Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gazelle

Gazelles, genus Gazella, are slender, graceful antelopes belonging to the family Bovidae, order Artiodactyla. There are about 12 species and 50 recognize forms. The largest gazelle is the dama, or red necked, gazelle, G. damaruficollis, of northern Africa, which stands slightly less than 1 m (3 ft) tail at the shoulder. Other species are 51 to 85 cm (20 to 34 in) tall. Gazelle have long, thin legs with two-toed hooves. Both sexes have beautiful, black ringed, 25 to 38 cm long (10 to 15 in) horns, except for Persian, or goitered, gazelle, only the bucks of which have horns.

Bazelles have brown or fawn colored coats, usually with black and white markings around the face and neck, white undersides and rump, and often a horizontal band of dark color along the flanks. The ears are long and narrow. The tail is short. The large, luminous black eyes are a striking feature. Many gazelles are fast runners, and Grant’s gazelle has been clocked at 80 km/h (50 mph).

Gazelles inhabit open plains from Mongolia and India to Egypt and Morocco and into tropical eastern and central Africa. Several species have become threatened because of overhunting. Gazelle graze in herds numbering from four or five to several hundred. Central and eastern African gazelles often mingle with herds of other herbivores. Like other antelopes, gazelles are ruminants, or cud-chewers.

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