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Douc langur

Conservation status:
Critically endangered (P. cinerea), Endangered (P. nemaeus), Endangered (P. nigripes)

Life span: mid-twenties
Total population: P. cinerea: 600-700
Regions: Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam
Gestation: 180-200 days
Height: 59.0 to 63.0 cm (M), 54.5 to 57.0 cm (F)
Weight: P. nemaeus: 11.0 kg (M), 8.44 kg (F)

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Suborder: Haplorrhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Superfamily: Cercopithecoidea
Family: Cercopithecidae
Subfamily: Colobinae
Genus: Pygathrix
Species: P. cinerea, P. nemaeus, P. nigripes

Other names: P. cinerea: P. cenereus, P. nemaeus cinerea, grey-shanked douc langur, gray-shanked douc langur; P. nemaeus: Rhinopithecus nemaeus, P. n. nemaeus, douc monkey, red-shanked douc langur, red-shanked douc; doek (Dutch); rhinopithèque douc (French); langur jaspeado, mono pigatrix (Spanish); kostymapa, svartbent kostymapa (Swedish); P. nigripes: P. moi, black-shanked douc langur, black-shanked douc, black-shanked douc monkey.

Groves (2001; 2005) recognizes three species of douc langurs, subsuming a former type, P. moi, under P. nigripes, and separating P. nigripes and P. nemaeus as distinct species. Formerly, P. cinerea was considered a subspecies of P. nemaeus and even then was only recently described in 1997 (Nadler 1997; Brandon-Jones et al. 2004).

Douc is Vietnamese for "monkey" (Lippold & Brockman 1974).


P. nemaeus
P. nemaeus
Photo: Christina Oliphant

The three species of douc langur are each large colobines with a tail about as long as the rest of the body and legs only a little longer than the arms (Nadler et al. 2003). The tail has a tuft of hair at the end (Stevens et al. 2008). The nose is flat and the eyes are diagonally slanted, the degree of which varies between species (Groves 2001; Nadler et al. 2003). Head and body length in P. nemaeus averages 61.0 cm (24.0 in) (M) and 54.5 cm (21.5 in) (F), in P. nigripes is 59.0 cm (23.2 in) (M) and 54.5 cm (21.5 in) (F) and in P. cinerea averages 63.0 cm (24.8 in) (M) and 57.0 cm (22.4 in) (F) (Kirkpatrick 1998; Nadler et al. 2003). Males are typically larger than females (Nadler et al. 2003). In P. nemaeus, males average 11.0 kg (24.3 lb), while females average 8.44 kg (18.6 lb) (Smith & Jungers 1997).

The three species of douc langur are distinguishable based on pelage color differences (Nadler et al. 2003). Perhaps most importantly, the three species are distinguished by the color of their shanks; P. cinereus have grey shanks (the grey-shanked douc langur), P. nemaeus have red shanks (the red-shanked douc langur) and P. nigripes have black shanks (the black-shanked douc langur) (Nadler 1997).

P. cinerea have a gray agouti body, neck, head and arms with dark gray agouti legs (Groves 2001; Nadler et al. 2003). The belly is whitish-gray or almost white and the hands and feet are black (Groves 2001; Nadler et al. 2003). The facial skin is yellow-brown, yellow-orange or light brown with a white mouth and chin with long white whiskers. The throat is white with an orange ring around the neck (Nadler 1997; Groves 2001; Nadler et al. 2003). Facial characteristics are similar in P. nemaeus, but they have a dark agouti belly and white forearms and the eyes slant a bit more than in the other two species of douc langur. The hind limbs are maroon with black fingers, toes and thighs (Groves 2001). There are long white hairs ringing the face (Lippold 1977). P. nigripes has darker, blue-gray facial skin. The eyes have yellow rings around them and slant the least within the genus (Groves 2001; Nadler et al. 2003). The body, upper arms, and head are both dark gray agouti with a dark brown agouti ventrum (Groves 2001; Nadler et al. 2003). The back of the hands are white to the elbow (Nadler et al. 2003).

There can be some variation within species in coloration. For example, in some populations of P. nigripes, individuals have been seen to possess reddish coloration on the legs, a trait more typical of P. nemaeus (Nadler 2008). Further, animals with intermediate traits may be indicative of natural hybridization as individuals have been seen with traits typical of more than one Pygathrix species (Lippold & Vu 1995).

All species have a white tail, but P. cinerea and P. nemaeus have a tassel at the end, while the P. nigripes tail is longer with a nearly absent tassel (Nadler et al. 2003). Male P. nemaeus have a pink penis and a white scrotum as do P. cinerea, while P. nigripes have a blue scrotum and red penis (Nadler et al. 2003). In P. nemaeus, both sexes have a triangle of white pelage around the base of the tail above which males, but not females, have round white spots. This feature can be used to determine the sex of individuals (Lippold 1977).

Wild douc langurs spend a majority of their time arboreally, moving through quadrupedal and brachiation locomotion; traveling single-file through established pathways (Lippold 1998; Nadler et al. 2003). P. nemaeus are not often seen on the ground, however wild P. nigripes have been seen on the ground and may spend up to 20% of their day terrestrially (Lippold 1995; 1998; Lippold & Vu 2008; Hoang et al. 2009). P. nemaeus in captivity primarily move through their environment through brachiation (46%) and quadrupedal walking and running (Nadler et al. 2003; Byron & Covert 2004). Wild P. nigripes move quadrupedally (61%), through leaping (17%), by brachiating (10%), climbing (8%) and dropping (4%) (Rawson 2006). Horizontal jumps in wild P. nemaeus are also seen, with individuals landing feet first (Lippold 1998).

In captivity, Pygathrix have lived into their mid-twenties (Weigl 2005).


Pygathrix cinerea | Pygathrix nemaeus | Pygathrix nigripes

In general, douc langurs of all species are found in eastern Indochina, east of the Mekong River; found in Vietnam (P. cinerea, P. nemaeus, P. nigripes), Laos (P. nemaeus), and Cambodia (P. nigripes) (Timmins & Duckworth 1999; review in Nadler et al. 2003). Roughly, from the north to south, the species of Pygathrix are arranged parapatrically starting with the P. nemaeus, then P. cinerea, and with P. nigripes at the southern end of the generic distribution (Nadler et al. 2003). However, the exact boundaries between all species are unclear and also confounded by the presence of possible hybrid forms and often large gaps in confirmed populations (Nadler et al. 2003). P. nemaeus are the only douc langurs found in Laos, and are found as far north as the center of the country. They range through the central and southern reaches of the country east into Vietnam and south to the Cambodian border (Timmins & Duckworth 1999; Nadler et al. 2003). In Vietnam, the northern limit of P. nemaeus is confirmed as far north as the Pu Mat National Park and south to the Kon Ka Kinh Nature Reserve, but its limits are unclear (Timmins & Duckworth 1999; Nadler et al. 2003). P. nigripes occurs as far north as the Kon Ka Kinh Nature reserve and as far south as the Cat Tien National park. P. cinerea occurs in Vietnam between the distributions other two species, and is present or probably present in the Quang Nam, Gia Lai, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, and Kon Tum Provinces (Nadler et al. 2003; Long 2004). The only species that occurs in Cambodia is P. nigripes, with confirmed sightings in the Ratanakiri province and the Mondulkiri Province (reviewed in Nadler et al. 2003).

Both P. nemaeus and P. nigripes occur sympatrically at the Kon Cha Rang Nature Reserve in the Gia Lai Province, Vietnam (Lippold 1998). Douc langurs can live sympatrically with a number of other non-human primates as well. For example, at the Cat Tien National Park in southeastern Vietnam, P. nigripes, is found with pygmy loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus), macaques (Macaca mulatta, M. fascicularis, M. arctoides), silvered langurs (Trachypithecus germaini), and yellow-cheeked crested gibbons (Nomascus gabriellae) (Polet et al. 2004).

It is estimated that there are only 600-700 P. cinerea remaining (Mittermeier et al. 2007; but see also Ha 2004).


Douc langurs are only found in forest habitats. These include old-growth and secondary broadleaf evergreen forest, montane rainforest, wet/dry forests, tropical and semi-tropical evergreen rainforest, submontane and montane evergreen forest, secondary moist forest, monsoon forests, valley forests, sclerophyll evergreen forest, semi-evergreen forest, seasonal lowland forests, and mixed semi-evergreen, mixed humid evergreen forest, and mixed deciduous forest (Lippold 1995; 1998; 1999; Timmins & Duckworth 1999; Lippold & Vu 2002; Ha 2007; Hoang et al. 2009). Douc langurs may also be able to survive in more heavily disturbed forest habitats as well (Ha Thang Long pers comm. cited in Nadler et al. 2003). There are reports of P. nigripes as well as P. nemaeus as high as 1500 meters (4921.3 feet) above sea level and as low as sea level (Eames & Robson 1993; Timmins & Duckworth 1999; Nadler et al. 2003; Ha 2007). Reports at very low altitudes are rare, however, this is nearly meaningless as much suitable habitat at lower altitudes has been cleared and douc langur rarity may be an artifact of extensive human land use and forest clearance (Timmins & Duckworth 1999).

At Phuoc Binh, a douc langur study site in south Vietnam, the average rainfall is over 200 cm (78.7 in), with average highs at 38.8°C (101.8 °F) and lows at 14.2°C (57.6 °F) (Hoang et al. 2009). Across Vietnam (a habitat of all three Pygathrix species), average temperatures range from 27°C (80.6 °F) in south Vietnam grading to an average of 21°C (69.8 °F) in the north of the country. Mountainous areas typically receive more rainfall than in the rest of the country and there are three yearly monsoon seasons (Lippold 1998).


P. nemaeus
P. nemaeus
Photo: Richard Frazier

Douc langurs are herbivorous and predominately folivorous (Nadler et al. 2003). In one study in south Vietnam, P. nigripes consumed a range of 152 species of plant, with leaves (especially young leaves) predominating in all seasons, and a lesser reliance on fruit and flowers (Hoang et al. 2009). At this study site on a year-round basis, P. nigripes consumed leaves (54.6%), fruits (19.8%), seeds (9.6%), flowers (14.6%), and other foods (1.5%). Food consumption changed somewhat between the wet and dry seasons, with more fruit eaten in the wet season than in the dry, and correspondingly fewer flowers and leaves in the wet season than in the dry season (Hoang et al. 2009). The species also drinks water while on the ground (Nadler 2008). P. nemaeus mostly eat leaves (especially newly grown), but also eat buds, flowers and fruit (Lippold 1977; Pham 1993a; Lippold 1998). Based on feeding time, P. nemaeus eat leaves (82%), fruit and seeds (14%), and flowers (4%) (Lippold 1998). Animal foods are not eaten (Lippold 1977; 1998).

Wild P. nigripes spend their days on average resting (62%), feeding (27%), traveling (6%), engaged in social behavior (3%) and in other activities (2%). There are peaks in activity, including feeding and traveling early and late in the day (Rawson 2006). Social behaviors include grooming, inter-group aggression, copulation and allomothering (Rawson 2006).

In captivity, P. nemaeus spend their day resting and sleeping (54%) and feeding (23%) (Schwitzer et al. 2002). In the wild, most of the P. nemaeus day is spent moving between food sources and eating, with time also spent sleeping, grooming, or playing (Lippold 1999).

The home range of P. nemaeus is estimated at 1.5-3.5 km² (0.6-1.4 mi²) (Pham 1993b cited in Kirkpatrick 1998).

There is some evidence that P. nemaeus sleeps in larger trees with a thick canopy (Pham et al. 2000 cited in Nadler et al. 2003). Sleeping trees are entered at dusk and are not exited until dawn (Lippold 1999). In captivity, P. nemaeus sleep huddled together (Lippold & Brockman 1974).

More than one species of douc langur may live sympatrically, as is the case at Kong Cha Rang, Vietnam, where P. nemaeus and P. nigripes are both found (Lippold 1995).

Content last modified: September 3, 2009

Written by Kurt Gron.

Cite this page as:
Gron KJ. 2009 September 3. Primate Factsheets: Douc langur (Pygathrix) Taxonomy, Morphology, & Ecology . <>. Accessed 2014 April 18.