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Temporal range: Pliocene to recent
Slender-horned gazelle (Cincinnati Zoo).jpg
Rhim gazelle
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Antilopinae
Tribe: Antilopini
Genus: Gazella
Blainville, 1816

Several, see text

A gazelle is any of many antelope species in the genus Gazella or formerly considered to belong to it. Six species are included in two genera, Eudorcas and Nanger, which were formerly considered subgenera. The genus Procapra has also been considered a subgenus of Gazella, and its members are also referred to as gazelles, though they are not dealt with in this article. Gazelles are known as swift animals. Some are able to run at bursts as high as 100 km/h (60 mph) or run at a sustained speed of 50 km/h (30 mph).[1] Gazelles are found mostly in the deserts, grasslands, and savannas of Africa; but they are also found in southwest and central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. They tend to live in herds, and eat less coarse, easily digestible plants and leaves.

Gazelles are rather small antelopes, most standing 60–110 cm (2–3.5 ft) high at the shoulder, and are generally fawn-colored.

The gazelle genera are Gazella, Eudorcas, and Nanger. The taxonomy of these genera is a confused one, and the classification of species and subspecies has been an unsettled issue. Currently, the genus Gazella is widely considered to contain about 10 species.[2] Four further species are extinct: the red gazelle, the Arabian gazelle, the Queen of Sheba's gazelle, and the Saudi gazelle. Most surviving gazelle species are considered threatened to varying degrees. Closely related to the true gazelles are the Tibetan and Mongolian gazelles (species of the genus Procapra), the blackbuck of Asia, and the African springbok.

One widely familiar gazelle is the African species Thomson's gazelle (Eudorcas thomsoni), which is around 60 to 80 cm (24 to 31 in) in height at the shoulder and is coloured brown and white with a distinguishing black stripe. The males have long, often curved, horns. Like many other prey species, Tommies and springboks (as they are familiarly called) exhibit a distinctive behaviour of stotting (running and jumping high before fleeing) when they are threatened by predators, such as cheetahs.

Etymology and name[edit]

Byzantine-era mosaic of gazelle in Caesarea, Israel

Gazelle is derived from the Arabic name غزال ġazāl.Which means gazelle.[3] The first Romance language to adopt it was Middle French, and the word entered the English language around 1600 from French.[4] The Arab people traditionally hunted the gazelle. Appreciated for its grace, it is a symbol most commonly associated in Arabic literature with female beauty.[5]


One of the traditional themes of Arabic love poetry involves comparing the gazelle with the beloved, and linguists theorize ghazal, the word for love poetry in Arabic, is related to the word for gazelle.[6] It is related that the Caliph Abd al-Malik (646–705) freed a gazelle that he had captured because of her resemblance to his beloved:

O likeness of Layla, never fear!
For I am your friend, today, O wild deer!
Then I say, after freeing her from her fetters:
You are free for the sake of Layla, for ever![6]

The theme is found in the ancient Hebrew Song of Songs. (8:14)

Come away, my beloved,
and be like a gazelle
or like a young stag
on the spice-laden mountains.


The gazelles are divided into three genera and numerous species.[7]

Genus Common and binomial names Image Range
Gazella Arabian gazelle
G. arabica
Arabian Peninsula
Cuvier's gazelle
G. cuvieri
Cuvier's Gazelle.jpg Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia
Dorcas gazelle
G. dorcas
Gazella dorcas, Israel.jpg North and saharan Africa, Sinai and Israel
Goitered gazelle
G. subgutturosa
Sand gazelle (gazella subgutturosa marica).jpg Northern Azerbaijan, eastern Georgia, part of Iran, parts of Iraq and southwestern Pakistan, southeastern Turkey, Afghanistan and the Gobi Desert
Chinkara or
Indian gazelle
G. bennettii
Chinkara Desert NP Jaisalmer.jpg Iran, Pakistan and India
Mountain gazelle
G. gazella
Gazella gazella.jpg Israel, the Golan Heights, and Turkey
Rhim gazelle
G. leptoceros
Slender-horned gazelle (Cincinnati Zoo).jpg Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya and Sudan
Speke's gazelle
G. spekei
Speke's Gazelle - Gazella spekei.jpg Horn of Africa
Neumann's gazelle
G. erlangeri
Arabian Peninsula
Saudi gazelle
G. saudiya[8][9]
Arabian Peninsula
Eudorcas Mongalla gazelle
E. albonotata
Floodplain and savanna of South Sudan
Red-fronted gazelle
E. rufifrons
Gazella rufifrons AB.jpg The Sahel region of central Africa
Red gazelle
E. rufina
Mountain areas of North Africa
Thomson's gazelle
E. thomsoni
Eat228.jpg East Africa
Nanger Dama gazelle
N. dama
MhorrGazelleza.jpg Sahara desert and the Sahel
Grant's gazelle
N. granti
Ngorongoro Grant-Gazelle.jpg Northern Tanzania to South Sudan and Ethiopia, and from the Kenyan coast to Lake Victoria
Soemmerring's gazelle
N. soemmerringii
Soemmerring's Gazelle, St. Louis Zoo.jpg Horn of Africa

† = extinct

Prehistoric extinctions[edit]

Fossils of genus Gazella are found in Pliocene and Pleistocene deposits of Eurasia and Africa. The tiny Gazella borbonica is one of the earliest European gazelles, characterized by its small size and short legs. Gazelles disappeared from Europe at the start of Ice Age, but they survived in Africa and Middle East.



  1. ^ "Gazelle". The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. 2007, Columbia University Press.
  2. ^ Eva Verena Bärmann; et al. (2013), "The curious case of Gazella arabica", Mammalian Biology - Zeitschrift für Säugetierkunde, 78 (3): 220–225 
  3. ^ Walter, Henriette; Fawcett, Peter D. (1994). Peter D. Fawcett, ed. French inside out: the worldwide development of the French language in the past, the present and the future (Illustrated ed.). Routledge. p. 66. ISBN 9780415076692. 
  4. ^ Merriam-Webster - Gazelle, Accessed: 22 December 2009
  5. ^ Behrens-billAbouseif, Doris (1999). Beauty in Arabic culture (Illustrated ed.). Markus Wiener Publishers. p. 53. ISBN 9781558761995. 
  6. ^ a b Necipoğlu, Gülru (1997). Gülru Necipoğlu, ed. Muqarnas: An Annual on the Visual Culture of the Islamic World (Illustrated ed.). BRILL. ISBN 9789004108721. 
  7. ^ "Antilopinae". Retrieved 2008-07-01. 
  8. ^ Participants at 4th International Conservation Workshop for the Threatened Fauna of Arabi 2003. Gazella saudiya. In: IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. <>. Downloaded on 7 October 2006.
  9. ^ IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group 2008. Gazella saudiya. In: IUCN 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. <>. Downloaded on 18 December 2008.
  10. ^ Geraads, D.; et al. (2012). "Pliocene Bovidae (Mammalia) from the Hadar Formation of Hadar and Ledi-Geraru, Lower Awash, Ethiopia". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 32 (1): 180–197. doi:10.1080/02724634.2012.632046. 

External links[edit]

  • Quotations related to Gazelles at Wikiquote