The Nilgiri Tahrs are stocky goats with short, coarse fur and a bristly mane. Males are larger than the females, and have a darker color when mature. Both sexes have curved horns, which are larger in the males, reaching up to 40 cm for males and 30 cm for females. Adult males weigh 80–100 kg and stand about 100 cm tall at the shoulder.
The tahrs inhabit the open montane grassland habitat of the South Western Ghats montane rain forests ecoregion. At elevations from 1200 to 2600 m (generally above 2000 m), the forests open into grasslands interspersed with pockets of stunted forests, known as sholas. These grassland habitats are surrounded by dense forests at the lower elevations. The Nilgiri Tahrs formerly ranged over these grasslands in large herds, but hunting and poaching in the nineteenth century reduced their population to as few as 100 animals by the early 20th century. Since that time their populations have increased somewhat, and presently number about 2000 individuals. Their range extends over 400 km from north to south, and Eravikulam National Park is home to the largest population. The other significant concentration is in the Nilgiri Hills, with smaller populations in the Anamalai Hills,Periyar National Park, Palni Hills and other pockets in the Western Ghats south of Eravikulam, almost to India's southern tip.