saiga, sīˈgə [key], Eurasian antelope, Saiga tatarica, found in steppes, grasslands, and semidesert regions in Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Kalmykia, Russia. Noted for its large, flexible, and inflatable humped nose, which filters out dust and warms inhaled winter air, the saiga has a cinnamon-colored summer coat that becomes mainly white and longer and thicker in winter. The larger male saiga may reach 2.6 ft (80 cm) at the shoulder and be as much as 4.8 ft (146 cm) long; the males have somewhat curved horns, up to 10 in. (25 cm) in length. A good runner, the saiga migrates between its summer and winter feeding grounds in large herds, but lives in much smaller nomadic herds between migrations. Found from the Carpathians and the Black Sea to Mongolia and Dzungaria as late as 1700, the antelope was nearly extinct in the wild in the early 20th cent. The saiga's numbers recovered dramatically by the mid-20th cent. but since then have been reduced by hunting, habitat loss, and disease; in 2015 infections killed more than 200,000, roughly half of all saigas. The saiga is classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Bovidae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Vertebrate Zoology