Scimitar-Horned Oryx


Scientific Name

Oryx dammah

Species Survival Plan



Semi-desert habitat transition area of Sahara between true desert (Sahara) and the savanna (Sahel) woodland zones


Man, lion, leopard, hyena and hunting dog


Grasses, acacia pods, shrubs, succulent bulbs, wild melons, cucumbers, tubers, fruits and leaves

Originally Native To

Northern Africa


48 inches at shoulders


Males - 450 lb. / Females - 300 lb.


Antelope with long curving horns up to 36 inches on both sexes; white coat, brown chest and neck

Gestation Period

8 months


1 calf

Birth Season

March - October (wild)


Wild ?
Captivity 20 years

Social Behavior

Nomadic herds of 10 - 30 females and young led by a dominant male


About Scimitar-Horned Oryx

The scimitar-horned oryx once again roams the grasslands of Chad. Extinct in the wild in the late 1980s, 23 animals were released to native habitat in August 2016. The release is orchestrated by Environmental Agency – Abu Dhabi and Sahara Conservation Fund. It aims to steadily increase the animals in Chad over the next few years, and by May 2021 that number had grown to more than 360 oryx.

Animals from captive populations worldwide, including Fossil Rim, have formed a World Herd in Abu Dhabi, from which release animals are drawn. Scimitar-horned oryx were victims of uncontrolled hunting, habitat loss, droughts, and continued regional warfare, as well as intense domestic animal grazing.

In the early 1970s, the scimitar-horned oryx, together with the addax, were considered the most endangered of the African antelope. Most founder bloodlines for scimitars currently located in North America and Europe derive from two captures that took place in Chad in 1963 and 1966. While they have done well in captivity, these animals have not been so fortunate in the wild.

The scimitar-horned oryx is named for its long, curving horns, which may grow beyond 36 inches. In fact, this is the only oryx with curved horns. Both males and females have horns, but the female's horns tend to be more slender.

Its horns are used mainly for ritualized sparring competitions between rival males, but also during courtship. Its coat is white with a chestnut-brown neck and chest, as well as a brown stripe over its eyes. These oryx are perfectly camouflaged for desert dwelling.

The scimitar-horned oryx, like other oryx, has a black-and-white face mask. However, in this species the black tends to fade to a brownish color.

They are highly selective feeders and utilize plants with high-water and high-protein content. Because of their ability to locate and select these plants and physiologically conserve water, these oryx are capable of going for months without a free water source. They can detect slight variation in air humidity over long distances.

Scimitar-horned oryx eat grasses, herbs, juicy roots, and buds. Acacia seedpods provide important nutrients for mothers with young calves. Wild melon and the twigs and shoots of Capparis are vital sources of moisture. Feeding at night allows oryx to take advantage of higher water content in their forage. They produce very dry fecal pellets and highly concentrated urine.

The white coat helps reflect the heat of the desert. Their black skin and tip of the tongue protects against sunburn, while enlarged hooves enable the oryx to walk easily on sand. Dense eyelashes and strong eyelids protect against windblown sand.

To deal with desert heat, scimitar-horned oryx can tolerate an internal body temperature of 116 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows them to conserve water and thrive in the desert, because they do not need to sweat as much.

Another anatomical adaptation allows the oryx to tolerate high temperatures that would be lethal to most mammals. They have a network of fine blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the brain. These blood vessels travel close to the nasal passage, allowing cooling of up to five degrees Fahrenheit of the blood before it is pumped to the brain, one of the most heat-sensitive organs of the body.

Oryx usually travel in herds ranging in size from 2-40. Most often in any particular herd, there will be a dominant or alpha bull. Usually, these bulls provide the guidance for the herd as to when it will move and where. They retain tight control over marching formation and chase down any stragglers with persistence.

Oryx are seldom seen alone, with the exception of very old males. Historically, these oryx lived in herds of 20-40 individuals, led by a single male. During migrations and times of plentiful water, herds of 1,000 or more were seen.

Scimitar-horned oryx become inactive in the heat of the day, seek shade, and dig out scrapes in the sand to reduce exposure to drying winds. They graze primarily at night. At Fossil Rim, they are most likely to be seen by guests in the morning.

One calf is born after a gestation period of eight months and nurses until about five months of age. Calves also form groups within the herd called “créches.”

At Fossil Rim, scimitar-horned oryx are located in the Front Pasture - the first pasture guests enter. Fossil Rim's other oryx, Arabian oryx and gemsbok, live in the Game Preserve (fourth pasture) and Main Pasture (third pasture), respectively.


  • Common Waterbuck

    Waterbuck are found in southeastern, central and western Africa. When exposed to a high level of human activity, they will become almost completely nocturnal, only...

    Read More
  • Roan

    Roan, the fourth-largest antelopes in Africa, are usually active in the morning, late afternoon and evening. The roan is associated with woodland savannas, but is...

    Read More
  • Ostrich

    The ostrich is the world’s largest living bird. Its weight, small wings and weak wing muscles combine to make it flightless. Ostriches use their wings...

    Read More
  • Nigerian Dwarf Goat

    The Nigerian dwarf goat is a miniature dairy goat that comes in wide variety of colors and markings. Both males and females of this species...

    Read More
  • Aoudad

    Aoudads, also known as Barbary sheep, are the only wild sheep in Africa. They were brought to the U.S. in the early 1900s for exhibition...

    Read More
  • Grevy’s Zebra

    This zebra is named for Jules Grevy, a French president who received one from the king of Ethiopia as a gift in the 1880s. It...

    Read More
  • Greater Kudu

    Very large antelopes, the male kudu have thick, spiraled horns that can reach six feet in length. Sexually dimorphic, only the males have horns and...

    Read More
  • Giraffe

    Giraffes are the tallest living land mammals, and although it looks like their hind legs are shorter, all four legs are almost the same length....

    Read More
  • Cheetah

    The sleek cheetah is built for speed and can accelerate from 0-60 mph in seconds. However, it can run only 600 yards before it is...

    Read More
  • Arabian Oryx

    The oryx is one of the best desert-adapted large mammals, capable of living in a waterless habitat where few other species can survive. They can...

    Read More
  • African Spurred Tortoise

    Very little is known about African Spurred Tortoises in the wild due to lack of field research. They are solitary creatures that live in some...

    Read More
  • Dama Gazelle

    Formerly one of the most prevalent Saharan gazelles, this antelope is the largest gazelle species....

    Read More
  • Addax

    There are less than 100 addax in the wild. Formerly ranging over the entire Sahara Desert of Africa, four-wheel drive access to the desert and...

    Read More


As a private nonprofit corporation, Fossil Rim does not receive national or state government support. Every cent spent or donated here goes in some way, directly or indirectly, toward the care of our animals.