Categorized | Wild Game

Scimitar Horned Oryx

The scimitar oryx or scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah), also known as the Sahara oryx, is a species of Oryx now extinct in the wild. It formerly inhabited all of North Africa. It has a long taxonomic history since its discovery in 1816 by Lorenz Oken, who named it the Oryx algazel. This spiral-horned antelope stands a little more than 1 metre (3.3 ft) at the shoulder. The males weigh 140–210 kg (310–460 lb) and the females weigh 91–140 kg (201–310 lb). The coat is white with a red-brown chest and black markings on the forehead and down the length of the nose. The calves are born with a yellow coat, and the distinguishing marks are initially absent. The coats change to adult coloration at 3–12 months old.

The scimitar oryx formed herds of mixed sexes of up to 70 members, usually guided by the bulls. They inhabited semideserts and deserts and were adapted to live in the extreme heat, with their efficient cooling mechanism and very low requirement of water. Scimitar oryx feed on foliage, grasses, succulent plants and plant parts during the night or early morning. Births peak between March and October. After a gestation of eight to nine months, one calf is born. Soon after, the female has a postpartum estrus.

The scimitar oryx was once widespread in northern Africa. Its decline began as a result of climate change, and later it was hunted extensively for its horns. Today, it is bred in captivity in special reserves in Tunisia, Morocco and Senegal. The scimitar oryx was domesticated in Ancient Egypt and is believed to have been used as food and sacrificed as offerings to gods. Wealthy people in Ancient Rome also bred them. The use of their valuable hides began in the Middle Ages. The unicorn myth may have originated from sightings of a scimitar oryx with a broken horn.

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