Joe McDonald/Corbis

The nilgai is the largest antelope native to India. Its spiraled horns and its behavior of kneeling to fight reveal its kinship to other antelopes.

A herbivore, this diurnal mammal both grazes and browses for food.


The females, which are brown, live in groups with their calves.

The males are gray-blue, equipped with small horns eight to ten inches (20 to 25 cm) long, and have a beardlike tuft of hair on their throat. They are solitary or found in bachelor groups.

Habitat loss and hunting for sport, food, and hides have led to the decline of this once abundant creature. Less than ten thousand remain alive, and it has been estimated that there are more nilgais living in captivity in zoos and on Texan game ranches than in the wild.

Animal Facts

Name: Nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus)

Family: Bovidae (Cattle and Relatives)

Range: India

Habitat: Grassy regions and open woodlands

Diet: Grasses, leaves, fruits and seeds

Head and Body Length: 6 to 6.6 feet (1.8 to 2 m)

Tail Length: 18 to 21 inches (46 to 54 cm)

Shoulder Height: 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 m)

Weight: 264 to 529 pounds (120 to 240 kg)

Life Cycle: Mating usually March to April, depending on locale; gestation 210 to 250 days, one or two calves born

Description: Tawny (females) or blue-gray (males) in color; short, coarse fur; white patches on face and chin; long, slender head; males have black, tapering horns and a throat tuft; stocky body; slender legs

Conservation Status: Lower Risk (Conservation Dependent)

Major Threat: Hunting

What Can I Do?: Visit WWF India for information on how you can help.

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