Oryx are surprisingly good at detecting rainfall, and will move towards areas where rain is falling so that they can eat fresh plant growth and drink water.

Oryx have striking black or brown markings on their heads and lower bodies, and very long, straight horns, up to 1.5 m (5 ft) in length.

Arabian Oryx

Originating from a very arid region, the ability of the Arabian oryx to detect rainfall - and thereby fresh grazing - in a particular area is truly amazing.

The Arabian oryx is the only oryx found outside Africa. It is adapted to survive in very arid conditions. The case of the Arabian oryx is a heartening conservation success story. The species was hunted to extinction after World War II, finally disappearing from the wild in 1972. At this time, the only herds existed in zoos. However, a captive-breeding programme was started in the 1960s. Wild populations now number around 500 individuals. This continues, with 100 animals released in the Emirates throughout 2007, as part of a plan to return 500 to the wild there by 2012.

Since dry habitats contain relatively little nourishing plant material, oryx must range over vast areas to obtain enough food.

When water is not available, they eat succulent foods, such as melons or bulbs, to get the moisture they need. Oryx live in groups of around ten individuals, consisting of either a dominant male and females, or a group of young males. Although the oryx’s exceptionally long and sharp horns are formidable weapons, most contests between males are settled by ritualized sparring.

Distribution: Range once extended through Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Israel. Now released back into the wild in several countries, including Jordan, UAE and Oman.

Habitat: Dry habitats, including arid scrubland and deserts.

Weight: 65 - 70 kg (143 - 154 lb).

Length: 205 - 220 cm (81 - 87 in), including tail.

Maturity: 1.5 - 2 years.

Gestation Period: 255 - 270 days.

Breeding: 1; weaning occurs after 3.5 months.

Food: Grazes on grass and browses on leaves, shoots, shrubs, succulent fruit and bulbs.

Lifespan: Up to 20 years in captivity; shorter in the wild.

Status: Endangered.


Ridged horns are present in both sexes. They can reach 68cm (28in) in length.

Head markings

Distinctive patterning on the face, below the eyes and above the nose, identifies this species.


The tail has a darker underside than upperside, with longer hair.


The legs are dark in colour, apart from 'ankle bands' of white hair above the hoofs.


In spite of their fierce appearance, Arabian oryx are not aggressive. They communicate using the positioning of their horns.

Scimitar-horned Oryx

Oryx dammah

Size: 1.7 m (5.5 ft); 204 kg (449.75 lb).

This desert antelope, also known as the white oryx, is thought to be extinct. It was once widespread across the Sahel - the African steppeland that borders the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. (Sahel means "shore" and refers to the "sea" of sand that is the desert.) Hunting was the downfall of this species in the same way as it was for its close relatives the addax and Arabian oryx. In the year 2000, after 35 years of monitoring, it was decided that no scimitar-horned oryxes survived in the wild. It is possible that some still remain in the remoter parts of northern Mali and Chad, but, even if they do, there would more than likely be too few to sustain a wild population in the future. The species survives in zoos. All is not lost, so there's still hope for the scimitar-horned oryx.