THOMSON’S GAZELLE – Gazella thomsonii


Thomson’s gazelle facts: Weighs 29 to 66 pounds (13 to 30 kilograms) and measures 3 to 4 feet (91 to 122 centimeters) with a tail length of 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 centimeters). Females are slightly smaller than males. Coat is reddish brown on top with a white belly. A black stripe runs from the foreleg to the hindquarters, and there is a white patch on the rump that extends to the black tail. Eyes rimmed with white that reaches to the nose along the muzzle and above the black cheek stripes. Males’ horns are slightly curved and measure 11.5 to 12.0 inches (29.2 to 30.5 centimeters) and are used solely for fighting other male gazelles. Female horns are shorter and thinner and are used to defend their feeding area.

Geographic range: Found in Kenya, Ehtiopia, northern Tanzania, and southeast Sudan.

Thomson’s gazelle habitat: Prefer the short grassy plains and savannas (tropical plant community characterized by shrubs and trees amidst cover of grasses and herbs) so that large herds can feed together. During the drier season, they move to the taller grasslands.

What does thomson’s gazelle eat: Grasses make up about 90 percent of this bovid’s diet during the dry season, but it also feeds on shrubs and seeds, alfalfa, hay, and leaves.

Behavior and reproduction: This gazelle is most active early and late in the day. It rests during the hottest part of the day. Rather than fight, Thomson’s gazelles will flee from predators, reaching speeds of 40 to 50 miles per hour (65 to 80 kilometers per hour). They are fantastic leapers, able to reach 30 feet (9 meters) in a single bound and up to 10 feet (3 meters) vertically. Their speed comes from long foot bones and anklebones.

They live in herds of two to twenty individuals, and members can change by the hour. Multiple herds interact with each other. Territories range from 6 to 495 acres (2 to 200 hectares) but are usually between 25 and 75 acres (10 and 30 hectares). Because they are water-dependent, they sometimes travel up to 100 miles (160 kilometers) to find water during the dry season.

Males establish territories during breeding season and mark them with urine and dung piles as well as secretions from scent glands. The polygamous (puh-LIH-guh-mus; having more than one mate at a time) Thomson’s gazelle breeds twice annually. Females give birth to one offspring after a gestation lasting five to six months. Mother and baby stay separated from the herd for a couple weeks. Offspring can run by four weeks, and they nurse for four months. Predators include cheetahs, leopards, lions, and hyenas. Young gazelles are also killed by pythons, eagles, baboons, and jackals. Life span in the wild is roughly ten years.

Thomson’s gazelle and people: These gazelles are hunted for food and skins.

Conservation status: Although predation is high, populations are secure because they are fast breeders. Females are ready to breed again within two to four weeks after giving birth. Thomson’s gazelle is not threatened.