Scimitar-horned oryx

Common Name: Scimitar-horned oryx

Scientific Name: Oryx dammah

The horns of the scimitar-horned oryx are the longest of all the oryx, measuring up to 150cm. This is longer than they are tall!

Their light coloured coat helps to reflect and reduce heat. This species can go for months without water by eating plants with high water content.

Scimitar-horned oryx calves are able to run as fast as adults as early as 20 days old!

Fast Facts

  • Status

    Critically Endangered

  • Size

    Head-body: 159-175 cm, shoulder height: 102-125 cm

  • Weight

    Males: 180-200 kg, females: 130 -180 kg

  • Gestation

    8 - 8.5 months

  • Young


  • Life span

    Up to 30 years

In the wild

Scimitar horned oryx change their eating habits depending on the season. If there is ground vegetation such as grass available they will graze, but they will browse on other plants that are available during the hot, dry season, including their preferred fruit, the wild melon, which gives them plenty of moisture.

Scimitar-horned oryx are aridland specialists, which means they are perfectly adapted to living along the edge of deserts. Oryx were once found in large herds across the southern and northern edges of the Sahara Desert in Africa.

When a female is close to giving birth, she will separate herself from the herd for up to a week. Births usually occur in the two month rainy season so there is plenty for the females to eat whilst they are feeding their young.  The calves are very light in colour to help them hide in vegetation for two weeks after they are born.  The young can graze and browse for themselves at around 2-10 months.

Only a few large predators inhabit the arid environment of the scimitar-horned oryx. These include spotted hyenas, African wild dogs, cheetahs, golden jackals and vultures, who would probably prey on the young and ill.

The once abundant scimitar-horned oryx (SHO) was assessed as Extinct in the Wild in 2000 and only exists today because it has been kept and bred in captivity. Hunting, fragmentation and competition with livestock caused their decline in the wild. The breeding of oryx in captivity has enabled the reintroduction of SHO in Chad, where the oryx are now beginning to breed in the wild, and to reintroductions to protected areas in Tunisia. The Tunisian reintroductions began in 1985 with 10 SHO from Marwell and Edinburgh Zoo (co-ordinated by ZSL). In 1999 and 2007 Marwell co-ordinated the release of SHO into three more protected areas within their former historic range. We now focus on factors that will affect the long term health of these populations.

As of December 2023, the scimitar-horned oryx is listed by IUCN as Critically Endangered thanks to conservation efforts.

Meet Marwell's Scimitar-horned oryx

Meet Marwell's Scimitar-horned oryx

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