The Gemsbok (Oryx gazella), also known as the gemsbuck or South African oryx, is a species of African antelope that lives in the southern part of Africa, in the countries of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. 

Scientific name:

Oryx gazella


Oryx gazella










8 - 9 months

Number of puppies



20 years in the wild. Between 25 and 30 years in captivity


220 - 460 pounds


55 inches

Biology of the Gemsbok 

Its body is mostly gray with some lighter areas, although it may also have dark brown, white, and black areas. It is the largest Oryx in the entire genus, reaching nearly 50 inches in height and weighing between 440 and 550 pounds. 

Habitat of the Gemsbok 

The habitat of the Gemsbok, also known as the South African oryx, includes both dry, scrubby areas as well as arid and semi-arid areas such as dunes, savannas, and meadows. Although it prefers to live in places where it has access to water, it is able to live in arid regions with limited water access. For this reason, in order to limit the loss of water stored in its body, it avoids hot, dry weather, grazing in at dusk and at night. 

Characteristics of this antelope: its horns

The most emblematic characteristic of the Gemsbok is its spectacular horns, which are nearly 35 inches long. In males, the horns are perfectly straight and strong; they use them to defend their territory from other males.

On the other hand, females tend to have thinner, longer horns with a slight outward curve. They use them to defend themselves and their young from predators such as lions and leopards.

The Gemsbok is widely hunted in Africa for its horns. In fact, it is one of the few animals in which the trophies of females are more desirable than those of males. 

Other species in the Oryx genus

Although the gemsbok is not endangered, the rest of species in the Oryx genus are unfortunately in a more vulnerable situation than the Oryx gazella. In fact, many are found in areas of captivity in order to facilitate reproduction. Although all are found in Africa, each has different physical characteristics and varying sizes and weights.


Four species of Oryx are currently recognized:

The first, the Gemsbok (Oryx gazella), is the biggest.

The Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx) is the smallest of the four Oryx species and its current status is vulnerable.


In the case of the Scimitar oryx (Oryx dammah), its horns are more curved and it does not have the characteristic black lines on its face, as the Gemsbok does. According to the IUCN, it is extinct in the wild and is only conserved in captivity.


Lastly, the East African oryx (Oryx beisa) is very similar to the Gemsbok. However, its horns are a more intense black color. It is currently endangered.


Degree of threat


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Arid and semiarid regions.