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Facts about Gemsbok

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Another name for gemsbok is 'oryx'

The gemsbok (pronounced 'hemsbok') is one of the few animals who can tolerate the intense desert heat and sun.  Also known as the oryx, these majestic antelope can be found in the vast desert regions of Southern Africa. 

Both males and females have long, straight horns that sweep backwards, and can reach over 1m in length, and unlike many other species, the females have the longer horns.  Although highly decorative, the horns are their primary form of defence against predators such as lions, hyena and wild dog. The horns are also used as a way to assert their dominance within their herd hierarchy. 

Mixed herds of up to 15 are common, with both males and females having their own hierarchy within the individual sexes.  The herd is led by a dominant male bull. 

During the day, the herd will shelter from the sun, and move and feed primarily at night or the early morning. This is two-fold - firstly, it conserves their energy and water consumption, secondly, it enables them to take in moisture from  the condensation which forms on the desert plants during the night.

Gemsbok will also dig for wild melons and cucumbers to supplement their water requirements.