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Scimitar-(Horned) Oryx
At the Taronga Zoo
At the San Diego Zoo
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Hippotraginae
Genus: Oryx
Species: O. dammah
Binomial name
Oryx dammah
Cretzschmar, 1827

The Scimitar Oryx, or Scimitar-Horned Oryx, (Oryx dammah) is a species of oryx which formerly inhabited the whole of North Africa. Today it has been classified as extinct in the wild by the IUCN [1].



The Scimitar Oryx is just over a metre (3.28 ft) at the shoulder and weighs around two hundred kilograms (440 lbs). Its coat is white with a red-brown chest and black markings on the forehead and down the length of the nose. The horns are long, thin and parallel and curve backwards (like a scimitar) and can reach a metre to a metre and a quarter (3.28 - 4.1 ft) on both sexes, male and female.


Scimitar Oryx natively inhabit steppe and desert where they eat leaves, grass and fruit. They form herds of mixed sex containing up to seventy animals. Formerly they would gather in groups of several thousand for migration. Scimitar Oryx can survive without water for many weeks, because their kidneys prevent loss of water from urination and they can modify their body temperature to avoid perspiration.


Scimitar-Horned Oryx at the Wildlife Ranch in San Antonio, TX.

Scimitar Oryx were hunted for their horns, almost to extinction. Where once they occupied the whole Sahara, they are now considered to be extinct in the wild, with no confirmed sightings in the wild for over 15 years[1]. Although there have been unconfirmed sightings in Chad and Niger, these reports have never been substantiated, despite extensive surveys that were carried out throughout Chad and Niger in 2001-2004 in an effort to detect Sahelo-Saharan antelopes[1].

A global captive breeding programme was initiated in the 1960s. In 1996, there were at least 1,250 captive animals held in zoos and parks around the world with a further 2,145 on ranches in Texas. A herd exists in a fenced nature preserve in Tunisia, and is being expanded with plans for reintroduction to the wild in that country[2].


  1. ^ a b c d IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2008). Oryx dammah. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 9 September 2009.Database entry includes justification for why this species is listed as extinct in the wild.
  2. ^ ", Reviving_a_Breed". International Herald Tribune. 2007-01-02. Retrieved 2009-06-08.  

External links



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