gazelle, name for the many species of delicate, graceful antelopes of the genera Gazella, Eudorcas, and Nanger, inhabiting arid, open country. Most gazelles are found only in Africa, but several species range over N Africa and SW Asia; the Persian, or goitered, gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa) is found only in S and central Asia. Gazelles are rather small antelopes, most standing from 2 to 3 ft (60–90 cm) high at the shoulder, and are generally fawn colored. Some are strikingly marked with black and white. In most the horns are heavily ringed and curve backward and inward in the form of a lyre. Gazelles live in herds on grassy plains and in scrub country. They are very swift animals; some can maintain a speed of 30 mi (48 km) per hr indefinitely, with bursts of 60 mi (96 km) per hour. They are also powerful jumpers. Largest of the gazelles is the addra, or dorcas gazelle (G. dorcas), of the Sahara Desert. It has very long legs and a long neck and is white over most of its body. Closely related to the true gazelles are the Tibetan and Mongolian gazelles (species of the genus Procapra) and the blackbuck of Asia. The African impala, formerly also considered closely related, is now classified in a separate subfamily. Gazelles are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Bovidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Vertebrate Zoology