(Boselaphus tragocamelus)




Facts about this animal

Nilgai are the largest of the Indian antelopes. Adult bulls have a head-body length of up to 210 cm, stand 130-150 cm at the shoulder and weigh 200-240 kilograms, occasionally more. Cows are smaller and weigh 150-200 kilograms. The rump is lower than the withers. The tail is relatively long, measuring between 45 and 54 cm. Only the males have horns, which become only about 18-20 cm long, and are black-coloured, sharp, and bicurved. Both sexes have a mane on the neck and develop a tuft of long hair on the throat.

The hair on the body is generally thin, wiry, and somewhat oily. Adult bulls are generally blue-grey, have black legs, and some may be brown-tinged, particularly younger individualy. Cows and calves are pale brown. All have similar dark and white markings on their ears and legs. The skin is thick, particularly on the chest and neck of the bulls, where it forms a dermal shield.

Nilgais are predominantly diurnal although they will rest during part of the day. They segregate into male and female groups except during the breeding season. Bulls do not maintain a fixed territory but defend a space around themselves. Fighting occurs between dominant bulls, and serious injury or death sometimes results. Nilgai make dung piles by defecating repeatedly on the same sites.


Some breeding takes place year-round, but there is a peak from June to Ocotber, in Texas November through March. At that time breeding groups of one dominant bull and one to several cows are found. After a gestation period of 245-277 days the females give birth usually to twins, less often to a single calf, which weigh about 7 kilograms at birth.

Nilgais graze and browse feeding on the leaves and fruit of jujube Zizyphus mauritiana and other trees. They do not drink regularly.

Did you know?
that the nilghai is fairly abundant in India as it is considered sacred by Hindus because of resemblance to the cow, and that the species has been introduced to the US for hunting purposes where now a feral population of 37'000 animals is established on Texas ranches?


Name (Scientific) Boselaphus tragocamelus
Name (English) Nilgai
Name (French) Antilope nilgaut
Name (German) Nilgau-Antilope
Name (Spanish) Nilgó, Antilope azul
Local names India: Nil, nilgai, rojh, roz, rojra, rohu
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



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Range Southern Asia: India (Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan down to Karnataka, n Not found in East India and west coast), Nepal, Pakistan. Extinct in Bangladesh.
Habitat Grassland, savannas, open forest and cultivated land.
Wild population More than 100,000 in India, rare in Paklstan, no data from Nepal (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 487 reported to ISIS (2008)

In the Zoo



How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 73 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Lisa Purcell

Why do zoos keep this animal

Nilgais are kept for educational reasons as an example of the megafauna of the Indian subcontinent – they are the largest antelope of Asia – and because of their striking sexual dimorphism. Because they are a large, attractive and diurnal species they make good ambassadors for the conservation of the Southern Asian fauna. For this purpose they are often kept in mixed exhibits with axis or other deer, blackbuck, cranes and peafowl.

Because nilgais are not threatened in the wild, many zoos have chosen to replace them by bantengs in recent years .