Last updated

Temporal range: Pliocene to recent
Chinkara - Shreeram M V - Bikaner.jpg
Chinkara from Thar Desert, Rajasthan, India
Scientific classification OOjs UI icon edit-ltr.svg
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Antilopinae
Tribe: Antilopini
Genus: Gazella
Blainville, 1816
Type species
Capra dorcas [1]

Several, see text

A gazelle is one of many antelope species in the genus Gazella /ɡəˈzɛlə/ . [2] There are also seven species included in two further genera; Eudorcas and Nanger , which were formerly considered subgenera of Gazella. A third former subgenus, Procapra , includes three living species of Asian gazelles.


Gazelles are known as swift animals. Some can run at bursts as high as 100 km/h (60 mph) or run at a sustained speed of 50 km/h (30 mph). [3] 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 fine, easily digestible plants and leaves.

Gazelles are relatively 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 confused, and the classification of species and subspecies has been an unsettled issue. Currently, the genus Gazella is widely considered to contain about 10 species. [4] One subspecies is extinct: the Queen of Sheba's gazelle. Most surviving gazelle species are considered threatened to varying degrees. Closely related to the true gazelles are the Tibetan goa 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 thomsonii), sometimes referred to as a "tommie". It is around 60 to 70 cm (24 to 28 in) in shoulder height and is coloured brown and white with a distinguishing black stripe. The males have long, often curved, horns. Like many other prey species, tommies exhibit a distinctive behaviour of stotting (running and jumping high before fleeing) when they are threatened by predators such as cheetahs, lions, African wild dogs, crocodiles, hyenas, and leopards.

Etymology and their name

Byzantine-era mosaic of gazelle in Caesarea, Israel tmvnh 1108.jpg
Byzantine-era mosaic of gazelle in Caesarea, Israel

Gazelle is derived from French gazelle, Old French gazel, probably via Old Spanish gacel, probably from North African pronunciation of Arabic : غزالġazāl, [5] [6] Maghrebi pronunciation ġazēl. [7] To Europe it first came to Old Spanish and Old French, [7] and then around 1600 the word entered the English language. [8] The Arab people traditionally hunted the gazelle. Later appreciated for its grace, however, it became a symbol most commonly associated in Arabic literature with human female beauty. [9] [10] In many countries in Northwestern Sub-Saharan Africa, the gazelle is commonly referred to as "dangelo", meaning "swift deer". [11]

Symbolism or totemism in African families

The gazelle, like the antelope to which it is related, is the totem of many African families. Some examples include the Joof family of the Senegambia region, [12] [13] the Bagananoa of Botswana in Southern Africa (said to be descended from the BaHurutshe), [14] and the Eraraka (or Erarak) clan of Uganda. [15] As is common in many African societies, it is forbidden for the Joof or Eraraka to kill or touch the family totem. [13] [15]


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. [16] 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 gazelle!
Then I say, after freeing her from her fetters:
You are free for the sake of Layla, for ever! [16]

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. [17]

GenusCommon and binomial namesImageRange
Gazella Arabian gazelle
G. arabica
Arabian Gazelle.jpg 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 Southern Israel
Goitered gazelle
G. subgutturosa
Gazella subgutturosa 2018.jpg Azerbaijan, eastern Georgia, part of Iran, parts of Iraq and southwestern Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Gobi Desert
Arabian sand gazelle
G. marica
Sand gazelle (gazella subgutturosa marica).jpg Syrian Desert, southeastern Turkey, and Arabian Desert
Chinkara or
Indian gazelle
G. bennettii
Chinkara.jpg Iran, Pakistan and India
Mountain gazelle
G. gazella
Gazella gazella.jpg Israel, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, Dubai 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
Erlanger's gazelle
G. erlangeri
Arabian Peninsula
Eudorcas Mongalla gazelle
E. albonotata
Eudorcas albonotata head.jpg 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
Eudorcas rufina.jpg Mountain areas of North Africa
Thomson's gazelle
E. thomsonii
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

Prehistoric extinctions

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 the Ice Age, but they survived in Africa and the Middle East.[ citation needed ]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Struthionidae</span> Family of birds

Struthionidae is a family of flightless birds, containing the extant ostriches and their extinct relatives. The two extant species of ostrich are the common ostrich and Somali ostrich, both in the genus Struthio, which also contains several species known from Holocene fossils such as the Asian ostrich. The common ostrich is the more widespread of the two living species, and is the largest living bird species. The extinct genus Pachystruthio from the Late Pliocene-Early Pleistocene of Eurasia is one of the largest birds ever.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bovidae</span> Family of mammals belonging to even-toed ungulates

The Bovidae comprise the biological family of cloven-hoofed, ruminant mammals that includes cattle, yaks, bison, buffalo, antelopes, sheep and goats. A member of this family is called a bovid. With 143 extant species and 300 known extinct species, the family Bovidae consists of 11 major subfamilies and thirteen major tribes. The family evolved 20 million years ago, in the early Miocene.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Reduncinae</span> Subfamily of mammals

The bovid subfamily Reduncinae or tribe Reduncini is composed of nine species of antelope, all of which dwell in marshes, floodplains, or other well-watered areas, including the waterbucks and reedbucks. These antelopes first appear in the fossil record 7.4 million years ago in Eurasia and 6.6 Mya in Africa.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ostrich</span> Genus of flightless birds

Ostriches are large flightless birds. They are the heaviest and largest living birds, with adult common ostriches weighing anywhere between 63.5 and 145 kilograms and laying the largest eggs of any living land animal. With the ability to run at 70 km/h (43.5 mph), they are the fastest birds on land. They are farmed worldwide, with significant industries in the Philippines and in Namibia. Ostrich leather is a lucrative commodity, and the large feathers are used as plumes for the decoration of ceremonial headgear. Ostrich eggs have been used by humans for millennia.

Hadar or Hadar Formation is a paleontological fossil site located in Mille district, Administrative Zone 1 of the Afar Region, Ethiopia, 15 km upstream (west) of the A1 road's bridge across the Awash River.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Antilopinae</span> Subfamily of mammals

The antilopines are even-toed ungulates belonging to the subfamily Antilopinae of the family Bovidae. The members of tribe Antilopini are often referred to as true antelopes, and include the gazelles, blackbucks, springboks, gerenuks, dibatags, and Central Asian gazelles. True antelopes occur in much of Africa and Asia, with the highest concentration of species occurring in East Africa in Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, and Tanzania. The saiga inhabits Central and Western Asia, mostly in regions from the Tibetan Plateau and north of the Indian Subcontinent. The dwarf antelope species of tribe Neotragini live entirely in sub-Saharan Africa.

<i>Aepyceros</i> Genus of mammals

Aepyceros is a genus of African antelope that contains a single living species, the impala. It is the only known member of the tribe Aepycerotini.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thomson's gazelle</span> Species of gazelle

Thomson's gazelle is one of the best known species of gazelles. It is named after explorer Joseph Thomson and is sometimes referred to as a "tommie". It is considered by some to be a subspecies of the red-fronted gazelle and was formerly considered a member of the genus Gazella within the subgenus Eudorcas, before Eudorcas was elevated to genus status.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chalicotheriidae</span> Family of extinct mammals

Chalicotheriidae is an extinct family of herbivorous, odd-toed ungulate (perissodactyl) mammals that lived in North America, Eurasia, and Africa from the Middle Eocene until the Early Pleistocene, existing from 48.6 to 1.806 mya. They are often called chalicotheres, a term which is also applied to the broader grouping of Chalicotherioidea. They are noted for their unusual morphology compared to other ungulates, such as their elongated clawed forelimbs. They are thought to have been browsers.

<i>Chasmaporthetes</i> Extinct genus of carnivores

Chasmaporthetes, also known as hunting or running hyena, is an extinct genus of hyenas distributed in Eurasia, North America, and Africa during the Pliocene-Pleistocene epochs, living from 4.9 million to 780,000 years ago, existing for about 4.12 million years. The genus probably arose from Eurasian Miocene hyenas such as Thalassictis or Lycyaena, with C. borissiaki being the oldest known representative. The species C. ossifragus was the only hyena to cross the Bering land bridge into the Americas, and ranged over what is now Arizona and Mexico during Blancan and early Irvingtonian Land Mammal ages, between 5.0 and 1.5 million years ago.

<i>Xenocyon</i> Extinct subgenus of carnivores

Xenocyon is an extinct group of canids, either considered a distinct genus or a subgenus of Canis. The group includes Canis (Xenocyon) africanus, Canis (Xenocyon) antonii and Canis (Xenocyon) falconeri that gave rise to Canis (Xenocyon) lycanoides. The hypercarnivorous Xenocyon is thought to be closely related and possibly ancestral to modern dhole and the African wild dog, as well as the insular Sardinian dhole.

<i>Procapra</i> Genus of mammals

Procapra is a genus of Asian gazelles, including three living species:

Gazella harmonae is an extinct gazelle which existed in what is now Ethiopia during the Pliocene epoch. It was described by Denis Geraads, René Bobe and Kaye Reed in 2012. Approximately the size of a living dorcas gazelle, the animal was noted for its unusual, spiral horn cores.

This paleomammalogy list records new fossil mammal taxa that were described during the year 2012, as well as notes other significant paleomammalogy discoveries and events which occurred during that year.

This paleomammalogy list records new fossil mammal taxa that were described during the year 2013, as well as notes other significant paleomammalogy discoveries and events which occurred during that year.

This paleomammalogy list records new fossil mammal taxa that were described during the year 2011, as well as notes other significant paleomammalogy discoveries and events which occurred during that year.

This paleomammalogy list records new fossil mammal taxa that were described during the year 2010, as well as notes other significant paleomammalogy discoveries and events which occurred during that year.

<i>Ugandax</i> Extinct genus of mammals

Ugandax is an extinct genus of bovines in the subtribe Bubalina that lived from the Miocene to the Pleistocene of Africa. Cladistic analyses suggest Ugandax represents an ancestral form of the African buffalo, Syncerus, and teeth assigned to Ugandax represent the earliest appearance of bovines in Africa.

This paleomammalogy list records new fossil mammal taxa that were described during the year 2015, as well as notes other significant paleomammalogy discoveries and events which occurred during that year.


  1. Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M., eds. (2005). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN   978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC   62265494.
  2. "Gazella". Dictionary .
  3. "Gazelle". The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. 2007, Columbia University Press.
  4. Eva Verena Bärmann; et al. (2013), "The curious case of Gazella arabica", Mammalian Biology - Zeitschrift für Säugetierkunde, 78 (3): 220–225, doi:10.1016/j.mambio.2012.07.003
  5. "gazelle | Etymology, origin and meaning of gazelle by etymonline". Retrieved 10 February 2023.
  6. Skeat, Walter W. (1910). "gazelle". An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 236.
  7. 1 2 "gazelle". CNRTL.
  8. "Definition of GAZELLE". Retrieved 23 February 2023.
  9. Behrens-billAbouseif, Doris (1999). Beauty in Arabic culture (Illustrated ed.). Markus Wiener Publishers. p. 53. ISBN   9781558761995.
  10. Jokha Alharthi (PhD), (Sultan Qaboos University, College of Arts and Social Sciences - Arabic Department)'s_Body_in_classical_Arabic_Poetry Note in particular pages 7 and 8 of this (linked-to) paper published at a conference in 2015.
  11. "Dangelo (swift deer)". YouTube . Archived from the original on 5 December 2021.
  12. Faye, Louis Diène, Mort et naissance: le monde Sereer , Nouvelles Éditions africaines (1983), p. 74, ISBN   9782723608688
  13. 1 2 Gastellu, Jean-Marc (1981). L'égalitarisme économique des Serer du Sénégal (in French). IRD Editions. p. 130. ISBN   978-2-7099-0591-6.
  14. Chidester, David; Kwenda, Chirevo; Petty, Robert; Tobler, Judy; Wratten, Darrel (7 August 1997). African Traditional Religion in South Africa: An Annotated Bibliography: An Annotated Bibliography. ABC-CLIO. p. 341. ISBN   978-0-313-03225-7.
  15. 1 2 Roscoe, John, The Northern Bantu: An Account of Some Central African Tribes of the Uganda Protectorate, The University Press (1915), p. 262
  16. 1 2 Necipoğlu, Gülru (1997). Gülru Necipoğlu (ed.). Muqarnas: An Annual on the Visual Culture of the Islamic World (Illustrated ed.). BRILL. ISBN   9789004108721.
  17. "Antilopinae" . Retrieved 1 July 2008.
  18. Solounias, N.; Moelleken, S.M.C.; Plavcan, J.M. (1995). "Predicting the diet of extinct bovids using masseteric morphology". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 15 (4): 195–805. doi:10.1080/02724634.1995.10011262.
  19. 1 2 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. S2CID   86230742.
  20. Tchernov, E.; Ginsburg, L.; et al. (1987). "Miocene mammals of the Negev (Israel)". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 7 (3): 284–310. doi:10.1080/02724634.1987.10011661.
  21. Geraads, D.; Raynal, J.; Sbihi-Alaoui, F. (February 2010). "Mammalian faunas from the Pliocene and Pleistocene of Casablanca (Morocco)". Historical Biology. 22 (1–3): 275–285. doi:10.1080/08912960903458011. S2CID   128756698.
  22. Sponheimer, M.; Reed, K.E.; Lee-Thorp, J.A. (June 1999). "Combining isotopic and ecomorphological data to refine bovid paleodietary reconstruction: a case study from the Makapansgat Limeworks hominin locality". Journal of Human Evolution. 36 (6): 705–718. doi:10.1006/jhev.1999.0300. PMID   10330334.
  23. 1 2 Khan, A. (2009). "Mammalian new remains from chinji" (PDF). The Journal of Animal and Plant Sciences. 19 (4): 224–229. Retrieved 14 August 2022.
  24. Chen, G. (1997). "Gazella blacki Teilhard and Young, 1931 (Bovicae, Artiodactyla, Mammalia) from the Late Pliocene of Hefeng, Jingle District, Shanxi Province". Vertebrata PalAsiatica. 35 (3): 189–200. Retrieved 14 August 2022.
  25. Merceron, G.; de Bonis, L.; et al. (February 2005). "Dental microwear of fossil bovids from northern Greece: paleoenvironmental conditions in the eastern Mediterranean during the Messinian" (PDF). Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 217 (3–4): 173–185. Bibcode:2005PPP...217..173M. doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2004.11.019.
  26. 1 2 3 Khan, M.A.; Asim, M.; et al. (August 2021). "New remains of Gazella (Bovidae) from Middle Miocene, Pakistan". Arabian Journal of Geosciences. 14 (17): 1703. doi:10.1007/s12517-021-07885-8. S2CID   236948573.
  27. Bouvrain, G. (1996). "The gazelles from the late Miocene of Macedonia, Greece". Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie. 199 (1): 111–32. doi:10.1127/njgpa/199/1996/111.
  28. Meng, X.; Zhu, D.; et al. (September 2010). "Late Cenozoic stratigraphy and paleomagnetic chronology of the Zanda Basin, Tibet, and records of the uplift of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau". Acta Geologica Sinica. 82 (1): 63–72. doi:10.1111/j.1755-6724.2008.tb00325.x. S2CID   128749824.
  29. Leslie, D.M. (July 2010). "Procapra picticaudata (Artiodactyla: Bovidae)". Mammalian Species. 42 (861): 138–148. doi: 10.1644/861.1 . S2CID   20998647.
  30. 1 2 Vislobokova, I. (2005). "On Pliocene faunas with Proboscideans in the territory of the former Soviet Union". Quaternary International. 126–128: 93–105. Bibcode:2005QuInt.126...93V. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2004.04.017.
  31. Vislobokova, I.; Dmitrieva, E.; Kalmykov, N. (1995). "Artiodactyls From the Late Pliocene of Udunga, Western Trans-Baikal, Russia". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 15 (1): 146–159. doi:10.1080/02724634.1995.10011214.
  32. Fillion, E.N.; Harrison, T.; Kwekason, A. (June 2022). "A nonanalog Pliocene ungulate community at Laetoli with implications for the paleoecology of Australopithecus afarensis". Journal of Human Evolution. 167: 103182. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2022.103182 . PMID   35428490. S2CID   248141011.