Russell Smith (1), David Ruhter (2), Joseph Flanagan (2), Tammery Olsen (2), John Iaderosa (3), Randy Fulk (4), Terrie Correll (5)

(1) San Antonio Zoological Gardens, 3903 North St. Mary’s St., San Antonio, TX 78212
(2) Houston Zoological Gardens, 1513 Nor MacGregor, Houston, TX 77030
(3) St. Catherine's Wildlife Conservation Center, Route 1, Box 207-Z, Midway, GA 31320
(4) North Carolina Zoological Park, 4401 Zoo Parkway, Asheboro, NC 27203
(5) The Living Desert, 47-900 Portola Ave., Palm Desert, CA 92260



Antelopes, gazelles and their relatives include 26 genera within the Family Bovidae, and many species are routinely kept in captivity. They vary in size from small species such as the dorcas gazelle, Gazella dorcas (44 lb./20 kg.) to the common eland, Taurotragus oryx, the largest species of antelope (2,000 lb./940 kg.) (Nowak and Paradiso, 1983). The range of antelopes and gazelles spans Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and China, and they occupy a diverse array of habitats, including savannah, steppe, woodland, marsh and rain forest, as well as both hot and cold deserts. For this discussion, the following species are considered:

1.      Antelopes - This group contains a number of large species, many of which are commonly kept by both public and private facilities. Among these species are the following:

A.     Tragelaphinae or spiral-horned antelopes, including:

Common eland, Taurotragus oryx

Giant eland T. derbianus

Greater kudu, Tragelaphus strepsiceros

Lesser kudu, T.imberbis

Bongo, T. eurycerus

Bushbuck, T. scriptus

Lowland nyala, T. angasi

Sitatunga, T. spekii

B.     Hippotraginae or horse antelopes, including:

Sable, Hippotragus niger

Roan, H. equinus

Gemsbok, beisa and fringe-eared oryx, Oryx gazella subs.

Arabian oryx, O. leucoryx

Scimitar-horned oryx, O. dammah

Addax, Addax nasomaculatus


C.     Reduncinae or waterbucks, lechwe and kobs, including:

Waterbuck (including Defassa), Kobus ellipsiprymnus.

Lechwe, Kobus leche

Nile lechwe, K. megaceros

Kob, K. kob.

D.     Alcelaphinae or hartebeests, including:

Jackson's hartebeest, Alcelaphus buselaphus jacksoni

Cape hartebeest, A. b. caama

Black wildebeest, Connochaetes gnou

Blue, brindled or white-bearded wildebeest, C. taurinus

 Bontebok, Damaliscus dorcas dorcas

Blesbok, D. d. phillipsi

Topi and Tsessebe , D. lunatus subs.

Hunter's hartebeest, D. hunteri

E.      Nilgai, Boselaphus tragocamelus


2.      Gazelles and gazelle-like species - This group includes a number of species, many of which are kept by zoos, private facilities and in free-ranging situations. Among the most commonly maintained species are the following:

A.     Antilopinae or true gazelles, including:

Thompson's gazelle, Gazella thomsonii

Grant's gazelle, G. granti

Dorcas gazelle, G. dorcas

Dama or Mhorr gazelle, G. dama

Somemmering's gazelle, G. soemmerringii

Speke's gazelle, G. spekei

Slender-horned gazelle, G. leptoceros

Goitered, Persian or Arabian sand gazelle, G. marica subs.

Cuvier's gazelle, G. cuvieri

Gerenuk, Lithocranius walleri

Springbok, Antidorcas marsupialis

Black buck, Antilope cervicapra

B.     Impala, Aepyceros melampus

C.     Saiga, Saiga tatarica




1.      Temperature - All antelopes and gazelles are relatively heat tolerant and temperatures in excess of 100 degrees F (38 C) are tolerated as long as adequate water and sufficient shade to cover all herd members without forced aggressive interactions should be provided. Kobus sp. in particular should be provided a constant supply of drinking water in hot weather.

Most species may be kept outside year around in warmer parts of North America, and only require shelter from prevailing winds. In colder climates where below freezing temperatures for more than 96 hours are expected, supplemental heat should be provided in protected areas or barns; temperatures below 15 degrees F (-11 C) may result in frostbite on the ears, horns or feet. Factors such as rain, snow, sleet and wind chill should also affect the decision to move animals into protected shelters. Animals kept inside can tolerate relatively high temperatures although most species should be protected from temperatures above 100 degrees F (38 C) if exposure is prolonged. Indoor temperatures should range between 50 - 80 degrees F (10 - 26 C). Stalls should have ample bedding for comfort and insulation.

It should be noted that gerenuk are sensitive to cold weather and should be housed indoors when temperatures fall below 60 degrees F (15 C).

2.      Lighting - Antelope and gazelles may be diurnal, crepuscular and/or nocturnal in nature and have no specific lighting requirements but usually are maintained on a 12-12, light-dark schedule. In indoor areas, natural, incandescent or florescent light all provide adequate illumination.

3.      Ventilation and humidity - Because of their large size, antelopes and gazelles do best when provided access to the outside and are not commonly maintained indoors for extended periods of time. Winter or night housing does not require special ventilation or humidity control but to assist in cooling, moisture and odor control, ventilation can be aided by ceiling fans, louvered gable ends on barns or exhaust fans. Ventilation facilities should be able to provide 4 air changes per hour.

4.      Water - Fresh clean drinking water should be available at all times. This is particularly important for members of the genus Kobus (water buck and lechwe) which are unable to concentrate urine and avoid water loss like other antelope and gazelles during hot weather. Multiple drinking sites may be necessary to insure that all individuals have access to water. Automatic watering devices are suitable for a variety of species.

Watering devices should be secure enough to prevent being tipped over and inadvertently emptied. They also should be constructed so as not to interfere with the animals' horns. Where pools are used for drinking, there should be sufficient water flow to prevent a build-up of algae, feces, leaves, etc. Also, some species, particularly waterbucks, lechwes and sitatunga readily use pools and wallows to cool off; pools should be deep enough to accommodate this behavior but with shallow lips to allow easy egress by young.

5.      Sanitation - Indoor and hard surface floors should be cleaned daily, and bedding (straw, shredded paper, wood shavings, etc.), removed and renewed daily. Concrete flooring should have a broom swept or similar finish to prevent too smooth a finish and slippage. Sand, clay or soil-filled stalls may be used.

Outside enclosures with soil or gravel substrates should be spot-cleaned at least weekly; areas near feed stations should be raked to keep the ground clean and as parasite-free as possible. Food should be offered in hard surfaced pans or hay mangers to limit exposure to parasite-infested areas. Large outdoor enclosures may not need to be spot cleaned if the substrate absorbs urine, and natural forces are sufficient to break down feces.

All food and water containers should be cleaned and disinfected daily.

6.      Food - A diet of good quality grass, Bermuda and alfalfa hays, supplemented with commercial herbivore diets, will provide adequate nutrition for most species. To prevent sand and gravel impaction, all hays should be fed in racks above the ground. Jaw abcesses may result from coarse feeds, cracked corn, and oats as well as ingestion of sand spurs and cactus spines, and may lead to bucal irritations and subsequent impactions from feed. Appropriate minerals and vitamins may be added by feed supplement or as drinking water supplements. Trace mineral blocks should be available ad lib. Vitamin E and selenium supplements need to be included in all diets, and especially for lechwe, and pelleted diets for hartebeests should include 20 mg./lb. (.009 mg./kg.) of copper. When animals are housed in groups, it may be advantageous to provide several feeding locations should be maintained to prevent dominant individuals from monopolizing feed.

7.      Veterinary care - Services of a veterinarian should be available. Fecal examination and treatment should be made at least twice annually, and more frequently if the animals are kept on pasture. Because internal parasites are particularly debilitating to neonates, herds should be examined prior to calving, especially in southern regions, to reduce parasite infestation.

Depending on the facility's location, antelopes and gazelles may require annual vaccinations for rabies, tetanus and/or other regional diseases of domestic livestock. Vaccinations for clostridium and tetanus should be given according to manufacture's recommendations for sheep, goats and cattle. Physical examination and routine medical screening should be done as the opportunity arises as part of sound bovid management.



These bovids are typically hardy, large bodied animals, the males of which all have horns. In some species, the female also have horns; those of female oryxes and hartebeests are nearly as large as those of males. Some species, paticularly sables and hartebeests, may be quite aggressive.

1.      Housing - Antelopes are rarely housed indoors year round, and in most situations, shelter or indoor housing is needed only for night quarters. In regions where antelopes are stalled only at night, a single stall for eland, greater kudu, sable or hartebeest should measure 100 sq.ft. (9.3 sq. m.); 70 sq. ft. (6.5 sq. m.) for most other species, and 45 sq. ft. (4.2 sq. m.) for bushbuck and sitatunga.

For some species, housing antelopes in stalls at night allows for more intense and individualized management; other species, particularly social species, do best when housed in herds. Where males are housed individually, females may often be housed together as a single social unit.

In areas requiring long periods of confinement, indoor enclosures should possess at least 150 sq. ft. (14 sq. m.) for a single antelope. For each additional eland or nilgai, 100 sq. ft. (9.3 sq. m.) should be added; for other species, 80 sq. ft. (7.4 sq. m.) should be added for each additional animal. The temperament of individual animals or species should also be considered, highly compatible ones being able to be housed in smaller spaces than less compatible ones without causing undue stress. In more aggressive species, males and particularly irritable females may need to be stalled separately from other females and young.

Outdoor enclosures for most species should measure at least 300 sq. ft. (30 sq. m.) for each animal; hartebeests should have at least 200 sq. ft. (19 sq. m.) for each animal.

2.      Social - Although the social habits of antelopes vary greatly, most species are herd forming and may be maintained safely in breeding groups that contain one adult male and several adult females and young. Males of many species may be housed year round with females and young without difficulty unless seasonal breeding is desired. Males of other species, particularly hartebeests, should be separated from cow/calf herds except for breeding due to their aggressive nature toward non-breeding or primoestrous females and young.



This group includes a number of animals that are similar in appearance. Typically most species have long legs and necks, slender bodies and annulated, lyre-shaped horns. In most species, both sexes have horns. Most species have excellent sight, as reflected in their large orbits, and species within this group are set apart from most larger antelopes by their ability to conserve water and maintain body temperature. Regardless of their ability to derive water from their food, captive specimens should have access to water at all times.

1.      Housing - Gazelles are rarely housed indoors on a permanent basis and, in most situations, housing is needed only for night quarters. Where animals are stalled only at night, a single gazelle requires at least 56 sq. ft. (5.2 sq. m.); the size of the stall should be increased by 36 sq. ft. (3.3 sq. m.) for each additional animal. For areas requiring long periods of confinement, indoor enclosures should possess at least 150 sq. ft. (14 sq. m.) for a single animal, and be enlarged by 80 sq. ft. (7.4 sq. m.) for each additional animal. Preferably animals will have access to outside yards when weather permits. Also, the temperament of the individuals and species may need to be considered, highly compatible animals being able to be housed in a smaller space than less compatible ones.

Outdoor enclosures should possess at least 200 sq. ft. (18.6 sq. m.) for each animal. Shade should be available.

2.      Social - Gazelles are generally gregarious and may be housed in three ways: 1) A single adult male with a group of females and young. Young males should be removed after weaning to prevent injury from the adult male. 2) Young males may be maintained in bachelor groups. Males should not be housed near or in the presence of conspecifics or females of similar species. 3) Single male breeders may be housed separately.



Barn floors should be impermeable (coarse or brushed concrete, asphalt, or packed stone) in order to provide adequate hoof wear and traction. If the substrate does not provide adequate hoof wear, periodic hoof trimming may be necessary. Walls between barriers should be solid wood and extend up to at least 6 ft. (1.8 m.) to act as a sight barrier between animals in adjacent stalls. Outside enclosures should use visual barriers between adjacent species, particularly antelope species. Minimum fence height should be 8 ft. (2.3 m.); 10 ft. (3.1 m.) is required for greater kudu and eland. Extra stalls or adjacent shift pens should be available for temporary relocation of males, other individuals or entire herds to allow for routine hygiene and maintenance.




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