Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Hippotraginae
Genus: Oryx
Species: O. gazella
Binomial name
Oryx gazella
(Linnaeus, 1758)

The gemsbok or gemsbuck (Oryx gazella) is a large antelope in the Oryx genus. It is native to the arid regions (for example the Kalahari Desert) of southern Africa, but formerly some authorities included the East African Oryx as a subspecies. Its current population in South Africa is 373,000.[2]



The name "gemsbok" in English is derived from Afrikaans gemsbock, itself derived from the Dutch name of the male chamois, gemsbok. Although there are some superficial similarities in appearance (especially in the facial pattern), the chamois and the oryx are not closely related. The usual pronunciation in English is /ˈɡɛmzbɒk/.[3]


Gemsbok are light brownish-grey to tan in colour, with lighter patches to the bottom rear of the rump. Their tails are long and black in colour. A blackish stripe extends from the chin down the bottom edge of the neck through the join of the shoulder and leg along the lower flank of each side to the blackish section of the rear leg. They have muscular necks and shoulders and their legs have white 'socks' with a black patch on the front of both the front legs and both genders have long straight horns. Comparably, the East African Oryx lacks a dark patch at the base of the tail, has less blackish on the legs (none on the hindlegs), and less blackish on the lower flanks.

Gemsbok are about 1.2 metres (3 ft 11 in)[4][5] at the shoulder, and males can weigh between 220–250 kilograms (490–550 lb) while females weigh 180–210 kilograms (400–460 lb).

A drinking gemsbok with a group of Helmeted Guineafowl in the foreground


Gemsbok are widely hunted for their spectacular horns that average 85 centimetres (33 in) in length. The only outward difference between males and females is their horns, and many hunters mistake females for males each year. In males, these horns are perfectly straight, extending from the base of the skull to a slight outward and rearward angle. Females have longer thinner horns that have a slight outward and rearward curve in addition to their angle.

Female Gemsbok use their horns to defend themselves and their offspring from predators while male Gemsbok primarily use their horns to defend their territory from other males.[6]

Gemsbok are one of the few antelope species where female trophies are sometimes more desirable than male ones. A gemsbok horn can be fashioned into a natural trumpet and, according to some authorities, can be used as a shofar.[7]


Gemsbok live in herds of about 10-40 animals, which consist of a dominant male, a few non-dominant males, and females.

Gemsbok are mainly desert-dwelling and do not depend on drinking to supply their physiological water needs.

They can reach running speeds of up to 56 kilometres per hour (35 mph).

Introduction to North America

In 1969 the New Mexico State Department of Game and Fish decided to introduce Gemsbok to the Tularosa Basin in the United States. The introduction was a compromise between those who wanted to preserve nature and those who wanted to use it for profit and promotion.[8] 93 were released from 1969 to 1977. The current population is estimated to be 3,000. The reason the Gemsbok thrived is because their natural predators, including the Lion, are not present.[9]

Sow with piglet.jpg Animals portal


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • gemsbok — ● gemsbok nom masculin (anglais gemsbok, de l afrikaans) Variété d oryx d Afrique du Sud, aux longues cornes droites …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • gemsbok — [gemz′bäk΄] n. pl. gemsbok or gemsboks [Afrik < Ger gemsbock < gemse, chamois < OHG * gamuz < LL camox (see CHAMOIS) + bock, BUCK1] a large antelope (Oryx gazella) of S Africa, with long, straight horns and a tufted tail …   English World dictionary

  • Gemsbok — Gems bok, n. [D.; akin to G. gemsbock the male or buck of the chamois; gemse chamois, goat of the Alps + bock buck.] (Zo[ o]l.) A South African antelope ({Oryx Capensis}), having long, sharp, nearly straight horns. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Gemsbok — National Park of Botswana in southwest Africa …   Eponyms, nicknames, and geographical games

  • Gemsbok — Oryx gazelle Oryx gazelle …   Wikipédia en Français

  • gemsbok — /gemz bok /, n., pl. gemsboks, (esp. collectively) gemsbok. a large antelope, Oryx gazella, of southern and eastern Africa, having long, straight horns and a long, tufted tail. Also, gemsbuck. Also called oryx. [1770 80; < Afrik < G Gemsbock male …   Universalium

  • gemsbok — /ˈgɛmzbɒk/ (say gemzbok) noun (plural gemsboks, gemsbok) a large antelope, Oryx gazella, of southern Africa, having long, straight horns and a long, tufted tail. {Afrikaans, gems chamois + bok antelope} …   Australian English dictionary

  • gemsbok — tiesiaragis oriksas statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas taksono rangas rūšis atitikmenys: lot. Oryx gazella angl. beisa; gemsbok; oryx vok. Säbelantilope; Spießbock rus. орикс; сернобык pranc. oryx ryšiai: platesnis terminas – oriksai… …   Žinduolių pavadinimų žodynas

  • gemsbok — noun Etymology: Afrikaans, from German Gemsbock male chamois, from Gems chamois + Bock male goat Date: 1777 a large and strikingly marked oryx (Oryx gazella) formerly abundant in southern Africa …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • gemsbok — noun A large African antelope of the Oryx genus. Syn: gemsbuck …   Wiktionary

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