An Ultimate Ungulate Fact SheetReturn to Artiodactyla

Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
      Order: Artiodactyla
        Family: Bovidae
          Subfamily: Antilopinae
            Genus: Litocranius

Litocranius walleri



Litocranius walleri [Brooke, 1879].  
Citation: Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond., 1878:929, pl. 56 [1879].
Type locality: "Mainland of Africa, north of the island of Zanzibar, about lat. 30degS and long. 38degE" and therefore apparently in Kenya, but shown to be correctly "Somalia, coast near Juba River"

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

General Characteristics

Body Length: 140-160 cm / 4.6-5.3 ft.
Shoulder Height: 90-105 cm / 3-3.5 ft.
Tail Length: 25-35 cm / 10-14 in.
Weight: 30-50 kg / 66-110 lb.

The smooth coat is a reddish fawn, with the underparts and front of neck being white.  Along the back is a darker band or saddle, which reaches partly down the sides.  The neck is long and slender - only 18-26 cm / 7-10 inches in diameter - and has led to the gerenuk's name of 'giraffe-gazelle'.  The skinny body is supported by long, slender legs.  The head is wedge-shaped and is somewhat flattened.  There is a ring of white around the eye, and the ears are long and skinny.  The short tail terminates in a black tuft.  The comparatively massive horns are found only in males, and curve backwards and upwards, terminating with hooked tips.  Ridged around their circumference, these horns may grow 25-44 cm / 10-17.6 inches long.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Gestation Period: 6.5-7 months.
Young per Birth: 1
Sexual Maturity: Females at 1 year, males at 1.5 years.
Life span: 10-12 years.

Ecology and Behavior

The diurnal gerenuk requires very little water, and may not drink at all during its life.  The gerenuk is exclusively a browser.  To reach leaves on taller trees, the gerenuk stands on its hind legs, resting its forelegs on the branches of the tree to steady itself.  From this position, it plucks the tender leaves from the branches with its long upper lip and tongue.  When a gerenuk sees a strange object, it freezes and hides behind a bush, looking over the cover with the help of its long neck.  When startled, the gerenuk runs off in a crouched trot with its head held level with its body.  Population densities average about 0.6 animals per square kilometer.  Home range sizes vary from 1.5-3.5 square kilometers, with the edges overlapping.  Mature males become territorial, marking their areas with urine, feces, and glandular secretions.

Family group: Solitary or in single sex groups of up to 10 animals.
Diet: Leaves of bushes and trees, shoots, buds, fruits, and blossoms.
Main Predators: Cheetah, leopard, lion, Cape hunting dog, hyena.


Brushy steppe and scrub in eastern Africa.

Range Map (Redrawn from IEA, 1998)

Conservation Status

The gerenuk is considered a low risk, conservation dependent species by the IUCN (1996).


Gerenuk is from garanug (Somali) a long-necked gazelle.  Lithos (Greek) stone; kranion (Greek) the upper part of the skull: "stone-skull", a reference to the skull which is almost solid bone at the base of the horns.  Rev. H. Waller (1833-1901) was a missionary in Africa and friend of the infamous Dr. Livingstone.

Literature Cited

Boitani, L., and S. Bartoli.  1982.  Simon & Schuster's Guide to Mammals.  New York: Fireside/Simon & Schuster, Inc.  Entry 409.

IEA (Institute of Applied Ecology).  1998.  Litocranius walleri.  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

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

Walther, F. R. 1990.  Gazelles and related species.  In Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals.  Edited by S. P. Parker.  New York: McGraw-Hill.  Volume 5, pp. 462-484.

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