Fun Scimitar Oryx Facts For Kids

Akinwalere Olaleye
May 03, 2023 By Akinwalere Olaleye
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Fact-checked by Oluwapelumi Iwayemi
Scimitar oryx facts about the oryx that can survive high temperatures.

The scimitar oryx, also called the Sahara scimitar oryx, Sahara oryx, or the scimitar-horned oryx gets its name because of its distinct horns. Earlier these charismatic antelope species roamed freely in large herds all across North Africa. They are well adapted to the desert heat.

Scientifically known as Dammah scimitar, these horned oryx are antelopes with long, slightly curved horns. They have beautiful white coats with brown markings on the neck and the chest.

A unique adaptation feature, the white coat helps their body to reflect the heat in the sizzling desert heat. The oryx scimitar-horned male and female can tolerate high temperatures that would be deadly for most of the living animals in the wild.

The most distinct feature of this species of antelope is its graceful, thin, sickle-shaped horns. The horns of the male and the female scimitar-horned oryx grow up to 36 inches and are curved backward.

Their thin horns are prone to breaking.

An adaptation feature guarding the scimitar horn oryx against the heat of the desert and sunburn is their black skin and the tip of the tongue.

Their kidneys keep a check on extra urine flow and minimized perspiration due to high internal body temperature which goes up to 116° F.  Plus, the broad, and flat hooves of the oryx help them walk on the sandy deserts. The dense eyelashes of the scimitar-horned oryx keep the eyes protected from the sun and sand.

You may also check out the fact files on plains zebra and zorse from Kidadl.

Scimitar Oryx Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a scimitar oryx?

Scimitar oryx, scientifically known as oryx dammah is an elegant-looking antelope that’s now extinct in the wild. Conservation scientists in African countries are working on captive breeding programs to plan the successful reintroduction of this wild animal into their suitable natural habitat. African countries like Tunisia, Niger, and north-central Chad are under consideration.

A popular question is, are the scimitar-horned oryx extinct? On the verge, but not yet!

The Sahara Conservation Fund in partnership with other environmental agencies has launched the ‘Scimitar-horned Oryx Reintroduction Programme’. They aim to release five hundred of the herding animals into the wild. Efforts are being made to find the ideal habitat for the oryx dammah and restore them in the wild with protection in Chad, Tunisia, Morocco, Senegal, and Niger.

The desert species oryx scimitar-horned antelope are being bred in captivity under a specific program under the Sahara Conservation Fund. In the first conservation attempt, fourteen captive-bred oryx were released in a remote region in Chad.

What class of animal does a scimitar oryx belong to?

The scimitar-horned oryx are mammals.

How many scimitar oryxes are there in the world?

The scimitar oryx species vanished from the wild due to human interference in their natural habitat, and lack of conservation efforts. The oryx dammah, scimitar-horned antelopes, were specially hunted for their horns and meat.

These beautiful animals were not seen in their wild habitat for about twenty-five years. Thanks to the privately maintained captive scimitar-horned oryx population, their conservation efforts have started. Now they are being bred in captivity and released in their natural habitat.

Several oryx scimitar horn antelopes have been released in the wild with continuous monitoring and protection. Now, more than three hundred scimitar-horned oryx roam around free in the wild. The effort taken by Sahara Conservation Fund to reinstate the African scimitar oryx is truly encouraging.

The population of the oryx dammah scimitar-horned animals in captivity is now in the thousands, ranging from five to ten thousand or more.

Where does a scimitar oryx live?

The scimitar-horned oryx lives in the arid desert regions around the Sahara Desert in Africa.

Centuries ago, huge herds of scimitar oryx, the desert-adapted herbivorous animals roamed freely around the Sahara Desert and the semi-arid Sahel regions of Northern Africa. Their trail covered vast areas of Egypt, Niger, Morocco, Tunisia, Mali, Libya, Algeria, Chad, Mali, and Sudan.

Indiscriminate scimitar-horned oryx hunting, and loss of habitat have led to a steady decline and these animals disappeared from the wild.

To avoid scimitar-horned oryx extinction, these animals are being bred in captivity before introducing them into their natural habitat.

What is a scimitar oryx's habitat?

It is believed that the scimitar-horned oryx is not a true desert antelope species. They thrived in the Sahelian grasslands and sparsely acacia-covered woodlands between the Sahara Desert and the savanna. The herds of these antelopes adapted well to the desert heat but their ideal habitat is the semi-desert condition.

These antelopes have a network of thin blood vessels spread close to the nasal passage. These blood vessels carry blood from the animal’s heart to the brain, which is among the more heat-sensitive organs of the body.

By carrying blood from the heart, the network of fine blood vessels helps the body to cool down before it finally reaches its brain. These animals can tolerate an internal body temperature that is considerably higher than other animals to cope with the desert heat.

The anatomy of the scimitar oryx allows them to tolerate very high temperatures which would be considered lethal to most mammals. These animals can also survive without drinking water as they don’t perspire much.

Who do scimitar oryxes live with?

Scimitar oryx are social animals living in the wilderness. They live in herds. Old males sometimes wander off alone.

Usually, a nomadic herd consists of a dominant male and ten to thirty females with calves. There are well dramatic, fights between male oryxes to gain control over the females. Lack of food may lead to bloody fights between the oryx scimitar-horned antelope bucks.

How long does a scimitar oryx live?

The scimitar-horned oryx lifespan in the wild is unknown. In a protected environment, a scimitar oryx can live up to twenty years.

How do they reproduce?

Both males and females of this species reach reproductive or sexual maturity around two years of age. The scimitar-horned oryx reproduction involves a distinct mating ritual. Often male contenders fight with each other to win a female.

During the courting process, the male and female stand beside each other followed by circling one another. If the female is ready to mate, she allows the buck to mount her.

The gestation period of a female oryx is about eight months. The female gives birth to one calf with an average weight of 20-33 lb.

What is their conservation status?

The scimitar-horned oryx antelopes are now missing from their natural habitat due to human interference, climate change, and over-grazing by livestock. To halt the extinction of the oryx scimitar antelope, the IUCN has listed this animal as Extinct in the wild, and conservation efforts are underway to revive this species.

Scimitar Oryx Fun Facts

What do scimitar oryxes look like?

Both males and females of this species have a thick pelage cream or white coat of fur. Reddish-brown markings on the cream face and a lateral stripe on the neck are visible.

The face has a reddish-brown mask on the forehead that looks like an inverted chevron. Their legs are creamy-white with wide, black, hoofs. Underneath the white coat, the animal has black skin.

An adult scimitar-horned oryx is 55-94 in tall and can be close to seven feet long from head to tail. They are the longest among all their cousin oryx which include the Arabian oryx, East African oryx, and the gemsbok.

Their long, curved horns have earned this oryx species its name as it resembles a scimitar or a saber. It is the only oryx species to have curved horns.

Scimitar oryx is an antelope that inhabits the semi-desert regions of Northern Africa.

How cute are they?

Scimitar-horned oryx look more elegant than cute with a white coat with a red-brown chest and neck and slender backward-bending horns.

How do they communicate?

Scimitar-horned oryx are social animals that live in huge herds. The antelope population communicates through tactile and chemical mechanisms or pheromones. They may leave their scent for marking their territory or use their strong sense of smell to identify other animals.

How big is a scimitar oryx?

Thescimitar oryx is approximately four times larger than the world’s smallest deer species Pudú from South America, which is 13-14 inches high and weigh up to 13 lb.

How fast can a scimitar oryx run?

The oryx species can run at a speed of 37 miles per hour.

How much does a scimitar oryx weigh?

A male scimitar oryx weighs 310-460 lb on average and the female weighs 201-309 lb.

What are the male and female names of the species?

A male oryx is called a buck and the female is called a doe.

What would you call a baby scimitar oryx?

A young scimitar oryx is called a calf.

What do they eat?

The scimitar oryx survives by eating grass, fruits, herbs, seedpods, and leguminous roots. As they live in semi-arid countries like Chad and Niger, the scimitar oryx are adapted to a flexible foraging approach. They change their feeding pattern depending on the seasonal availability of food in their grazing habitat.

When tuft grasses herbs are scarce, these animals they eat legume seedpods, bulbs, juicy roots, bitter wild melon, tuberous roots, succulents, and the soft tip of branches as available. Wild melon, juicy roots, and shoots of Capparis (a wild flowering plant) are some of the favorites of the oryx scimitar species.

Due to the extreme heat and aridness of their dry habitat, food can be often scarce for the oryx population. They dig for tubers and roots. During the rainy season, these animals gather in herds of thousands.

The nursing scimitar-horned oryx females will forage on acacia seedpods as they provide important nutrients.

Scimitar-horned oryx are ruminants like cows. The oryx population has to live without water for a long time. They survive by taking moisture from food, and licking dew from their white coats, and bare rocks.

Are they aggressive?

Scimitar-horned oryx is a grazing species that are not generally aggressive if not provoked. Mothers with calves may show extremely aggressive behavior. Generally, they are a laid-back species that will graze in herds and rest when needed.

The male scimitar-horned oryx may show aggressiveness during the mating season.

Would they make a good pet?

Scimitar-horned oryx is a wild animal that cannot be kept as a pet.

Did you know...

In ancient Egypt, the scimitar oryx were domesticated. They followed a peculiar practice of tying several oryx horns together to merge them into a single horn. It is thought that this practice is the root of the mythical animal the ‘unicorn’.

Scimitar-horned oryx are like camels and can live without drinking water for days. They can tolerate an internal body temperature of up to a hundred and sixteen degrees Fahrenheit. They can tolerate an internal body temperature spike of 116 degrees Fahrenheit which causes them to sweat less than most mammals and help in the conservation of body fluid.

The longest-living scimitar-horned oryx died at the age of twenty-one in captivity but scientists do not yet know how long these animals can live in the wild.

This oryx is now a valuable wildlife treasure due to the popularity of ecotourism. Africa and other countries are making great profits by saving animal species like the oryx scimitar antelope that are on the verge of extinction. These conservation efforts are giving these animals a second chance in the wild.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including Addax, or Cuban solenodon.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our oryx coloring pages.

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Written by Akinwalere Olaleye

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

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Akinwalere OlaleyeBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

As a highly motivated, detail-oriented, and energetic individual, Olaleye's expertise lies in administrative and management operations. With extensive knowledge as an Editor and Communications Analyst, Olaleye excels in editing, writing, and media relations. Her commitment to upholding professional ethics and driving organizational growth sets her apart. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Benin, Edo State. 

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Fact-checked by Oluwapelumi Iwayemi

Bachelor of Science specializing in Systems Engineering

Oluwapelumi Iwayemi picture

Oluwapelumi IwayemiBachelor of Science specializing in Systems Engineering

Iwayemi is a creative content writer and editor studying for a Bachelor of Science specializing in Systems Engineering from the University of Lagos. He is skilled in research and has experience writing and editing content for different organizations.

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