Well adapted to its desert
environment, the Arabian oryx's bright white coat
reflects sunlight, and its splayed, shovel-like
hooves provide a large surface area with which to
walk on the sandy ground. It loses excessive
body heat by sweating or by allowing its body
temperature to rise higher than of ambient air,
which allows the animal to radiate heat to the
environment. During this process, the brain is
protected from the higher temperatures by cool
blood returning from the nasal passages;
absorbing heat from warm arterial blood destined
for the brain.
The legs are brown, with white
bands on the ankles, and there are brown markings
on the face, bridge of the nose, and cheeks, as
well as a triangular patch on the forehead. Both
sexes have straight, ringed horns that can reach
over 2 feet in length, with those of the female
being thinner and longer than those of the male.
The male has a tuft of hair on its throat. The
tail of both sexes is tufted at the end and dark
brown/black on the lower half. Calves are brown
with markings on the tail and knees; they gain
their adult markings at about 6 months of age.
The Arabian oryx is about 5
feet long, stands up to 3-1/2 feet at the
shoulder, and weighs up to 155 pounds.
Once widespread on the Arabian Peninsula,
reaching north into Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Syria
and Sinai in Egypt, the last wild Arabian oryx
was shot in 1972 and the species persisted only
in captivity for a decade. The rescue of the
Arabian oryx began in early 1960s when Fauna and
Flora International had the foresight to capture
wild oryx and transfer them to Phoenix Zoo in
Arizona, and thanks to captive breeding programs
wild populations have been re-introduced into
protected areas in Israel, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
It is generally found on gravel plains, forested
savannas, and on the fringes of the desert.
Habits and Behaviors
The Arabian oryx lives in herds
of up to 30 individuals. Herds increase in
size in good conditions, but in poor conditions
the group size is usually composed of a male, a
couple of females and their young; other males
are solitary, with large territories.
The Arabian oryx can detect rainfall from a
great distance. In response to these signals the
dominant female will lead a herd in search of the
fresh pasture which will have resulted from the
rainfall. Noted as a prodigious wanderer in
search of pasture, one animal was recorded as
walking 58 miles in 18 hours.
Most activity occurs in the early morning and
late evening with groups resting in the shade
during the searing midday heat. Using their front
hooves, oryx excavate depressions in the ground,
which allows them to lie in cooler sand, and
provides some protection against the fierce
Males use their horns to defend females and
territories from other males, and this may result
in injury or death. Females also use their horns
for protection, for both themselves and their
Births can occur at any time of
the year. A single calf is born after a gestation
period of about 9 months. The calf is weaned at
about 3-1/2 months, and will reach sexual
maturity at 1-1/2 to 2 years. An Arabian oryx can
live up to 20 years in the wild.
The Arabian oryx feeds on
grasses, herbs, roots, and tubers. It can go
without direct water sources for long periods of
time by drinking dew and fog water that has
formed on the plants upon which it feeds.
genus & species Oryx leucoryx
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