Scimitar-horned Oryx

Oryx in Nigeria
Photo: A-7 Outfitters

The Scimitar-horned Oryx, Oryx dammah, which formerly existed in northern Nigeria and indeed throughout the Sahel, is an antelope species of the Oryx genus, which has long and curved horn. A few physiological peculiarities such as its ability to delay perspiration till it reach a temperature of 46.5 °C or kidney ability to minimize urine production, enables it to stay ten months without water. The coat reflects the pale rays of the sun, while the black portions provide protection against sunburn. These characteristics, together with its well-developed hoofs, make it very well adapted to desert habitat. The Nigerian species, called Iwu in Yoruba, is an extreme example of this kind of adaptation. The horn, which is present in both sexes, is long and curved.

The Arabian oryx, which, when seen in profile, often appears to have only a single horn, is widely believed to be the source of the unicorn myth. The species of Oryx found in Nigeria too, has been argued to be the inspiration behind the unicorn legend, especially because of the local species’ long, slender horn that does not grow back and the impression this usually social animal might have made to the European mind when ostracized individuals are seen in the plains. Unicorns are believed in ancient civilizations to be capable of magical powers, generally aggressive towards humans but soft towards virgins.

The Scimitar-horned Oryx has an average body length of 160 cm, and shoulder height of 81- 102 cm. Weight ranges from 80 to 90 kg. It gives birth to a calf after a gestation period of 8.5 months. This young becomes sexually mature in approximate 639 days and may live for up to 27.5 years.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer