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An Ultimate Ungulate Fact Sheet
Gazella cuvieri
Cuvier's gazelle
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Gazella cuvieri [Ogilby, 1841].
Citation: Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond., 1840:35 [1841].
Type locality: Morocco, Mogador.

The taxonomic record (above) is taken from Wilson and Reeder (1993). Cuvier's gazelle belongs to the subgenus Gazella, although some authors consider it to be either in a group by itself or allied with G. leptoceros and G. subgutturosa (subgenus Trachelocele) (see Wilson and Reeder, 1993; Groves, 2000). Cuvier's gazelle, while treated as a full species here, is sometimes listed as a subspecies of the mountain gazelle, G. gazella (see Wilson and Reeder, 1993). This gazelle is presently considered to be monotypic, although genetic differences between populations have not been studied (de Smet, 1991). Synonyms for G. cuvieri include G. cinerascens, G. corinna, and G. vera (Wilson and Reeder, 1993).

Physical Characteristics

Few measurements for Gazella cuvieri are available, in part because it is sometimes included within G. gazella. Males are slightly larger than females by weight, but linear measurements are similar between the sexes.

Reported measurements for Cuvier's gazelle (Gazella cuvieri)
Source Adult Weight Head & Body Length Shoulder Height Tail Length
Kingdon, 1997 20-35 kg
15-20 kg
95-105 cm 60-69 cm 15-20 cm
Walther, 1990
For G. gazella, including cuvieri
20-35 kg
15-20 kg
95-105 cm 60-80 cm 15-20 cm

Cuvier's gazelle is one of the darkest gazelle species, with an overall grayish-brown coat (Walther, 1990; Kingdon, 1997). A wide dark band runs along the flank, separating the brown upper parts from the white belly. The white underside extends upwards between the hind legs to include the rump, where it is separated from the upper body coloration on each side by a vertical stripe which is nearly black in color. The tail is relatively thin, and is black along its entire length, creating three dark lines down the rump when seen from behind (Walther, 1990).

The face has clear striping typical of gazelles, with a dark stripe running from the inner corner of each eye almost to the corner of the mouth (Kingdon, 1997). Medial to these dark stripes are thicker stripes which are nearly white. The most conspicuous and tell-tale facial marking is a large oval black spot which sits saddle-like across the bridge of the nose (Walther, 1990; Kingdon, 1997). The ears are long, narrow, and pale in color (Kingdon, 1997).

Both sexes of Cuvier's gazelle bear horns, although those of the females are thinner and smoother than those of males (Walther, 1990; Kingdon, 1997). Relatively straight in profile compared to other gazelles, the horns rise vertically from the forehead and diverge slightly outward and backwards (Kingdon, 1997). Heavy ridges circle the horns along most of their length (especially prominent in males), while the tips are smooth and typically curve forwards (Kingdon, 1997). Kingdon (1997) reports horn length as 25-37 cm long, the same as that given by Walther (1990) for male G. gazella (including cuvieri). Walther (1990) gives measurements of 20-30 cm for the horns of females.

Reproduction and Development

Gazella cuvieri typically breeds in early winter during which time males become territorial (Sellami and Bouredjli, 1991; Kingdon, 1997). The resulting births occur between March and May, although several authors have observed a secondary peak in births around October (Olmedo et al., 1985; Sellami and Bouredjli, 1991; Kingdon, 1997). Captive births at Almeria, Spain showed a primary birthing period in spring from late March to early April (71% of births) and a secondary peak in autumn from mid-October to mid-November (Olmedo et al., 1985). These birth peaks coincided with the times of increased rainfall in Spain, which has a similar precipitation pattern to the gazelle's native range in Morocco (Olmedo et al., 1985). Among captive females, there is a 41% chance of a second birth in the same year (Olmedo et al., 1985).

The gestation period is approximately 160 days (Olmedo et al., 1985). Prior to giving birth, an expectant mother will separate herself from conspecifics for a few days. Unusual among African gazelles, G. cuvieri has frequent twins (40.5% of births), with singlets being produced primarily by young (especially primiparous) mothers (Olmedo et al., 1985). Birth weight for singlets averages 2.995 kg; twins are smaller, weighing 2.582 kg at birth on average (Alados and Escós, 1994).

Females may breed as soon as 10 days after giving birth, resulting in an interbirth interval as short as 170 days (Olmedo et al., 1985). Youngsters begin trying solid food by one month of age, although they continue suckling during this time (Alados and Escós, 1994). Females may reach sexual maturity as early as 26 or 27 weeks, and may give birth to their first offspring at 70 weeks of age (Olmedo et al., 1985; Sellami and Bouredjli, 1991). Sellami and Bouredjli (1991) observed that wild females were generally accompanied by two young animals, which they assumed to be one from the present year and one born in the previous year, although they gave no explanation in light of frequent twinning and two breeding seasons.


Cuvier's gazelle inhabits a variety of habitats in the Atlas mountains, ranging from open oak (Quercus) forests to desert and stony plateaus from sea level up to 2,600 m above sea level (de Smet, 1991; Mallon and Cuzin, 2008). There is a preference for stony and sandy ground on hills and plateaus, likely due to inaccessibility and reduced human impact in such regions (Kingdon, 1997). Most Algerian Cuvier's gazelles live in Aleppo pine forests (Pinus halapensis),with understory oaks (Quercus ilex, Q. coccifera) and Phylleria, with herbs such as Globularia and Rosmarinus and a grass, alfa (Stipa tenacissima), in open areas and in patches of regenerating forest (de Smet, 1991). The southern part of the gazelle's range in Algeria (where the pines thin) and on high plateaus (over 1000 m elevation) in Morocco and Algeria is characterized by more open pastures of Stipa grass interspersed with scrub mosaic (de Smet, 1991; Loggers et al., 1992).

Young G. cuvieri are sometimes preyed upon by jackals, but most of the natural predators of adult Cuvier's gazelle have been extirpated and replaced by human threats (Sellami and Bouredjli, 1991). This species feeds on grasses, herbs, and shrubs, and may also eat crops in farmers fields especially in areas where wheat is traditionally grown (de Smet, 1991; Kingdon, 1997).


G. cuvieri lives in small groups which typically contain fewer than eight animals (Kingdon, 1997). Group size averages 3.71 individuals, with nearly half (44.87%) of these groups being harems with one adult male and a few adult females, accompanied by their recent youngsters (Sellami and Bouredjli, 1991; Kingdon, 1997). Mixed groups, with at least two males and two females, were observed by Sellami and Bouredjli (1991) at the beginning of the rut from July to October. During the rut, young males are forced out of their maternal herds and band together in bachelor groups; they may subsequently be joined by males evicted during fights for females. Once formed, the harems will remain together throughout the winter, breaking up as females leave to give birth. As a result of this separation, solitary males are observed primarily during April, when females give birth (Sellami and Bouredjli, 1991). Interestingly, solitary females comprised one third of observations made by Sellami and Bouredjli (1991). The Algerian population of Cuvier's gazelle studied by Sellami and Bouredjli (1991) was predominated by adult females (58.24%), while adult males (20.87%), young (15.92%), and subadults (5.05%) existed in significantly lower numbers.

This species appears to be highly variable in its movements: some animals appear to be sedentary, while others may be nomadic or migratory (Mallon and Cuzin, 2008). When territories are held by males (usually in early winter), they tend to be widely spaced and marked with dung piles in each valley in the region (de Smet, 1991; Kingdon, 1997). In areas of dense cover, these latrines have been used to detect the presence of gazelles and can be related to the density of individuals in some cases (de Smet, 1991). Walther (1990) states that Cuvier's gazelles will also mark objects using their preorbital glands. Cuvier's gazelles typically spend the days among cover in hilly terrain and descend to valleys to graze at night or in early morning (de Smet, 1991).


G. cuvieri is endemic to the Atlas Mountains of North Africa; the species is currently found only on inaccessible plateaus in Northern Algeria and Morocco (Loggers et al., 1992; Kingdon, 1997). Records from Tunisia and Western Sahara are scarce; this species may have been extirpated from Western Sahara, although a small population is believed to survive in Tunisia (Mallon and Cuzin, 2008).

Countries: Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and Western Sahara (Mallon and Cuzin, 2008).

Range Map
(Redrawn from IEA, 1998; current localities adapted from de Smet, 1991 [Algeria]
and Loggers et al., 1992 [Morocco])

Conservation Status

G. cuvieri is classified as endangered (Criteria C2a(i)) by the IUCN (Mallon and Cuzin, 2008), and is currently (2009) on CITES Appendix I. This gazelle is threatened due to a highly fragmented population, which hinders genetic migration and increases the risk of localized extinction. Accurate population censuses are difficult to perform in the forested areas within the range of Cuvier's gazelle, although de Smet (1991) estimated the Algerian population at 560, with the caveat that this may be an underestimate. Mallon and Cuzin (2008) estimate the global wild population at 1,750 to 2,950 (with a range country breakdown of Morocco: 900 to 2,000; Algeria: 560; and Tunisia: 300 to 400). Major threats to Cuvier's gazelles are overhunting (they are poached using leg snares) and habitat degradation due to overgrazing by livestock and charcoal production (Kingdon, 1997; Mallon and Cuzin, 2008).


The common name gazelle, as well as the genus name, are derived from the Arabic word ghazal, meaning a wild goat; coupled with the diminutive Latin suffix -ellus. Baron G. L. Cuvier (1769-1832) was a Professor of Natural History in France, and a famous anatomist (Gotch, 1995). Edmi (sometimes spelled idmi) is a local Arabic name (Gotch, 1995).

Edmi (Kingdon, 1997)
Gazelle de Cuvier (Mallon and Cuzin, 2008)
Echtgazelle (Kingdon, 1997)
Gacela de Cuvier (Mallon and Cuzin, 2008)
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