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An Ultimate Ungulate Fact Sheet
Pseudoryx nghetinhensis
Saola
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Classification
 

Kingdom:
Phylum:
Class:
Order:
Suborder:
Family:
Subfamily:
Tribe:
Genus:

Animalia
Chordata
Mammalia
Cetartiodactyla
Ruminantia
Bovidae
Bovinae
Pseudorygini
Pseudoryx

Common name:
Scientific name:
Other names:
Saola
Pseudoryx nghetinhensis
Vu Quang ox, Sao La, Vu Quang-Wildrindes, Sun Duong, Yang

Physical Characteristics

Head and body length: Approximately 150 cm
Shoulder height: 80-90 cm
Tail length: Approximately 25 cm
Adult weight: Approximately 100 kg

The short coat is an overall dark brown in color (lighter on the neck and undersides), with a narrow black stripe which runs down the spine from the shoulders to the tail. The darker legs sport two white dots just above the hoofs. The face has striking white markings, including a stripe above each eye (resembling an eyebrow) and a variable pattern of spots and stripes on the cheeks beneath the eye. The chin and lips are also white. A white band crosses the rump; this band of color continues onto the short tail, where it creates three distinct regions of color: brown at the base, a white strip, and then ending with a black tassel. The heavy neck is relatively long, and the general appearance is antelope-like. The maxillary glands, located in front of the eyes on the cheeks, are very large and well-developed. The slightly curved, black horns are found in both sexes and grow 35-50 cm long. They are round in cross-section and are usually smooth along their length.

Similar species
  • The saola is a highly distinctive species: its dark color, bright white facial markings, and long, straight horns make it very unlikely to be confused with any other species.

Reproduction and Development

Gestation period: Estimated at 33 weeks (from similarly-sized Tragelaphus antelope)
Litter size: 1
Weaning: Unknown
Sexual maturity: Unknown
Life span: At least 8-9 years (based on a single animal)

It is thought that, in Laos, the saola breeds seasonally between the end of August and the middle of November. Births tend to occur between mid-April and late June (the very end of the dry season). The timing of the wet and dry seasons is different in Vietnam, so the saola's breeding season may be different there.

Ecology and Behavior

Very few saola have been studied alive, and most of our knowledge comes from observations of a single female in a zoo. The species appears to be most active in the mornings and afternoons. The large facial gland can be opened to deposit scent on objects, which might be used in marking a territory. When threatened, they use their horns as weapons, standing (often in the middle of a stream) with the horns pointing directing at the enemy. Saola are able to groom themselves using their long tongue. The only recorded noise is a soft, short bleat.

Family group: Solitary, sometimes in pairs (usually a mother and her offspring).
Diet: Leaves
Main Predators: Probably leopard, tiger, and dhole.

Habitat and Distribution

The saola lives in broadleaf rainforests in the Annamite Mountains of The Loa People's Democratic Republic and Viet Nam. The approximate range is depicted in the map below.

Range Map
(Redrawn from Timmins et al., 2008)

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List: Critically endangered (2008)
CITES Listing: Appendix I (2009)
Threats: Hunting (both intentional for meat and in generalized wildlife snares), habitat loss and fragmentation.

The IUCN Saola Working Group estimates (as of 2009) that probably no more than a few hundred saola remain, and possibly as few as a few tens. The saola appears to be in grave danger of extinction only a couple of decades after its introduction to western science.

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