Oryx live in herds of 12 or more but break up during the dry season, when food is scarce, into smaller units. They can also aggregate into large herds of 300 individuals after rainfall. The leader of the herd, a territorial male, jealously guards his domain, carefully marking the boundaries with piles of dung pellets to warn off would-be intruder males. If this is insufficient to keep a challenging male away, a duel involving horn-clashing and body bashing will result. Oryx do not have a restricted breeding season; a single calf is born at any time of year. As with other large antelope, the young calf remains hidden in the grass, and is visited by its mother to suckle it. It can remain hidden for 3 to 6 weeks, after which the mother and calf will join either a mixed herd or a nursery herd.
The oryx is a powerfully built antelope, and is easily recognisable by its magnificent, V-shaped pair of horns, as well as its distinctive facial markings.
It is superbly adapted to arid regions, and can survive in some of the hottest places on earth without drinking water. During the sizzling heat of the day, the rapid inflow and outflow of air created by the gemsbok’s panting passes over a delicate network of blood vessels, cooling the flow of blood to the brain. At the same time, however, the body temperature is allowed to rise – obviating the need to perspire, and thus conserving water.
Living in areas where there is a shortage of drinking water, it obtains moisture from melons, and by unearthing succulent roots and bulbs. Oryx are dry-region rouphage eaters, with a great capacity to digest fibre. They are essentially a grazing species, but if in areas of minimal grass cover, they are able to flourish on a diet of browse and ephemeral plants.