An Ultimate Ungulate Fact SheetReturn to Artiodactyla

Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
      Order: Artiodactyla
        Family: Bovidae
          Subfamily: Hippotraginae
            Genus: Oryx

Oryx leucoryx

      Arabian oryx


Oryx lecoryx [Pallas, 1777].  
Citation: Spicil. Zool., 12:17.
Type locality: Arabia.

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

General Characteristics

Body Length: 160 cm / 5.3 ft.
Shoulder Height: 81-102 cm / 2.7-3.4 ft.
Tail Length: 45-60 cm / 1.5-2 ft.
Weight: 65-70 kg / 143-154 lb.

The coat is bright white in colour, with no colour washes as in the other oryx species.  The legs are brown to black, except for white "ankle" bands.  The face is marked with dark splotches running from the eyes down the cheeks and under the jowls, and dark triangles of hair on the forehead and down the bridge of the nose.  The fringed tail is dark brown to black on the lower half.  The long, straight, ridged horns are found in both sexes, growing 50-68 cm / 1.6-2.2 feet long. 

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Gestation Period: 8.5-9 months.
Young per Birth: 1
Weaning: After 3.5 months.
Sexual Maturity: At 1.5-2 years.
Life span: Up to 20 years.

Ecology and Behavior

Shallow depressions are excavated in the soft earth under trees and bushes, and are used to rest in during the heat of the day.  The bright white coat is extremely reflective, acting as a cooling mechanism in the parching desert.  These oryx have the amazing ability to detect rainfall, and will subsequently move in its direction to intercept the new, lush growth.  These erratic movements may span over hundreds of kilometers - one individual is known to have traveled 90 kilometers in just 18 hours.  One of the introduced herds in Oman utilizes :home range" of about 3,000 square kilometers.  This area is broken into several smaller "patches" - 100-300 square kilometers in area - each of which is used for 1-18 months before moving on.  Population density is low - about 0.035 animals per square kilometer.

Family group: Mixed herds of 2-15 individuals.
Diet: Grasses, leaves, buds.
Main Predators: Only jackals, which prey on calves, remain in native area.


Fromerly barren steppes, semi-deserts, and deserts of the Arabian peninsula.

Conservation Status

The Arabian oryx is classified as endangered by the IUCN (1996).


Hunted to the brink of extinction for their meat, hides, and exquisite horns, this oryx has been saved by captive breeding.  With the second world war, automatic rifles and high speed motor vehicles were introduced to the Arabian peninsula on a large scale, and hunting these desert dwellers reached a feverish pitch.  By 1965, fewer than 500 animals were thought to remain in existence, and the last wild individuals were believed to have be killed in 1972.  Thankfully in the 1950's, efforts to establish captive herds in Arabia were made, and in 1962, several were exported to the United States.  Along with individuals from a few European zoos, these oryx were placed in a breeding facility in the Phoenix Zoo (Arizona), where they successfully bred.  Today, over 100 Arabian oryx have been returned to the wild in Oman and Jordan, while the captive population is over 600 animals.  Orux (Greek) a gazelle or antelope.  Leukos (Greek) white.

Literature Cited

Nowak, R. M. [editor]. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World (Fifth Edition). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Walther, F. R. 1990.  Roan and Sable Antelopes.  In Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals.  Edited by S. P. Parker.  New York: McGraw-Hill.  Volume 5, pp. 437-447.

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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