Thomson’s gazelle (Eudorcas thomsonii)

Synonyms: Gazella thomsonii
GenusEudorcas (1)
SizeHead-body length: 80 - 120 cm (2)
Male weight: 20 - 35 kg (2)
Female weight: 15 - 25 kg (2)

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Despite its limited distribution this is by far Africa’s most abundant gazelle (3). The ‘tommy’, as it is locally known (3), has a distinct black band running along the side of the body that divides the yellowish-fawn to reddish-fawn upperparts from the clean white underparts (2). The white buttocks are edged with black (2), extending to the short, black tail which is constantly flicking (3). Both sexes of the Thomson’s gazelle have long, strongly ringed horns that grow fairly close together, although those of the ewe are generally shorter, thinner, and frequently deformed (3). The face is boldly marked with white, fawn, dark brown and black, and varies between individuals (2). Thomson’s gazelle has sometimes been regarded as a subspecies of the red-fronted gazelle, Eudorcas rufifrons.

Thomson’s gazelle occurs in central and southern Kenya and northern Tanzania (2) (3).

Thomson’s gazelle inhabits acacia savanna and short grasslands, preferring heavily grazed, trampled or burnt grasslands. It is relatively tolerant to drought and can stay on dry pastures long after other large herbivores have moved to moister habitats (2).

Thomson’s gazelles form small herds but are socially very flexible (2) (3). Herds of females overlap with other herds, and movement between herds is common. Within their shared home range the females rest, move between pastures and visit waters (2). Males are a little less flexible and mature males fight to obtain and defend territories within the female’s favourite pastures (2). They denote the boundaries of their territory with dung and by marking grass stems and twigs with secretion from the scent glands beneath their eyes (2). Territoriality in males peaks during mating periods when frequent fights and stand-offs occur between neighbouring males, and males attempt to mate with any receptive female that enters their area (2) (3).

Lambs may be born at any time of the year, but birthing often occurs towards the end of the rainy season (3). Females are pregnant for 188 days, after which a single lamb weighing two to three kilograms is born (3). Thomson’s gazelles feed on fresh green grass whenever possible, but during the dry season, feeding on seeds and the foliage of shrubs is necessary (2). Thomson’s gazelles need to drink water every day or two, and in its dry grassland habitat this sometimes requires making round trips of ten miles or more (4).

The Thomson’s gazelle was once widespread throughout its range, but numbers have declined steeply (2). This is likely to be due to the encroachment of man onto their habitat (5), and hunting (1).

Whilst in many areas Thomson’s gazelles have declined, in some areas the species remains common, particularly in protected areas, such as the Serengeti National Park and Masai-Mara Nature Reserve (2). The continued protection and management of such areas is likely to be vital for the conservation of Thomson’s gazelle.

To learn more about Thomson’s gazelle and the conservation of African wildlife see:

Authenticated (29/03/10) by Dr. David Mallon, Co-Chair, IUCN/SSC Antelope Specialist Group.

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2009)
  2. Kingdon, J. (1997) The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Academic Press, San Diego.
  3. Stuart, C. and Stuart, T. (1997) Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  4. Alden, P.C., Estes, R.D., Schlitter, D. and McBride, B. (1996) Collins Guide to African Wildlife. HarperCollins Publishers, London.
  5. Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.