An Ultimate Ungulate Fact SheetReturn to Artiodactyla

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

Tragelaphus angasii



Tragelaphus angasii [Gray, 1849].  
Citation: In Angas, Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond., 1848:89 [1849].
Type locality: South Africa, Natal, Zululand, St. Lucia Bay.
The taxonomic record (above) is taken from Wilson and Reeder (1993).  The nyala is placed in the subgenus Tragelaphus [De Blainville, 1816] (Nowak, 1991).  There are no subspecies, nor are there any synonyms (Wilson and Reeder, 1993).

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

General Characteristics

Body Length: 135-195 cm / 4.5-6.5 ft.
Shoulder Height: 80-120 cm / 2.6-4 ft
Tail Length: 40-55 cm / 16-22 in.
Weight: 55-140 kg / 121-308 lb.

There is extreme sexual dimorphism, with the two sexes looking entirely different.  Both sexes have a white chevron between the eyes, and the bushy tail is white on the underside.  The short-haired, rufous-chestnut coat of females and immature males has 10 or more vertical white stripes on the sides. There are white spots on the face, throat, flanks, and thighs. There are no horns on females, and there is no mane on the neck.  The males are larger than females, and have a shaggy dark brown to charcoal grey coat, often with a bluish tinge.  The length of this coat generally obscures the torso stripes.  There are fewer and less conspicuous markings than on the female, but there is a bold erectile white dorsal crest.  The lower legs are tawny.  The  yellow-tipped horns have 1-1.5 twists, and grow 60-83 cm / 24-33 inches long.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Gestation Period: 7 months
Young per Birth: 1
Weaning: After 6 months
Sexual Maturity: Females at 11-12 months, males at 18 months [although they are not socially mature until 5 years of age].
Life span: Up to 16 years.

Breeding is most frequent in the spring and autumn, with births occurring in the following autumn and spring.  Calves are left alone after birth, lying still in the grass to avoid detection by predators.  The mother returns to her calf to nurse throughout this three week period.

Ecology and Behavior

Nyala are very shy, and are very cautious when approaching open spaces.  Most sightings of wild nyala are at water holes.  They are most active during the early morning and late afternoon, resting in thick brush during the hottest times of the day.  The alarm call is a sharp, dog-like bark.  Individual nyala home ranges average 0.65 square kilometers for males and 0.83 kilometers for females.  These individual areas overlap extensively, and there is no indication of territoriality.

Family group: Single sex and mixed troops of 2-10 individuals, old bulls solitary.
Diet: Leaves, fruits, and grasses.
Main Predators: Leopard, lion, Cape hunting dog.


Dense lowland woodlands and thickets near water in southern Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and eastern South Africa.

Countries: Botswana [introduced], Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia [introduced], South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe (IUCN, 2002).

Range Map (Compiled from Kingdon, 1997; IEA, 1998)

Conservation Status

The nyala is considered a low-risk, conservation dependent species by the IUCN (2002), and is not listed by CITES.


The nyala is the most sexually dimorphic of all the spiral-horned antelope, and was first described in 1849 by Gray.  'Nyala' (pronounced as "n'YAH-la") is the Swahili name for this antelope.

Tragos (Greek) a he-goat;.elaphos (Greek) a deer; in combination referring to an antelope.  English explorer, artist, and zoologist George Francis Angas (1822-1886) drew pictures of various animals in South Africa in 1846.

Nyala (Walther, 1990)
Nyala (Walther, 1990)

Literature Cited

Alden, P. C., R. D. Estes, D. Schlitter, and B. McBride.  1995.  National Audubon Society Field Guide to African Wildlife.  New York: Chanticleer Press.

IEA (Institute of Applied Ecology) 1998.  Tragelaphus angasii.  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

IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources).  2002.  2002 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available online at

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

Additional Resources

Anderson, J. L.  1980.  The social organization and aspects of behavior of the nyala Tragelaphus angasi.  Zeitschrift fuer Saeugetierkunde 45(2): 90-123.

Anderson, J. L.  1984.  Reproduction in the nyala (Tragelaphus angasi) (Mammalia: Ungulata).  Journal of Zoology 204(1): 129-142.

Andersn, J. L.  1985.  Condition and related mortality of nyala Tragelaphus angasi in Zululand, South Africa.  Journal of Zoology, Series A 207(3): 371-380.

Anderson, J. L.  1986.  Age determination of the nyala Tragelaphus angasi.  South African Journal of Wildlife Research 16(3): 82-90.

Grandin, T., M. B. Rooney, M. Phillips, R. C. Cambre, N. A Irlbeck, and W. Graffam.  1995.  Conditioning of nyala (Tragelaphus angasi) to blood sampling in a crate with positive reinforcement.  Zoo-Biology 14(3): 261-273.

Lobao Tello J.L.P., and  R. G. van Gelder.  1975. The natural history of nyala, Tragelaphus angasi (Mammalia, Bovidae), in Mozambique. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 155: 319-386.

Mkanda, F. X.  1996.  Potential impacts of future climate change on nyala Tragelaphus angasi in Lengwe National Park, Malawi.  Climate Research 6(2): 157-164.

Mkanda, F. X., and S. M. Munthali.  1991.  Causes of mortality of nyala Tragelaphus angasi Gray in Lengwe National Park, Malawi.  African Journal of Ecology 29(1): 28-36.

Porter, W.  1989.  Nyala (Tragelaphus angasii).  Redwing 1989: 22-27.

Pospisil, J., F. Kase, J. Vahala, and I Mouchova.  1984.  Basic hematological vales in antelopes 2. The Hippotraginae and the Tragelaphinae.  Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology A 78(4): 799-808.

Van Rooyen, A. F.  1992.  Diets of impala and nyala in two game reserves in Natal, South Africa.  South African Journal of Wildlife Research 22(4): 98-101.

Van Rooyen, A. F.  1993.  Variation in body condition of impala and nyala in relation to social status and reproduction.  South African Journal of Wildlife Research 23(2): 36-38.

Volf, J.  1991.  Antilope nyala (genus Tragelaphus) and its breeding in the Prague Zoo.  Ziva 39(4): 185-187.

Wallace, C.  1980.  Chromosome studies in a male nyala Tragelaphus angasi.  Genetica Dordrecht 54(1): 101-104.

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