Why do gazelles have horns?

Gazelles use their horns in defence, either from predators or from other gazelles unwelcome on their patch. They can ward off unruly intruders, put boisterous youngsters back in their place or, if needs be, fight a predator.

The gazelle family is spread throughout Africa and central Asia where it grazes on plants and leaves during most of the day. Male gazelles use their horns to fight other males to establish dominance and larger horns give a gazelle an advantage in battle.

A successful gazelle gets his pick of the females and his genes will be passed on to the next generation, so battling for the top spot is important. Males will disturb the ground with their horns as a threat gesture, and sometimes the sheer size of a male’s horns will be enough to settle a dispute in the herd.

At roughly a third of the size of male horns, females use their horns to perform ‘vegetation horning’ to mark their status, and will even fight other females invading their territory.

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Image from www.flickr.com/photos/bdu/3671657389