An Ultimate Ungulate Fact SheetReturn to Artiodactyla

Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
      Order: Artiodactyla
        Family: Bovidae
          Subfamily: Antilopinae
            Genus: Gazella

Gazella dorcas

      Dorcas gazelle


Gazella dorcas [Linnaeus, 1758].  
Citation: Syst. Nat., 10th ed., 1:69.
Type locality: Lower Egypt.

Click on the pictures above for a larger view of the photographs

General Characteristics

Body Length: 90-110 cm / 3-3.6 ft.
Shoulder Height: 55-65cm  / 1.8-2.1 ft.
Tail Length: 15-20 cm / 6-8 in.
Weight: 15-20 kg / 33-44 lb.

The upper pelage is a pale beige or sandy-red in colour, while the undersides and rump are white.  There is a wide rufous stripe which runs along the lower flank between the front and rear legs, separating the white belly from the upper coat.  A similarly coloured strip occurs on the upper hind legs, creating a border for the white rump.  The head is the same beige colour as the body.  There is a white eye ring, and a pair of white and dark brown stripes running from each eye to the corners of the mouth.  The forehead and bridge of the nose are generally light reddish-tan in colour.  Old males may develop a fold of skin across the bridge of their nose.  The ridged, lyre-shaped horns are found in both sexes.  In males they are bend sharply backwards, and curve upwards at the tips, growing 25-38 cm / 10-15.2 inches long.  Those in females are much thinner and straighter, with fewer ridges and a length of 15-25 cm / 6-10 inches.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Gestation Period: Around 6 months.
Young per Birth: 1, rarely 2.
Weaning: After 2-3 months.
Sexual Maturity: Females at 9 months, males at 18 months.
Life span: Up to 12.5 years.

After birth the young lie concealed away from their mother for 2-6 weeks.

Ecology and Behavior

One of the most desert-adapted gazelles, dorcas gazelles may go their entire lives without drinking any water, obtaining all needed moisture from the plants they eat.  They can withstand very high temperatures, although during hot weather they are primarily active at dawn, dusk, and throughout the night.  Herds wander over large areas searching for food, and tend to congregate in areas where recent rainfall has stimulated plant growth.  Adult males are territorial, and establish dung middens throughout their range.   A conspicuous display is used in the formation of these fecal piles, with the male first pawing at the ground, then stretching over the scraped area to urinate, and then crouching with his anus just above the ground, at which point he deposits his dung.  The preorbital glands, although functional, are not used for marking.  The alarm call, which sounds like a duck's quack, is made through the nose, which inflates during the process in a fashion similar to Speke's gazelle, although not as prominent.

Family group: Single-sex herds with up to 40 animals, mixed herds of up to 100.
Diet: Grasses, leaves, blossoms, succulents.
Main Predators: Cheetah, lion, leopard, spotted hyena, python.


Savannas, semidesert, and true desert throughout northern Africa and western Arabia.

Range Map (Compiled from IEA, 1998)

Conservation Status

The dorcas gazelle is considered to be a low risk, near threatened species by the IUCN (1996).  G. d. pelzelni is considered to be a vulnerable subspecies.


Ghazal (Arabic) a wild goat; -ellus (Latin) diminutive suffix.  Dorkas (Greek) a gazelle.

Literature Cited

Happold, D. C. D. 1987. The Mammals of Nigeria.  Oxford: Clarendon Press.

IEA (Institute of Applied Ecology).  1998.  Gazella dorcas.  In African Mammals Databank - A Databank for the Conservation and Management of the African Mammals Vol 1 and 2. Bruxelles: European Commission Directorate. Available online at

Walther, F. R. 1990.  Gazelles and related species.  In Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals.  Edited by S. P. Parker.  New York: McGraw-Hill.  Volume 5, pp. 462-484.

Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder [editors]. 1993. Mammal Species of the World (Second Edition). Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.  Available online at

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© Brent Huffman,
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