Geographical Range Somalia and possibly Ethiopia (in Africa)
Habitat Semi-desert grasslands
Scientific Name Gazella spekei
Conservation Status Endangered

A Honkin' Big Nose

One of the first things you notice about this graceful little antelope is its big nose! The Speke's gazelle's "schnozz" actually has an important purpose: it is partly responsible for the animal's loud alarm call. By inflating the loose skin on the top of its muzzle, the gazelle can increase the volume of its call, which resembles a honking sound.

Small in Size

These are among the smallest gazelles, reaching a maximum shoulder height of only about two feet. Males weigh up to 40 pounds, while females range from 24 to 35 pounds.

Male and female Speke's gazelles have a tan back, accented by a white underside and rump, and dark bands on the side. Both sexes have S-shaped horns with upward-curving tips. The horns of the males are noticeably larger and broader than those of the females.

A Taste for Plants

Speke's gazelles graze on grass, herbs, shrubs and other plants. They can often survive a long time without water -- a useful adaptation in their dry habitat.

In recent years, these animals have found themselves competing for food with domestic livestock. So far, they have managed to find enough to eat on ranchland that is only moderately grazed.

An Active Social Life

Speke's gazelles are social animals. They live in herds of five to 12 animals. When food is scarce, these smaller groups may merge into herds of up to 20 animals.

There are two typical kinds of herds. One is composed of an adult male with his harem of females, with which he breeds. The females determine the direction in which the herd grazes. But the dominant male works hard to keep his harem within the boundaries of his home range, an area of ½ to 2 square miles.

A second type of herd is the bachelor herd, made up of juvenile males and young adult males that don't have harems.

Gazelle calves are born after a gestation period (pregnancy) of six months. They weigh 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 pounds at birth. Their mothers wean them after two to three months.

Out of Harm's Way

There are a host of predators that young gazelles have to avoid, including cheetahs, lions, wild dogs, leopards, hyenas, and even pythons. So newborn babies lie motionless in the bush, emerging from hiding only long enough to nurse.

Even adult Speke's gazelles rest during the heat of the day, as is the case with many hot-climate animals. They are active mainly in the early morning and evening.

Trying to Compete with Livestock

Speke's gazelles used to range in large numbers through parts of Somalia and Ethiopia. In fact, in the 1980's, they were one of the most widespread and abundant of the Somali gazelles. But now they have become extinct or severely reduced over a large part of their original range.

The main reason for their decline is the loss of grazing land to livestock. Their dry grasslands will support only so many grazing animals, and the gazelles often lose out to cattle, goats and other domestic animals. Add to this the pressures of hunting and drought, and it's no wonder these little animals are in trouble.

There are currently no protected areas within the range of Speke's gazelles. The conservation status of this species is expected to decline further in the absence of protection and management of wild populations and their habitat.

Fun Facts

  • When they are excited or alarmed, Speke's gazelles use a "pronk" behavior, a combination of running, bouncing, and jumping.
  • Speke's gazelles live up to 12 years in the wild.

Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae