Among the majestic African-horned deer species, the nyala is a gorgeous antelope with twisted horns. They are peaceful and shy of other species but have huge battles within their own.
Nyala Scientific Classification
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Artiodactyla
- Family: Bovidae
- Genus: Tragelaphus
- Species: Tragelaphus angasii
- Lifespan: 19 years
- Length: 53-77 inches
- Height: 6 feet male, 3 feet female
- Weight: 194 pounds male, 149 pounds female
- Top speed: 36 mph
Compared to the others in the antelope family, nyala falls somewhere in the medium size range. It is the size difference between female and male nyala that’s fascinating.
Male nyalas are almost 6 feet tall. Female nyalas are half their height, closer to 3 feet than 5 usually. Male nyala is also double the weight of female nyala.
A female nyala doesn’t have horns. Her coat is reddish-brown with yellow legs and dark brown feet. About 10 white vertical stripes run down her sides. The underside of her mouth is white and there are spots of white all over her body.
An adult male nyala doesn’t have defined vertical stripes. Instead, the white stripes running down their coats are faded.
His coat is gray with a bluish tint to it. These male African horned deers do have horns on their heads, however, juvenile males look like a female, possibly for protection.
A white dorsal crest runs down their backs and on the undersides of the belly. They have big ears and the same white in between the eyes and under their nose. Both have a bushy tail and white underside.
Did you know? Nyalas exhibit the highest sexual dimorphism among the spiral-horned antelopes, meaning there’s a systematic difference in form between individuals of different sexes.
Nyala Range & Habitat
Nyala is native to Africa, specifically South Africa. The focus of their habitat is always grasslands and freshwater. They are always hiding in woodlands.
They camouflage with ease, which is why spotting them is hard. The only time there’s a greater chance is when one goes on a safari ride in national parks.
- Continents: Africa
- Countries: Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe
Forest | Savanna | Shrubland
Nyala Behavior and Lifestyle
Nyalas lead a nomadic lifestyle. A herd of nyala can have 30 individuals, but at most, four to ten frequently see each other and live in the same area. These are all temporary groups.
Nyalas join and leave the group as they please. Sometimes, a male nyala gets into a fight with another and kicks the other out.
Older male nyalas give up groups altogether. They don’t hold on to social ties. Nor do they make any attempt at guarding their territory.
Nyalas, like all herbivores and antelopes for that matter, gain nutrition from flowers, fruits, grass, and twigs.
Their grass intake increases significantly during the rainy season. Freshwater is a must for nyalas to survive. As a result, they choose areas where water bodies are close to them.
Even if they live inside the forest, they can come out to drink water. It is, of course, better if the water body is inside the forest.
Nyalas use the morning and afternoon periods to feed. During winter, they are out in the open more often. In the summertime, they stay inside the forest during the day and move to open ground in the dark.
Male nyalas are tall so they do not have a hard time reaching for flowers, fruits, or branches on tall trees. For significantly tall trees, baboons and monkeys help them. The monkeys shake the branches so the fruits and flowers fall to the ground.
In general, male nyalas eat vegetation available at a higher height while female nyalas make do with what is close to them.
Female nyalas frequent all habitats for their food and water. Whether it is forests, open grasslands, or thickets, female nyalas look for grass everywhere. Male nyalas seem to be attracted to sand forests.
This is due to the size difference between male and female nyala. Male nyalas can access vegetation anywhere, so they do not feel the need to forage in other habitats. Female nyalas need to be more resourceful for their food.
Nyala Reproduction and Mating
Nyalas can breed and reproduce year-round. However, mating peaks in spring and autumn. Male nyalas court female nyalas for two days.
Nyala males can fight for dominance in a group. They use their twisted horns for these fights. Once they have won the fight, they are free to court the nyala females. Often, they show off their white fur by raising their head.
Female nyalas are capable of conceiving once they reach 14 months. The gestation period is about 220 days. They hide behind thickets to give birth to protect themselves and their offspring from predators. A single baby is born.
The mother nurses the calf for 18 days, keeping it hidden. This calf has to leave the mother once another calf is born.
The mother nyala also takes care of her two youngest offspring but quickly forgets about the older ones.
Nyalas certainly are not monogamous. Different calves may be born with different partners.
Nyala Conservation Status
Nyala Predators and Threats
Nyalas have the Least Concern status on the IUCN list. This does not mean they don’t face predators. Lions, cheetahs, leopards, and hunting dogs are all nyala predators. Birds of prey and baboons aim for the younger nyala.
Nyalas are not fast either. They can’t run well, and the only thing protecting them is their ability to hide in woodland.
Humans also hunt nyala for the horns and the meat. Habitat loss is another considerable threat to their population as they migrate to private property and game reserves, where they are hunted.
Some amazing facts about the spiral-horned antelopes:
- Nyalas are friends with monkeys and baboons. The tree residents drop food for these African antelope.
- Nyalas have a sharp sense of smell and hearing. When they sense danger, they let out a high-pitched alarm call to other nyalas, monkeys, and baboons. Their barking alarm calls are similar to that of dogs.
- There is a yellow spot on the top of the twisted horns of male nyala that researchers don’t know the purpose of.
- Before breeding, a victorious male nyala performs a weird dance while surrounded by female nyala.
- Nyala antelopes are 5 million years old. They are a million years older than humanity and the second oldest antelope to exist, only after Kudu.