An Ultimate Ungulate Fact SheetReturn to Artiodactyla

Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
      Order: Artiodactyla
        Family: Bovidae
          Subfamily: Cephalophinae
            Genus: Sylvicapra

Sylvicapra grimmia

      Gray duiker, Common duiker


Sylvicapra grimmia [Linnaeus, 1758].  
Citation: Syst. Nat., 10th ed., 1:70.
Type locality: South Africa, Cape Prov., Capetown.

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

General Characteristics

Body Length: 80-115 cm / 2.6-3.8 ft.
Shoulder Height: 45-60 cm / 1.5-2 ft.
Tail Length: 10-20 cm / 4-8 in.
Weight: 10-20 kg / 22-44 lb.

The coat is generally pale reddish-brown to grizzled gray, depending on the geographical location.  The undersides are whitish, while the muzzle, nose bridge, and forelegs are black.  The short tail is black on the top, contrasting sharply with the fluffy white underside.  The long, pointed ears are separated by a tuft of hair on the forehead.  Females are usually larger than males.  The sharply pointed horns are usually found only in males and grow 7-18 cm / 3-7 inches long.  The horns are more vertically oriented than in other duiker species, due to the more open habitat.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Gestation Period: 6-7 months.
Young per Birth: 1
Weaning: 2 months.
Sexual Maturity: Females at 8-10 months, males at 12 months.
Life span: Up to 14 years.

After birth, the young lie up in dense cover for a number of weeks.

Ecology and Behavior

Feeding predominantly from dusk until dawn, the gray duiker rests in favourite hiding places in scrub or grass during the day.  This small antelope has exceptional speed and stamina, and is usually able to outrun dogs that chase after it.  The home ranges of individuals of the same sex rarely overlap.  However, there is substantial common land in the ranges of individuals of the opposite sexes.  Males are territorial, marking their defended areas with preorbital secretions and attacking other males that intrude.  The favourite resting place of these males is a high spot overlooking their territory.  In favourable areas there are approximately 2 animals per square kilometer.  Juveniles make a loud bleat if caught, which brings the parents running.

Family group: Usually solitary, although pairs are occasionally sighted.
Diet: Tree and bush foliage, fruits, seeds, occasionally carrion.
Main Predators: Large predators, small cats, baboon, crocodile, python, eagle.


Sparse forests, brushy steppe, savanna, and mountainous regions throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Range Map (Redrawn from IEA, 1998)

Conservation Status

The gray duiker, as it's alternate name might suggest, is common and is not on the IUCN's 1996 Red List.


Duiker ("DIKE-er") is Africaans for "diver", due to their habit of bounding into the undergrowth when alarmed.  Silva (Latin) a wood, a forest; capra (Latin) a she-goat.  Named in honour of Dr. Hermann Nicolas Grimm, a German scientist who originally described the duiker as early as 1686, though it was named by Linnaeus in 1758.

Literature Cited

IEA (Institute of Applied Ecology) 1998.  Sylvicapra grimmia.  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

Kingdon, J. 1997. The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals.  Academic Press, London and New York: NaturalWorld.

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

Walther, F. R.  1990.  Duikers and Dwarf Antelopes.  In Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals.  Edited by S. P. Parker.  New York: McGraw-Hill.  pp. 325-343.

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

Return to Artiodactyla

© Brent Huffman,
All rights reserved.
Questions or comments? Click here