An Ultimate Ungulate Fact SheetReturn to Artiodactyla

Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
      Order: Artiodactyla
        Family: Bovidae
          Subfamily: Bovinae
            Genus: Taurotragus

Taurotragus oryx

      Common eland


Taurotragus oryx [Pallas, 1766].  
Citation: Misc. Zool., p. 9.
Type locality: South Africa, Cape of Good Hope.

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

General Characteristics

Body Length: 200-345 cm / 6.7-11.5 ft.
Shoulder Height: 130-180 cm / 4.3-6 ft.
Tail Length: 60-90 cm / 2-3 ft.
Weight: 300-1,000 kg / 660-2200 lb.

The smooth tan or fawn coat may have narrow white vertical stripes on flanks.  Males are usually darker, with a gray or bluish tinge to their coat, and have a distinctive dark 'rug' of hair on their foreheads.  There is a pendulous, black-tufted dewlap on the lower throat.  The slightly diverging horns are found in both sexes and are virtually straight, with 2 tight twists.  Horns in females are longer and thinner than in males, growing up to 68 cm / 27 inches in length.  Horns in males may grow to 65 cm / 26 inches long.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Gestation Period: 9 months.
Young per Birth: 1
Weaning: After 6 months.
Sexual Maturity: Females at 15-36 months, males at 4-5 years.
Life span: Up to 25 years.

After birth the young lie briefly in concealment before joining a creche or nursery with other infants.

Ecology and Behavior

The common eland is most active in the morning and late afternoon, lying sheltered in the heat of the day.  A very gregarious species, the common eland is always found in large herds, with no dispersion during the rainy season.  A possible explanation for this is the strong mutual attraction by calves, and a "safety-in-numbers" strategy.  Elands are remarkably fast, have have been recorded running over 70 kmph / 42 mph.  Despite their size, they exceptional jumpers, easily clearing heights of 1.5 m / 5 feet.  Home range sizes vary dramatically with respect to sex and season.  In the dry season, males used an average of 11.7 square kilometers out of their 41.1 square kilometer total range.  Female herds had a dry season range of 26.1 square kilometers, while in the wet season this expanded to 222.0 square kilometers.  There is no exclusive use of space or evidence for territoriality, but adult males within a maternal herds have a distinct social hierarchy.

Family group: Large mixed groups, usually containing 25-70 individuals, though up to 400 have been observed.
Diet: Leaves, branches, grasses.
Main Predators: Lion, Cape hunting dog, leopard, spotted hyena.


Savannas and plains in eastern and southern Africa.

Range Map (Redrawn from IEA, 1998)

Conservation Status

The common eland is classified as a low risk, conservation dependent species by the IUCN (1996).


Several attempts are currently being made to see if the domestication of the eland for milk and meat is feasible, with mixed results.  Tauros (Greek) a bull; tragos (Greek) a he-goat.  Orux (Greek) a gazelle or antelope.

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.  Spiral-horned antelopes.  In Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals.  Edited by S. P. Parker.  New York: McGraw-Hill.  Volume 5, pp. 344-359.

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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