Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin

East African Oryx

Oryx besia


The East African oryx can grow to be 1.5-2.3 meters long, 1.4 meters at shoulder height and weigh more than 200 kg.  Both sexes of this species have distinctive long, narrow, ringed and straight horns that can be 30 inches. The short, compact, fawn colored body of the east African oryx has a thick neck adorned with a short mane. Markings on the face and legs are black in color, contrasting with the white of the face, extending down the throat and chest, along the back and down the flanks. The forelegs are white with black rings above the knee. This species has black tipped ears and a black tassel at the end of the tail.


This species is found in Eastern and Southern Africa. Oryx prefer hot, arid habitats such as steppes, deserts and semi deserts.

Feeding Behavior and Diet

Oryx are herbivores, feeding only on vegetation. Feeding occurs in the early morning and late afternoon. This species consumes thick leaves, buds, melons, rough grass and thorny shrubs. Oryx have also been known to dig for tubers and roots in the ground.


East African oryx do not have a specific breeding season, mating is influenced by the winter rains. A single calf is born 8-9 months after mating. Calves are usually born between December through April. Calves are born in a secluded area away from the herd and do not rejoin the herd until 2-6 weeks after birth. Calves are weaned after 6-9 months and females reach maturity after 1.5-2 years while males reach maturity after 5 years.

Months and Times of Activity

Most activity occurs in the early morning and late afternoon.

Special Features, Stories, Relationships

•    Herds of oryx, consisting of 6-40 individuals, have a defined hierarchy. As the herd travels, a dominant cow (female) will lead the herd as an alpha bull (dominant male) follows the rear of the herd. If the dominant cow begins to stray from the set course the bull will hurry to the front of the herd to re-direct the path.
•    This species is very well adapted to living in dry, hot habiatats. The oryx can raise its body temperature to allow heat to flow from the oryx to the surrounding environment to conserve water.
•    Oryx have been known to kill lions with their horns in defense.
•    To read legends featuring this animal go to;
•    Children’s book featuring this animal: Arabian Oryx by Anita Ganeri


Huffman, Brent. "Beisa Oryx, East African Oryx." Ultimate Ungulate. N.p., 22 Mar. 2004. Web. 30 Apr. 2013.

"Oryx." Wildlife at Animal Corner. Animal Corner, 2003. Web. 30 Apr. 2013.