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Temporal range: Pliocene to recent
Chinkara from Thar Desert, Rajasthan, India
Scientific classification Edit this classification
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

Gazelle is derived from French gazelle, Old French gazel, probably via Old Spanish gacel, probably from North African pronunciation of Arabic: غزال ġazāl,[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]

Genus Common and binomial names Image Range
Gazella Arabian gazelle
G. arabica
Arabian Peninsula
Cuvier's gazelle
G. cuvieri
Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia
Dorcas gazelle
G. dorcas
North and saharan Africa, Sinai and Southern Israel
Goitered gazelle
G. subgutturosa
Azerbaijan, eastern Georgia, part of Iran, parts of Iraq and southwestern Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Gobi Desert
Arabian sand gazelle
G. marica
Syrian Desert, southeastern Turkey, and Arabian Desert
Chinkara or
Indian gazelle
G. bennettii
Iran, Pakistan and India
Mountain gazelle
G. gazella
Israel, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, Dubai and Turkey
Rhim gazelle
G. leptoceros
Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya and Sudan
Speke's gazelle
G. spekei
Horn of Africa
Erlanger's gazelle
G. erlangeri
Arabian Peninsula
Eudorcas Mongalla gazelle
E. albonotata
Floodplain and savanna of South Sudan
Red-fronted gazelle
E. rufifrons
The Sahel region of central Africa
Red gazelle
E. rufina
Mountain areas of North Africa
Thomson's gazelle
E. thomsonii
East Africa
Nanger Dama gazelle
N. dama
Sahara desert and the Sahel
Grant's gazelle
N. granti
Northern Tanzania to South Sudan and Ethiopia, and from the Kenyan coast to Lake Victoria
Soemmerring's gazelle
N. soemmerringii
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]



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