Arabian Oryx Fact Sheet

Population estimate: due to the fact that many of the Arabian oryx individuals are found in private collections, it is difficult to establish an accurate assessment of its numbers in the region. However, the 2011 Arabian oryx disease survey included 7124 oryx in the region.

IUCN classification: Vulnerable (2011)

CITES: Appendix 1 category where cross-border trade is prohibited.


​Oryx inhabit gravel plains, open wadis, sand dunes and stony inter-dunal depressions. They reportedly move into the sands after rain and in the winter return to the plains in hot seasons where they can find more shade.


Gestation lasts for 255-273 days. Females usually give birth to a single calf, rarely to twins. There is no fixed rutting season.


Oryx mainly eat grasses and the shoots of trees and bushes and may wander long distances in search of pasture. They can survive for long periods without drinking, apparently meeting their water requirements from succulent plants and occasionally from dew, but they drink freely when water is available. They feed mainly in the early morning, evening and possibly at night.


Arabian Oryx are the most arid-adapted species of oryx and inhabit hyper-arid desert regions with annual rainfall of 50mm or less. The light-colored coat is reflective, but in cooler winter conditions oryx erect the guard hairs and expose the darker skin to promote heat absorption. The brain is kept cool by a heat exchange system: warm arterial blood on the way to the brain is cooled in the enlarged sinus cavity by venous blood returning from the nasal passages. Oryx can go for long periods without drinking. The broad rounded hooves allow them to move easily over loose sand.


Oryx live in mixed herds, usually in groups of 10 or less, but in former times herds of up to 100 were reported. Herd size is known to increase following rainfall and improved grazing. Herds are usually led by an old female. In hot months, oryx seek shade below trees or bushes and may dig or scrape out a depression there or in the side of a dune. The usual gait is a walk or a slow canter.

Further reading