Madoqua kirkiiKirk's dik-dik

Geographic Range

Dik-diks are found in extreme southeastern Somalia, central and southern Kenya, northern and central Tanzania, southwestern Angola, and Namibia (Nowak 1983).


Dik-diks inhabit arid bush country, not extending too far into the savanna. They need heavy shrubbery to hide in and feed on, but they do not require much water.

Physical Description

The dimensions of an adult dik-dik are as follows: body length is 520-670 mm, tail length is 35-55 mm, and height measured at the shoulder is 305-405 mm (MacDonald 1985). Its coloration is yellowish gray to reddish brown on its back and grayish to white on its belly. Horns are only found on males; they are ringed and stout at the base. They can be concealed at times by a tuft of hair on the animal's forehead. Accessory hooves are small and its tail is conspicuous. The most distinguishing feature of this particular species of dik-dik is that its snout is particularly elongated into a proboscis. This proboscis is an adaptation for cooling that allows venous blood to cool by evaporation from the mucous membrane into the nasal cavity during normal breathing or under great heat stress from nasal panting (Kingdon 1982).

  • Range mass
    3 to 6 kg
    6.61 to 13.22 lb
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    11.966 W


Female dik-diks are sexually mature at 6 months of age and males are ready to reproduce at 12 months. Males and females form permanently mated pairs that occupy an area anywhere from 5 to 30 hectares (12.5-75 acres) (Nowak 1983). The male courts the female by running up behind her with his head and neck stretched and his muzzle pointing out in front. Copulation begins with the male standing on his hind legs behind the female and waving his forelegs at an acute angle to his own body in the air over her back (Kingdon 1982).

For the next 169 to 174 days the female gestates and bears a single offspring. This happens twice a year. Births peak from November through December and from April through May (the start and finish of the rainy season). Different from most other ruminants, the dik-dik is born with its forelegs laid back along-side its body, instead of them being stretched forward (Kingdon 1982). A female weighs approximately 560 to 680 grams at birth, while males weigh 725 to 795 grams (MacDonald 1985).

  • Breeding interval
    Breeding occurs twice yearly.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 (low)
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    5.63 to 5.8 months
  • Average gestation period
    5.7 months
  • Range weaning age
    3 to 4 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    213 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    304 days

The mother lactates for 6 weeks, feeding her young for no more than a couple of minutes at a time. The young stay concealed for a time after birth, but grow quickly to reach full size at 7 months of age (Nowak 1983). The rate of survival for fawns is 50 percent (MacDonald 1985). The young are forced to leave the territory at about seven months of age; mothers run off their daughters and fathers run their sons out of the territory. The first few times the father attempts to keep his son from approaching his mother, the father dashes for him and the son drops to the ground and exposes his neck as a sign of submission. He is then allowed to stay a little longer in the area, but will soon be forced to leave (Kingdon 1982).

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female


  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    17.3 years


Dik-diks are shy and elusive, concealing themselves in brush most of the time. When startled, however, they take off in a series of zigzag leaps calling "zik-zik" or "dik-dik," hence their common name (Nowak 1983). They use definite pathes when traveling through their territory. M. Kirki is nocturnal (Kingdon 1982). Their population density is approximately 24 adults per square kilometer (Parker 1990). All families mark their individual territories through a process called the "defecation ceremony." It begins with the female who defecates and urinates at a certain site with the male standing directly behind her. Then he sniffs her droppings and urine, curling his upper lip and baring his teeth. He scrapes her feces with his forelegs and deposits his urine and feces over it, turning around several times in the process. He then marks a plant stalk with secretion from his preorbital gland. The male then remains the defender of the territory; females are not capable of maintaining a territory by themselves (Kingdon 1982).

Conflicts between territorial neighbors are not frequent, but occasionally do occur. The males from each territory dash at each other, stop short, vigorously nod their heads and turn around. Each time they go back a greater distance from each other and charge again and again until one gives up. This is concluded when both paw the ground, urinate, and defecate. (MacDonald 1985)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Because dik-diks are so small, their metabolic requirement per kilogram is high and they must consume more food per kilogram of body weight than larger hoofed mammals. They share a habitat with kudu, which keep the shrubs within one meter of the ground, and with zebra, which keep down the grass (Kingdon 1982). This allows a food source to grow abundantly at an ideal level for the dik-dik. They require vegetation that is easily digested and low in fiber. Eighty percent of their diet comes from the leaves of trees and shrubs; 17 percent comes from grasses; and the remainder comes from herbs and sedges (Parker 1990). They mostly feed from dawn to mid-morning and from mid-afternoon until dark (Parker 1990). The only moisture they consume for months at a time is the dew on vegetation and the little moisture in the vegetation (Nowak 1991).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Dik-diks are extensively hunted in some areas for their skins, which are used in the production of gloves. It requires one hide to make one glove. (Parker 1990)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Hunters dislike this animal because they flush and warn the larger game of the danger (Nowak 1991).

Conservation Status

The reduction of habitat due to slash-and-burn cultivation has meant that the dik-dik's small size is increasingly favored because of the secondary growth that appears in the damaged area. The growth provides an ideal food source and hiding place for the dik-dik. (Kingdon 1982)

Other Comments

The dik-dik evolved in the Miocene, 12 million years ago. That their small size is a secondary adaptation is suggested by the observation that their gestation time is more typical of the larger hoofed mammals. (Kingdon 1982) The dik-dik's main predators are leopards, cheetahs, jackals, baboons, eagles, and pythons. They are able to escape them with their excellent eyesight and ability to reach speeds up to 42 kilometers an hour. (MacDonald 1985)


Elizabeth Scheibe (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


Kingdon, Jonathon. 1982. East African Mammals. Vol III. London: Academic Press.

MacDonald, Dr. David (ed). 1985. Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File Publications.

Nowak, Ronald M. and John L. Paradiso (ed). 1983. Walker's Mammals of the World. Vol II. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Nowak, Ronald M. (ed). 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World. Vol II Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Parker, Sybil P (ed). 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. Vol 5. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company.