Gazelles are thin, graceful antelopes that live in Africa and Asia. They resemble deer and are in the same family as goats, cattle and sheep. Gazelles can be identified by their curved, ringed horns, tan or reddish-brown coats and white rumps. Often, there are spots or stripes on their coats. Their light frames help make them agile and better able to escape from predators. There are 19 species of gazelle, according to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS). Smaller species, such as the Speke’s gazelle and Thomson’s gazelle, are only 20 to 43 inches (51 to 109 centimeters) at the shoulder. They weigh from 26 to 165 pounds (12 to 75 kilograms). The dama gazelle is the largest gazelle. It weighs in at 88 to 165 pounds (40 to 75 kg) and is 4.5 to 5.5 feet tall (137 to 168 cm).
Gazelles rely on their speed to escape from predators. Gazelles can reach speeds up to 60 mph in short bursts and sustain speeds of 30 to 40 mph. When running, gazelles use a bounding leap, called “pronking” or “stotting,” which involves stiffly springing into the air with all four feet. These animals are highly social. Some gazelle herds have as many as 700 members, though some herds are small and segregated by gender. Female Thomson’s gazelles, for example, live in herds of 10 to 30 females in addition to their young. Males live alone or in small groups with other males. A male herd is called a bachelor’s herd. The segregation of herds is more prominent during mating season.
Gazelles are herbivores. This means they only eat vegetation, typically grasses, leaves and shoots of plants. According to “Endangered Wildlife and Plants of the World, Volume 5” (Marshall Cavendish Corp., 2001) some gazelles can live their entire lives and never drink any water.