Scimitar-horned oryx, Sahara oryx
Once numerous around the Sahara desert, this pale horse-like antelope with a reddish chest and curved horns was nearly hunted to extinction.
Up to 20 years.
102-127cm long, standing 119cm at the shoulder.
A horse-like antelope with a pale coat, reddish brown markings on the neck, face and chest and scimitar-shaped horns.
Formerly over most of North Africa, now restricted to Chad and Tunisia.
They are grazers.
Oryx, despite being grazing antelope, have become adapted to particularly dry areas of desert vegetation. Unlike other grazing antelopes, these desert animals live in small herds of mixed sex which don't tolerate newcomers easily. A dominance hierarchy is established within the herd by strange, posturing displays which avoid the danger of serious injury that their long, sharp horns could potentially inflict. Males and females use their horns to defend the sparse territorial resources against incomers. The herds use eyesight to keep in contact with each other. Scimitar-horned oryx are extremely gregarious and will not thrive if kept on their own. The herd size is usually around 70 animals, although in the past they would congregate in groups of 10,00 or more for migration. During the wet season they would migrate to the north of the Sahara, and then return south for the dry season.
Breeding can occur at any time, but peak in March and October. Gestation is 8-8.5 months, and a single calf is born. The mother separates from the herd to give birth, and returns with the calf hours later. Weaning occurs at 3.5 months, and sexual maturity is reached after 1.5-2 years.
This species was hunted to near extinction, but survived only on a reserve in north-central Chad. Reintroductions have been made in Tunisia. It was once one of the most numerous large animals in north Africa.
The first artiodactyls (also called the 'even-toed ungulates') were present in the Eocene forests. The horned ruminants (deer, giraffe, antelope & cattle) first appear in the Miocene, taking advantage of the opening plains. The grazing antelopes like the oryx evolved to take advantage of all the grass-dominated environments in Africa.