Gazella gazellamountain gazelle

Geographic Range

Gazella gazella, or mountain gazelle, is one of several closely related species found in the Middle East. Its distribution includes the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates (Mendelsohn et al., 1995; IUCN Species Survival Commission, 2000).


Mountain gazelles live in mountainous and hilly habitats consisting of light forests, fields, or desert plateaus. They usually spend the days in the hills bedded down and descend at night or in the early morning to forage.

Mountain gazelles live in areas with an average annual temperature of 21-23 degrees Celsius and an average winter temperature of about 14 degrees Celsius. The areas occupied by G. gazella are dry, usually with an annual precipitation of 300-400 mm (Mendelsohn et al., 1995; Massicot, 2001).

Physical Description

Male mountain gazelles weigh between 17 and 29.5 kg, whereas the smaller females weigh 16-25 kg. They are sexually dimorphic with the males being larger and having larger horns. Toothrows of mountain gazelles are nearly straight.

Gazelles have a slender build with proportionally long necks and legs. The hind legs of mountain gazelles are particularly long.

Mountain gazelles are a dark brown with white underparts, flanks, and light brown limbs. The face is marked with an off-white stripe with black lower margins. There is also a narrow, dark flank-band that separates the dark dorsal tones from the white underparts. The base of the hairs from the underside are buff colored. The black tail is short and bushy. The ears are also relatively short. The white line down the thigh stops at the hock. Pelage is short and sleek, and reflects the sun’s radiation in the summer months, and is much longer, thicker and rainproof during the winter to protect the animal from the heavy winter rains.

Both sexes have horns. The relatively short horns of the males (220-294 mm) vary greatly depending on habitat. Female mountain gazelles have horns that are less then 70% the length of males’ horns in the same population (84-153 mm). Males’ horns are thick and have prominent rings whereas the females’ horns are unringed. The horns are elliptical in a cross-section and the gap at the base is about 25 mm. Male horns bow out from the base with the tips almost always pointing in. The females’ horns are curved slightly forward. Horn shape may vary greatly within populations, but in most cases the horns resemble an S-shape. Horns also have broad grooves that run up the anterior part of the core, a groove along the posterior boarder, and a less prominent groove that runs medial to the aspect of the core (Groves and Lay, 1985; Mendelsohn et al., 1995).

  • Range mass
    17 to 29.5 kg
    37.44 to 64.98 lb


See Reproduction.


Males and females may both mate with multiple partners.

Gazelles are found in small groups of 3-8 individuals. Males are territorial with one or more females and their young. The company females keep is determined primarily by their reproductive status. Mating occurs in early winter (October-November), but can take place year-round where food is available.

Births usually occur from April to May with the females usually only have one young per season. Estrous occurs every 18 day and lasts 12-24 hours until the female becomes pregnant. Female gazelles copulate with more then one male. The gestation period is 180 days and offspring are born weighing 11-12% of the mother’s mass. Birth takes place in isolation and the precocial young can stand and walk shortly after birth. The young spend the first weeks nursing and when they are three to six weeks old they begin to feed on solid food. Suckling may last up to three months. Around this time, the mother and young join a small maternity herd. Females may remain with their mother for life, but males leave the maternal herd at about six months of age. The males then join a herd of young males. Females reach their adult mass at about 18 months whereas males do not reach full size until three years (Mendelsohn et al., 1995; Dunham, 1999).

  • Breeding season
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 3
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    6 (low) months
  • Average gestation period
    6 months
  • Range weaning age
    2.5 to 3.33 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1.5 to 3 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1.5 to 3 years

Females nurse their precocious young for up to three months. When they are three to six weeks old, they young begin to feed on solid food. Around the time of weaning, the mother and young join a small maternity herd.

Males are not involved in parental care.

  • Parental Investment
  • female parental care
  • post-independence association with parents
  • extended period of juvenile learning


Mountain gazelles rarely live more then eight years in nature, but in captivity they can live between 12 and 15 years (Mendelsohn et al., 1995; Wildlywise Adventures, 2001).


This diurnal species is highly territorial. The social organization of the G. gazella consists of maternity herds, bachelor male herds, and territorial solitary males. Incidents of fighting escalate as the males mature, however, fights between territorial males are ritualized and less violent than those between adult bachelor males. The immature bachelor males have more frequent horn contact during fights than do adult or territorial males. Males maintain a territory of about 0.6 km year round, while non-territorial males have a home range of about 6.7 km . Female groups have overlapping ranges of about 1 km and neighboring groups avoid overlap.

Mountain gazelles are excellent runners for several hundred meters, and can reach speeds of 80 kilometers per hour. This species has excellent vision as well as good smell and hearing. Vision is the sense mainly used for predator detection, whereas smell is used to find food (Grau and Walther, 1976; Mendelsohn et al., 1995; Duhnam, 1998; Geffen et al., 1999).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Gazelles are browsers and grazers, feeding on grasses, herbs, and shrubs. Their food varies greatly and depends on habitat. In the Arabian Peninsula, gazelle distribution is closely related to the distribution of Acacia, however, in Arabia G. gazella lives mainly on the foliage of wadi beds and gorges. Only a few plants are rejected altogether. Even poisonous plants rejected by most herbivores are eaten by mountain gazelles.

Gazelles seem to be well adapted physiologically to live in harsh desert extremes. They can go without water for long periods of time and find succulent plants and dew drops an adequate source of water. Gazelles do not accumulate significant fat stores, even under the most favorable conditions (Mendelsohn et al., 1995; United States Fish and Wildlife Service, 2001; Wildlywise Adventures, 2001).

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves


The horns of nountian gazelles are the most utilized form of defense against predation. They are used for butting small predators. The gazelle also has keen vision and can run at high speeds. Predation by carnivores doesn’t appear to significantly affect gazelle populations, although humans have become one of the mountain gazelle’s worst predators. (Mendelsohn et al., 1995).

Ecosystem Roles

Because of their foraging behavior, mountain gazelles probably affect the plant communities where they are common. Also, although predators do not significantly affect gazelle populations, availabilty of this primary consumer may affect predator populations.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Hunting for gazelle skins, meat, and trophy horns is common, and poorly regulated.

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The gazelles often eat the cultivated crops of the area (IUCN Species Survival Commission, 2000; Massicot, 2001).

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Mountain gazelles are listed on CITES Appendix III in Tunisia and the Asian populations are listed on CITES Appendix II. The two major threats to these gazelles include habitat loss (human induces) and direct loss. Other threats include hunting and collecting, trade, alien invasive species, and hybridizers. Stricter laws in most areas have reduced poaching of this species, but habitat loss and exploitation continue to threaten populations (Mendelsohn et al., 1995; IUCN Species Survival Commission, 2000.

Other Comments

In Israel, a severe outbreak of foot and mouth disease among mountain gazelles in 1985 resulted in the death of around 50% of a herd of 3000 animals in a game reserve. Death was attributed to a combination of cardiac failure and dehydration caused by the inability of the animals to drink due to lingual muscular changes. Typical and severe oral lesions were observed in many animals, involving extensive, and in some cases, necrotic lesions of the dorsum of the tongue. Separation of the hooves was not uncommon. Some animals lost their horns, leaving a bleeding core.

Closely related species include G. dorcas, G. saudiya, G. arabica, and G. bilkis. Several subspecies are know to exist, including G. g. cora, G. g. forasani, G. g. gazella, and G. g. muscatensis. Another subspecies, G. g. cuvieri, or Cuvier’s gazelle, is the only surviving gazelle endemic to the area north of the Sahara Desert (Mendelsohn et al., 1995; Aleffgroup, 2001; Massicot , 2001).


Kari Lee (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Chris Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.



living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

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.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


union of egg and spermatozoan


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


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


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


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 the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

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


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.

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.


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


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


Aleffgroup, 2001 October. "AVIS-Foot and Mouth Disease; Clinical Disease and Diagnosis" (On-line). Accessed October 29, 2001 at

Dunham, K. 1999. The social organization of mountain gazelles *Gazella gazella* in a population reintroduced to central Arabia. Journal of Arid Environments, 43: 251-266.

Dunham, K. 1998. Spatial organization of mountain gazelles *Gazella gazella* reintroduced to central Arabia. Journal of Zoology London, 245: 371-384.

Geffen, H., A. Perevolotsky, E. Geffen, Y. Yom-Tom. 1999. Use of space and social organization of female mountain gazelle *Gazella gazella gazella* in Ramat HaNadiv, Israel. Journal of Zoology London, 247: 113-119.

Grau, G., F. Walther. 1976. Mountain gazelle agonistic behaviour. Animal Behaviour, 24: 626-636.

Groves, C., D. Lay. 1985. A new Species in the genus *Gazella* (Mammalia: Artiodactyla: Bovidae) from the Arabian Peninsula. Mammalia, 49: 27-36.

ICUN Species Survival Commission, 2000. "The 2000 ICUN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line). Accessed December 1, 2001 at

Massicot, P. 2001 August. "Animal Info--Cuvier's Gazelle" (On-line). Accessed October 29, 2001 at

Mendelsohn, H., Y. Yom-Tom, C. Groves. 1995. *Gazella gazella*. Mammalian Species, 490: 1-7.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service, 2001 November. "Species List" (On-line). Accessed October 29, 2001 at

Wildlywise Adventures, 2001. "Wildlife of India; Indian Gazelle/ Chinkara" (On-line). Accessed November 27, 2001 at