Visible Male/Female Differences
Males and females are difficult to tell apart unless the udder or scrotum is visible.
Males are slightly larger and more heavily built than females. Males' horns are thicker,
but shorter and blunter.
Habitat and Distribution
Arid and semi-arid open grassland, scrub and light open woodland, penetrating into savanna
woodland. Truly desert adapted, survives without surface water.
A grazer but will browse if grass is not available. They dig for roots, bulbs
and tubers and eat tsamma melons and gemsbok cucumbers for their water content.
They get minerals by eating soil and salt at water holes.
Single calves are born at any time of year after gestation of 264 days. Females are sexually
mature at two years, males at two years but do not breed until five years old. Females leave their herd to
give birth. Calves lie hidden for 3-6 weeks; by the time they emerge their horns have
started to grow which gave credence to the myth that they are born with horns. Mothers visit in the
morning and evening to suckle and clean the calf, and may spend the night with it.
Behavior and Habits
Because of their usually hot habitat they spend more than half of the day inactive, in shade if possible, to save energy and water
and to avoid overheating. Body temperature can be allowed to rise to 45
°C during the day and excess heat is
dissapated at night. The blood flowing to the brain is cooled by a unique system heat exchange
with blood flowing from the nasal membranes in a network of vessels called the carotid
rete. They graze for long periods at night when the moisture
content of the vegetation is higher.
Breeding herds contain both
males and females and groups are smaller in the dry season. Both males and females are
cantankerous and there is a dominance hierarchy in both males and females in
a herd. Gemsbok usually stay more than a horn's length
apart because of their aggression toward each other, especially around water
holes. In skirmishes the two animals cross horns near their bases and push and twist
against each other.
In serious fights between bulls the combatants stand alongside one
another and stab backwards and sideways over their shoulders. Dominant bulls are recognizable by their head-high
stance and they have a larger scrotum and only territorial or alpha bulls are
sexually active. Territories are marked with small, neat dung piles, deposited
in a very low crouch so that the pellets do not scatter. Secretion from glands between the
hooves of all four feet are deposited by pawing the ground or while walking around.
thrash the leaves, bark and branches of bushes.
Herds bunch around calves if spotted hyenas are detected, and the adults use their
horns in defense. Groups of hyenas are usually unsuccessful in hunting adult
gemsbok, which defend themselves against predators by slashing with their horns while
covering their rear by backing into a thorny bush. Gemsbuck love salty mineral deposits
and lick it, often making substantial holes in the process and visit them
Normally silent, snorts when alarmed
Dung and Field sign
Pellets are 1,5 cm long, 1 cm across, tapered at one end and hollow at the other.
Small, neat piles of droppings, usually beside trees or large bushes, are deposited by territorial bulls. Thrashed bushes.