Rhinolophus ferrumequinum 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Chiroptera Rhinolophidae

Scientific Name: Rhinolophus ferrumequinum
Species Authority: (Schreber, 1774)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Greater Horseshoe Bat
French Grand Rhinolophe fer à cheval
Spanish Murciélago Grande de Herradura
Taxonomic Notes: Although Thomas (1997, unpublished thesis) found very high divergence in mitochondrial DNA sequences, Csorba et al. 2003 refrained from splitting Japanese greater horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus nippon) from R. ferrumequinum. Several subspecies are identified over the range, of which two occur in the western Palaearctic: R. f. creticus (Crete) and R. f. ferrumequinum (rest of western Palaearctic range).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-04-25
Assessor(s): Piraccini, R.
Reviewer(s): Racey, P.A.
Contributor(s): Aulagnier, S., Hutson, A.M., Spitzenberger, F., Juste, J., Karataş, A., Palmeirim, J. & Paunović, M.
This species has a large range. Although there have been marked and well-documented declines in some areas, the species remains widespread, abundant, and apparently stable in other areas. Assessed as Least Concern.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species has a wide range in the Palaearctic, occurring from North Africa and southern Europe through south-west Asia, the Caucasus, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Himalayas to south-eastern China, Korea, and Japan (Csorba et al. 2003, Abe et al. 2005). It usually occurs below 800 m asl, but can be found up to 3,000 m asl in the Caucasus depending on roost availability and humidity (K. Tsytsulina pers. comm. 2005).
Countries occurrence:
Afghanistan; Albania; Algeria; Andorra; Armenia (Armenia); Austria; Azerbaijan; Bangladesh; Bhutan; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; China; Croatia; Cyprus; Czech Republic; France (Corsica); Georgia; Germany; Greece (Kriti); Hungary; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Italy (Sardegna, Sicilia); Japan; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Korea, Democratic People's Republic of; Korea, Republic of; Kyrgyzstan; Lebanon; Liechtenstein; Luxembourg; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Moldova; Monaco; Montenegro; Morocco; Nepal; Pakistan; Palestinian Territory, Occupied; Poland; Portugal; Romania; Russian Federation; San Marino; Saudi Arabia; Serbia (Serbia); Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain (Baleares); Switzerland; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Tunisia; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Ukraine; United Kingdom; Uzbekistan
Possibly extinct:
Regionally extinct:
Belgium; Gibraltar; Netherlands
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):3000
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:It is an infrequent species in most parts of its range, although in at least parts of south-west Asia and the Caucasus it is abundant and widespread (it is the most frequently reported species in Turkey: A. Karatash pers. comm. 2005), with populations in Iran and Turkey considered to be stable (A. Karatash, M. Sharifi and K. Tsytsulina pers. comm. 2005), although it may be decreasing in Russian parts of the Caucasus (S. Kruskop pers. comm. 2005). Summer colonies of c.30-200 individuals (up to 400 animals), and winter clusters of up to 500 animals are typical.

In Europe, the two most widespread Rhinolophus species, R. ferrumequinum and R. hipposideros, are of particular conservation concern and are the subject of considerable research and monitoring. R. ferrumequinum has shown marked declines in range in northwest Europe within the last 100 years (e.g. United Kingdom, Germany, Austria), and has become extinct in some countries (e.g. Belgium, Netherlands). However, there are signs of stabilization and/or recovery in some northwest European countries (Hutson et al 2001). For example, in the UK the species declined massively in the past but it is now stable at a low population level (around 5,000 individuals) (Ransome and Hutson 2000). However, in Austria declines continue, with population reductions of 70% in the last 10 years (from 100 to 30 breeding individuals: Spitzenberger 2002, F. Spitzenberger pers. comm. 2006). In other parts of Europe, trends vary and are generally less well known: in Malta the species has become extinct, in Portugal and Spain the trend is not known (although some colonies have disappeared in Spain) (Palomo and Gisbert 2002, Cabral et al. 2005) , while it is currently considered extinct in Gibraltar (S. Finlayson pers. comm. 2015); in Croatia the population is thought to be stable (N. Tvrtkovic pers. comm.), and in Romania it has been slowly increasing since 1989 due to reduced use of pesticides and a return to traditional agriculture with colonies of up to 800 individuals. In Switzerland the species is very rare (3 maternity roosts with some 200 individuals), but the population trend appears stable (H. Kraettli pers. comm. 2006).

In its north African and south Asian range the population size and trends are unknown.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:It forages in pastures, deciduous temperate woodland, Mediterranean and sub-mediterranean shrubland and woodland. Important foraging habitat and landscape features includes woodland, particularly early in the year, and permanent summer-grazed pasture, particularly late in the summer. It feeds on beetles, moths and other insects at low level in pastures and in trees up to 2 to 3 km from the roost each night (by aerial hawking or perch feeding). Summer roosts are located in warm natural and artificial underground sites, and attics in the northern part of the range. The species will use caves all year, but particularly in northern Europe it uses buildings for summer maternity colonies. Where the species occupies buildings, it requires particular features of the building itself, as well as proximity to good foraging areas and underground sites for torpor at various times of year and for winter hibernation (Hutson et al. 2001). In winter it hibernates in cold underground sites (usually large caves). The requirements for hibernation appear to be within limited confines of temperature and humidity, but vary with age, sex and condition. The mean temperatures in spring, at the end of hibernation, may influence the time of birth at the summer maternity colonies; late parturition in turn increases mortality rates of juveniles (Hutson et al. 2001). In southern parts of the range, they are active all year-round. A sedentary species, distances of 20-30 km between winter and summer roosts are typical (longest distance recorded 180 km: de Paz et al. 1986).

In South Asia, this species is found in montane forests among the mountains and valleys of the Himalaya. It is gregarious and roosts in caves, old temples, old and ruined buildings in tight clusters. It has a slow and fluttering flight and feeds on small insects, lacewings, small moths, spiders and grasshoppers. A single young is born after a gestation period of 72 days (Bates and Harrison 1997).
Generation Length (years):9

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The main threats are fragmentation and isolation of habitats, change of management regime of deciduous forests and agricultural areas, loss of insects due to pesticide use, and disturbance and loss of underground habitats and attics. In northwest Europe, habitat change is likely to have been amongst the major causes of declines, the conversion of woodland and small-field landscape to large-scale agricultural land being particularly damaging. While declines elsewhere, particularly in eastern Europe, may currently not be so marked, the loss of cultural landscapes in those countries as they move towards western-style economies may have significant effects in the near future. The use of pesticides has been a recognized threat to the insect food, particularly where these have been directed against the larvae of favoured food items, such as melolonthid beetles, larvae of noctuid moths or crane-flies. Favoured prey may be affected secondarily by pesticide use, such as the loss of dung fauna from the use of persistent anti-parasitic drugs (avermectins) on cattle. Populations in caves and other underground habitats have suffered from increased disturbance (for example by tourist visits to caves). In buildings, colonies may be affected by human intolerance, renovation work or the application of pesticides, such as some of those used for the remedial treatment of timbers (Hutson et al. 2001).

In South Asia, this species is threatened by deforestation, generally resulting from logging operations and the conversion of land for agricultural and other uses. Disturbance to roosting sites is likely to be a potential threat to the populations of this species (Molur et al. 2002).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The greater horseshoe bat has been the subject of widespread conservation activity, especially in Europe. Until recently, this has concentrated on roosts in buildings and caves. Many buildings used as roosts have management agreements and many underground sites have been protected. Nevertheless, sites continue to be lost or damaged. More recently, attention has turned to identifying more precisely the food and foraging requirements. A European meeting (Germany, May 1995) discussed the status and conservation needs for the species on a pan-European scale. The Bern Convention has commissioned a Europe-wide Species Action Plan under the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (Ransome and Hutson 2000).

It is protected by national legislation in some range states. There are international legal obligations for its protection through the Bonn Convention (Eurobats) and Bern Convention in parts of its range where these apply. It is included in Annex II (and IV) of the European Union Habitats Directive, and hence requires special measures for conservation including designation of Special Areas for Conservation. There is some habitat protection through Natura 2000 (some roosts are already protected by national legislation).

There are no specific conservation measures in place for the species in North Africa or South Asia. Populations should be monitored to record changes in abundance and distribution (Molur et al. 2002).

Classifications [top]

14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.5. Artificial/Terrestrial - Urban Areas
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.2. Artificial/Terrestrial - Pastureland
7. Caves and Subterranean Habitats (non-aquatic) -> 7.2. Caves and Subterranean Habitats (non-aquatic) - Other Subterranean Habitats
7. Caves and Subterranean Habitats (non-aquatic) -> 7.1. Caves and Subterranean Habitats (non-aquatic) - Caves
4. Grassland -> 4.4. Grassland - Temperate
3. Shrubland -> 3.8. Shrubland - Mediterranean-type Shrubby Vegetation
1. Forest -> 1.4. Forest - Temperate
4. Education & awareness -> 4.3. Awareness & communications
5. Law & policy -> 5.1. Legislation -> 5.1.2. National level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.2. National level

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.3. Agro-industry farming
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

6. Human intrusions & disturbance -> 6.1. Recreational activities
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

7. Natural system modifications -> 7.3. Other ecosystem modifications
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

9. Pollution -> 9.3. Agricultural & forestry effluents -> 9.3.4. Type Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing:Past, Unlikely to Return    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
2. Conservation Planning -> 2.1. Species Action/Recovery Plan
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

Bibliography [top]

Aulagnier, S. and Thevenot, M. 1986. Catalogue des mammiferes sauvages du Maroc. Travaux de L'Institut Scientifique, Rabat, Serie Zoologie 41: 1-164.

Bates, P.J.J. and Harrison, D.L. 1997. Bats of the Indian Subcontinent. Harrison Zoological Museum, Sevenoaks, England, UK.

Botnariuc, N. and Tatole, V. (eds). 2005. Cartea Rosie a vertebratelor din România. Museul National de Istorie Naturala “Grigore antipa”.

Cabral, M.J., Almeida, J., Almeida, P.R., Dellinger, T., Ferrand de Almeida, N., Oliveira, M. E., Palmeirim, J.M., Queiroz, A.I., Rogado, L. and Santos-Reis, M. (eds). 2005. Livro Vermelho dos Vertebrados de Portugal. Instituto da Conservação da Natureza, Lisboa.

Csorba G. P., Ujhelyi P. and Thomas, N. 2003. Horseshoe Bats of the World. Alana Books, Shropshire, England.

de Paz, O., Fernández, R. and Benzal, J. 1986. El annilamiento de qirópteros en el centro de la Península Ibérica durante el periodo 1977-1986. Central de Ecologia 30: 113-138.

Gaisler, J. 2001. Rhinolophus ferrumequinum (Schreber, 1774) - Grosse Hufeisennase. In: F. Krapp (ed.), Handbuch der Säugetiere Europas, Band 4: Fledertiere, Teil I: Chiroptera I: Rhinolophidae, Vespertilionidae 1, pp. 15-37. AULA-Verlag, Wiebelsheim, Germany.

Hutson, A.M., Mickleburgh, S.P. and Racey, P.A. 2001. Microchiropteran Bats - Global Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Chiroptera Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, U.K.

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-2. Available at: (Accessed: 04 September 2016).

Jones, G. S., Duverge, P. L. and Ransome, R. D. 1995. Conservation biology of an endangered species: field studies of greater horseshoe bats. In: A. Racey and S. M. Swift (eds), Zoological Society of London Symposia 67: 309-323. Oxford, UK.

Kowalski, K. and Rzebik-Kowalska, B. 1991. Mammals of Algeria. Institute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals, Polish Academy of Sciences, Wroclaw, Poland.

Molur, S., Marimuthu, G., Srinivasulu, C., Mistry, S. Hutson, A. M., Bates, P. J. J., Walker, S., Padmapriya, K. and Binupriya, A. R. 2002. Status of South Asian Chiroptera: Conservation Assessment and Management Plan (C.A.M.P.) Workshop Report. Zoo Outreach Organization/CBSG-South Asia, Coimbatore, India.

Pacifici, M., Santini, L., Di Marco, M., Baisero, D., Francucci, L., Grottolo Marasini, G., Visconti, P. and Rondinini, C. 2013. Generation length for mammals. Nature Conservation 5: 87–94.

Palomo, L.J. and Gisbert, J. 2002. Atlas de los mamíferos terrestres de España. Dirección General de Conservación de la Naturaleza. SECEM-SECEMU, Madrid, Spain.

Ransome, R. D. and Hutson, A. M. 2000. Action Plan for the Conservation of the Greater Horseshoe Bat in Europe (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum). Nature and Environment. Council of Europe, Strasbourg.

Smith, A.T. and Xie, Y. 2008. A Guide to the Mammals of China. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

Spitzenberger F. 2002. Die Säugetierfauna Österreichs. Bundesministerium für Land- und Forstwirtschaft. Umwelt und Wasserwirtschaft, Band.

Thomas, N. M. 1997. A systematic review of selected Afro-Asiatic Rhinolophidae (Mammalia: Chiroptera): an evaluation of taxonomic methodologies. Ph.D. Thesis, Harrison Zoological Museum.

Citation: Piraccini, R. 2016. Rhinolophus ferrumequinum. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T19517A21973253. . Downloaded on 29 May 2017.
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