Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) and gerenuk (Litocranius walleri): similar females, extremely different males

Most gazelles (genera Gazella, Eudorcas, Nanger, Litocranius, Antilope, Ammodorcas, Antidorcas and Procapra) are only moderately sexually dimorphic. Adult males are not strikingly larger than adult females but possess horns, or at least larger horns.

However, the blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra, see presents an intriguing comparison with the gerenuk (Litocranius walleri, see

In both, adult females (compare with are hornless and weigh about 30 kg, and female colouration is the least conspicuous among gazelles:

Despite this uniformity of females and juveniles, the mature males could hardly differ more, as follows:

This correlates with the ecological and social differences.

The blackbuck is a specialised grazer which drinks frequently and concentrates in large groups, whereas the gerenuk is a specialised browser which can forgo drinking for years and often appears solitary. Both species are territorial, but in divergent ways.

In the blackbuck, territories are so small, crowded and hectically defended that the competing males show off to each other for most of the time. They alternate this with visual appeasement, because they can forage only by trespassing their way to nearby, untrampled pastures, excusing themselves gesturally along the way there and back.

In the gerenuk, the territories are so large that males seldom even see each other. Not only do they not need to trespass, but they only ever patrol a limited central part of the territory - using smell rather than sight.

What this means is that - despite females being so similar - males have social modes so different that males of the blackbuck make no attempt to hide from predators, whereas those of the gerenuk remain as secretive as possible.

Posted on April 05, 2021 02:34 AM by milewski milewski


Another difference is that the blackbuck is touch-averse, keeping 'personal distance' even in courtship, whereas the gerenuk is not touch-averse (see

Posted by milewski about 3 years ago

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