Scimitar-horned Oryx

(Oryx dammah)


Scimitar-horned Oryx IUCN EXTINCT IN THE WILD (EW)


Facts about this animal

Scimitar-horned oryx are medium sized antelopes weighing up to 150 kg with slender scimitar-shaped horns which may reach 150 cm long. Both sexes are whitish to light brown with a ruddy brown chest, croup and flanks, and brown-grey facial markings, although great individual variation can exist. The calves are light brown with a white abdomen and a black-tipped tail. Their pelage changes to adult colouration at 3 to 12 months old. Before their extinction in the wild scimitar-horned oryx formed small groups of 10-30 individuals, however during their migrations numerous herds joined together to form aggregations of hundreds if not thousands of animals.


Herds consisted of approx. 50:50 sex ratio with a distinct linear hierarchy and a dominant male controlling breeding. Scimitar-horned oryx are primarily grazers but will feed on browse and others plants when grass is not available. They can go for up to 10 months without drinking relying on water rich plants such as the wild melon Colocynthis vulgaris. Mean gestation length is 8-8.5 months with a range of 242 to 300 days. With the post-partum oestus a female oryx can easily produce one calf a year. In zoos the scimitar-horned oryx will live for 18-20 years, but no data are available for longevity in the wild.

Did you know?
that Scimitar-horned oryxes are perfectly adapted to their arid habitat? They have enlarged hooves that do not sink into the sand, pale coats that reflect sunlight and black skin and tip of the tongue that protects against sunburn. Most astonishingly, they can go for up to 10 months without drinking water, obtaining all they need from their food.


Name (Scientific) Oryx dammah
Name (English) Scimitar-horned Oryx
Name (French) Oryx algazelle, Oryx de Libye, Oryx blanc, Antilope oryx
Name (German) Säbelantilope, Nordafrikanischer Spießock
Name (Spanish) Orix algacel, Orix de Cimitarra
Local names Arabic: Wach, Berger al Ouch
CITES Status Appendix I
CMS Status Appendix I and II.



Photo Copyright by
Colin Burnett



Range Formerly throughout the Saharan fringe. Tunisia, Morocco & Senegal (in the process of being reintroduced. In 2007 the Katane Enclosure at Ferlo-North Faunal Reserve held 30 oryx).
Habitat Steppes and semi-deserts
Wild population Túnez: 130; Marruecos: 240; Senegal:18 at Guembeul and 12 at Ferlo (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 1703 registered by the International Studbook (Dec 31, 2008) in 217 institutions.

In the Zoo

Scimitar-horned Oryx


How this animal should be transported

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


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Why do zoos keep this animal

Scimitar-horned oryx are extinct in the wild and rely on ex-situ breeding and reintroduction for the continued survival of the species. They thrive in zoos and appear to adapt reasonably well when returned to their native habitat.