The nilgai is Asia's biggest antelope. It is found mainly in Northern India and South Nepal. It is a very common animal which is quite easy to see even outside game reserves. Its superficial ressemblance with a cow protected it from hunters as cows are revered by Hindus. This may explain why it is still found in great numbers compared to other grasseaters.
The nilgai is a gregarious animal which gather in single sex herds. The basic social unit is composed of a female and its youngs. Female herds averaging 3 to 6 cows with their young are also common. Male herds also form and may number as much as 15 bulls. Each herd has a home range which is delimited by fixed latrines where nilgai deposit their feces. They also use the glands on their legs.
Males become aggessive during the rut and and wll react against the intrusion of other males through lateral display, neck stretched forward, stiff-legged walk and by rolling the eyes in their sockets. Once a female is found, they will establish an exclusive zone around her and defend it against other males. Nilgais fight either standing or by kneeling and by headbutting each other with their short horns, or through neck-fighting. This explains the thick dermal shield on their neck.
Length: 180-210 cm.
Height: 120-150 cm.
Weight: 120-212 kg for the female, 200-288 kg for the male.
Habitat: Open habitats, dry and deciduous forests, steppe and arid zones. It avoids dense forests.
Breeding: Gestation: 243-247 days. Sexual maturity: 2 years. Twins are not rare. Weaning: 10 months.
Food: Browser mostly, it also eats foliage, fruits and buds and grazes depending on circumstances.
Predators: Tigers, leopards, dhole packs and mugger crocodiles all prey on nilgai which are not easy prey considering their size and speed. Calves fall prey to wolves, jackals, striped hyenas and very occasionally sloth bears.
Best places to see it: In most reserves of Western and Northern India. Sometimes seen outside reserves.