Primates 35(2): 113-22.

Butovskaya M. 1993. Kinship and different dominance styles in groups of three species of the genus Macaca (M. arctoides, M. mulatta, M. fascicularis). Folia Primatol 60(4): 210-24.

Chetry D, Medhi R, Bhattacharjee PC. 2002-2003. Anti-predator behavior of stumptail macaques in Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam, India. Asian Prim 8(3-4): 20-2.

Choudhury A. 2002. Status and conservation of the stump-tailed macaque Macaca arctoides in India. Prim Rep 63: 63-72.

de Waal FBM. 1993. Reconciliation among primates: a review of empirical evidence and unresolved issues. In: Mason WA, Mendoza SP, editors. Primate social conflict. Albany (NY): State Univ New York Pr. p 111-44.

Estrada A, Estrada R. 1984. Female-infant interactions among free-ranging stumptail macaques (Macaca arctoides). Primates 25(1): 48-61.

Fa JE. 1989. The genus Macaca: a review of taxonomy and evolution. Mammal Rev 19(2): 45-81.

Fooden J. 1990. The bear macaque, Macaca arctoides: a systematic review. J Hum Evol 19(6/7): 607-86.

Fooden J, Guoqiang Q, Zongren W, Yingxiang. 1985. The stumptail macaques of China. Am J Primatol 8(1): 11-30.

Groves C. 2001. Primate taxonomy. Washington DC: Smithsonian Inst Pr. 350 p.

Gupta AK. 2002. Non-human primates of India: an introduction. In: Gupta AK, editor. Vol 1(1), Non-human primates of India, ENVIS bulletin: wildlife & protected areas. Dehradun (India): Wildl Inst India. p 1-25.

Maestripieri D. 1995. Maternal responsiveness to infant distress calls in stumptail macaques. Folia Primatol 64(4): 201-6.

Maestripieri D. 1996. Social communication among captive stump-tailed macaques (Macaca arctoides). Int J Primatol 17(5): 785-802.

Molur S, Brandon-Jones D, Dittus W, Eudey A, Kumar A, Singh M, Feeroz MM, Chalise M, Priya P, Walker S, editors. 2003. Status of south Asian primates: conservation assessment and management plant (C.A.M.P.) workshop report, 2003; 2002 March 5-9; Coimbatore, India. Tamil Nadu (India): Zoo Outreach Org/Cons Breed Spec Group, South Asia. 432 p.

Rowe N. 1996. The pictorial guide to the living primates. East Hampton (NY): Pogonias Pr. 263 p.

Sharma D, Kamarudin H, Ibrahim H, Chooi OH. 1996. The fauna and flora of a semi-deciduous forest in Perlis, Peninsular Malaysia. Monograph Biol 74: 153-61.

Srivastava A. 1999. Primates of northeast India. Bikaner (India): Megadiversity Pr. 208 p.

Srivastava A, Mohnot SM. 2001. Distribution, conservation status and priorities for primates in northeast India. In: Gupta AK, editor. Vol 1(1), Non-human primates of India, ENVIS bulletin: wildlife & protected areas. Dehradun (India): Wildl Inst India. p 102-8.

Uno H. 1986. The stumptailed macaque as a model for baldness: effects of minoxidil. Int J Cosmet Sci 8(2): 63-71.

Uno H, Allegra F, Adachi K, Montagna W. 1967. Studies of common baldness of the stumptailed macaque. J Invest Derm 49(3): 288-96.

Content last modified: October 4, 2005


Macaca arctoides
Photo: Ernesto Rodriguez Luna
Macaca arctoides
Photo: Ernesto Rodriguez Luna
Macaca arctoides
Photo: Ernesto Rodriguez Luna
Macaca arctoides
Photo: Ernesto Rodriguez Luna
Macaca arctoides
Photo: Ernesto Rodriguez Luna
Macaca arctoides
Photo: Ernesto Rodriguez Luna

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