Nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus)

male Nilgai in Kachchh

male Nilgai in Kachchh

The Nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus) is the largest antelope of Asia. It occurs in India as well as Pakistan and Nepal. The animals show a striking sexual dimorphism with males being much larger (weighing up to 300 kg) and having a blue to greyish coat. Females are built lighter and have a sandy brown colour. Only the males carry short, slender horns, occasionally with ring-shaped ridges at the base.

Nilgai are habitat generalists and can be found in open grasslands as well as more densely vegetated woodlands. Their estimated population in India is around 100,000. Generally, the animals are not hunted, since their name refers to the cow, a holy animal for Hindus (nil = blue; gai = cow or bull). Nevertheless, the population suffers under the loss of habitat due to population growth. This also leads to a steady increase in car accidents and it is not rare to see dead antelopes next to the roads. Nilgai have also been introduced to Texas as hunting game and their population has increased there to more than 30,000.

The photos in this post have been taken in Kachchh in western Gujarat during several visits in the years 2009 to 2013. The antelopes are still relatively common in the semi-desert landscape. Especially during the dry winter season, they come close to villages to drink at the artifical water holes. Since they are not hunted, Nilgai are not particularly shy and can often be found grazing on fields in broad daylight. More rarely, the antelopes can be seen crossing the salt marshes of the Great Rann of Kachchh to reach smaller islets to feed.

male and female Nilgai

male and female Nilgai

male Nilgai crossing a field

male Nilgai crossing a field

Nilgai in the landscape of Kachchh

Nilgai in the landscape of Kachchh

female with calf...

female with calf…

amidst the Great Rann of Kachchh

amidst the Great Rann of Kachchh

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