Soemmerring’s gazelle (Nanger soemmerringii)

Synonyms: Gazella soemmerringii
GenusNanger (1)
SizeHead-body length: 125 – 150 cm (2)
Weight38 – 46 kg (2)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

These large, pale gazelles once gathered in their hundreds on the open plains of the Horn of Africa (2). Soemmerring’s gazelles bear short, heavy, lyre-shaped horns that sweep backwards and point inwards at the tip. The large head is also distinctive due to the prominent facial markings (2); dark stripes run down the nose and from the corners of the eyes to the nose, separated with white stripes (3). Soemmerring’s gazelle has a tawny-red coat on its back, with an extensive white patch on the rump. Its undersides are bright white, as are its long legs, ending in large hooves (2) (3). The short, tapered tail is mainly white but ends in a black tuft (2) (3). Three subspecies of Sommerring’s gazelles are recognised, each distinguishable by aspects of their appearance. Nanger soemmerringii soemmerringii has a brown face and shorter horns; the face of N. s. berberana is blacker and it bears longer horns, and N. s. butteri has darker flanks and stripes on its thighs (2).

Endemic to the Horn of Africa (2), Soemmerring’s gazelle occurs in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan (1). N. s. soemmerringii occurs primarily in Sudan, N. s. berberana is found in Somalia and N. s. butteri primarily inhabits southern Ethiopia (2).

Soemmerring’s gazelle inhabits rough, hilly country and semi-arid grasslands, often with scattered Acacia trees and bushes (2) (4).

In the past, the attractive Soemmerring’s gazelles used to gather in their hundreds as they undertook seasonal migrations (2). Today, this magnificent sight is rare, as the gazelle is seldom seen in herds composed of more than 15 individuals. These are often herds of females and their young, accompanied by a single adult male on his territory. The territorial male marks his range with dung, and should another male venture onto his land, aggressive confrontations may ensue (2). Such encounters involve scraping their horns on the ground (3), head-flicking, and yanking their opponent’s horns sideways in an attempt to destabilise their rival (2).

Mating in Soemmerring’s gazelle peaks between September and November (2). After a gestation of around 198 days, the female gives birth to a single calf that lies well hidden in grass until it is strong enough to keep up with its mother (3). This usually takes about a month (2), during which time the mother returns to her calf only to nurse it (3). By the age of six months the calves are weaned, and by just 18 months the gazelle is sexually mature and capable of reproducing. Soemmerring’s gazelles live for up to 14 years (2).

Soemmerring’s gazelles feed primarily on grasses (5); their narrow muzzle and mobile lips enable them to carefully select the best quality grass (3). The main predators of Soemmerring’s gazelle include cheetahs, lions, leopards, Cape hunting dogs, hyenas and even pythons (3).

Assessed as Vulnerable to extinction by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) (1), the Soemmerring’s gazelle has experienced a serious decline in numbers (6). It has now been exterminated from many parts of its historical range, and remaining populations exist in small pockets (2). While overgrazing by domestic livestock and agricultural development, which reduces the Soemmerring’s gazelle’s food supply, is believed to be the main cause of this decline, hunting may have also played a significant role (2) (6), as for a long time gazelles have been hunted by people for food (6).

The largest population of Soemmerring’s gazelle occurs in Awash National Park in Ethiopia (7). However, even within this protected area, seasonal cattle grazing occurs which may impact the gazelle’s food supply (8). There are no specific conservation measures known to be in place for this vulnerable gazelle at present.

For further information on conservation in the Horn of Africa see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2009)
  2. Kingdon, J. (1997) The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Academic Press Ltd, London.
  3. Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens (January, 2008)
  4. Stuart, C. and Stuart, T. (1997) Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  5. Ultimate Ungulate (January, 2008)
  6. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker’s Mammals of the World. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  7. Conservation International: Biodiversity Hotspots (September, 2010)
  8. UNEP-WCMC: Awash National Park (January, 2008)