Nilgai Fact File
Wild 12-13 years
Captive 21 years
Grass, Leaves, Fruit
The nilgai is also known as the bluebuck or blue bull. Their name when literally translated means ‘blue cow.’
Asia is the native home of the nilgai where they have already gone extinct in Bangladesh. A large population has been established in Mexico and the United States where they were originally released for hunting.
They are herbivores which feed on grasses, leaves, fruits and sugar cane.
While they have benefited from the expansion of their range they are still threatened by hunting and habitat loss.
Learn more about these marvelous mammals by reading on below.
The nilgai is covered by a wiry coat. Males tend to be reddish-brown, iron-grey or ‘blue’ with the coat of females being paler in color. The lower limbs in both are darker in color with a white ring just before the hoof. A small erect mane of fur is present along the back. Patches of white fur can be found along the face and below the chin.
Their front legs are longer than the back legs giving them a sloped appearance.
At the base of the males throat is a tuft of black fur. Their body ends with a tail of 45-53cm (18-21in) long.
The coloration of males gives them their name nilgai which when literally translated means ‘blue cow.’
On top of the head of a male is a pair of short horns which females lack. These reach a length of up to 20cm (8in) tall. Females lack horns.
An adult nilgai will have an average body length of 1.8-2.1m (6-7ft) long with a weight of up to 300kg (660lbs). At the shoulder they stand 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft) tall.
Nilgai are the largest members of the antelope family to be found in India.
Nilgai are herbivores which feed both by browsing and grazing. They feed on grasses, leaves, twigs. Fruit and sugar cane will also be consumed.
Asia is the native home of the nilgai. Here they can be found in India, Nepal and Pakistan. They are considered to have become extinct in Bangladesh.
An introduced population has established on the southern border of the United States and in to Mexico.
They make their home in forest, jungles, arid areas, deciduous open forest and open grasslands.
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Males spend the mating season competing against one another for territory. These are maintained through aggressive displays and ritualized mating. This may escalate in to a proper fight during which they lunge at one another and stab with their small horns.
Once a male has won and formed a territory he will control a group of ten females over which he maintains mating rights.
Females give birth to anywhere between one and three calves with twins being most frequent. These are born after a gestation of 243-247 days.
Sexual maturity is reached at 2 years old for females and 5 years old for males.
The nilgai will travel in a herd. These animals live in separate male and female herds which graze together. Herds may include 4-20 individuals. Older males are often solitary.
Nilgai are primarily believed to be nocturnal and will move around during the early morning and late afternoon.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the nilgai include tigers, lions and wild dogs. Young are taken by leopards.
They have keen senses and will actively avoid predators once they are detected.
Nilgai are afforded some protection as they are considered sacred in the Hindu culture.
They continue to be threatened through habitat loss and hunting by farmers which view them as a threat to their crops.
Legal protection is offered to the species in India but culls are allowed where crop damage is present.
The population in their natural range is believed to include 70,000-100,000 individuals. In the US and Mexico the population is estimated to include 30,000 members.
The name nilgai when literally translated means ‘blue cow.’
These animals may also be known as the bluebuck or blue bull.
Nilgai were first described for science in 1766 by Pallas.
Koshy Koshy from Faridabad, Haryana, India, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Jakub Hałun, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Kkokosz, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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