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Scientific Names Week: Nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus)

Posted on May 3, 2009 by in Theme Weeks, Ungulates | 2 comments

Boselaphus tragocamelus

Number 0254

The nilgai is an antelope that lives in India and parts of Nepal and Pakistan. For an antelope, it has a weird scientific name: Boselaphus tragocamelus means ox-deer-goat-camel. Perhaps they just really didn’t know and wanted to hedge their bets. The word nilgai comes from a Hindi word meaning “blue bull.” (The male nilgai’s bluish gray hide reminds me of grulla, my favorite color in Ben K. Green’s The Color of Horses. When I was a kid, my dad and I enjoyed looking at that book at B. Dalton or Waldenbooks while my mom and sister were shopping elsewhere in the mall.)

Some 35,000 feral nilgai roam ranchland in Texas. In the 1930s, the King Ranch decided to experiment with breeding the hardy antelope in tough Texas as an alternative source of meat. That didn’t really take off. Now, the Texas nilgai are handy targets for trophy hunters.


  1. GORGEOUS drawing, Jennifer. As usual. A dramatic pose, and beautiful play of light and shadow.

    And a nice looking mammal, on top of all that.

    So the reason for the feral nilgai in Texas is because these King Ranch people brought them over from Nepal or wherever? When I first read that I was a little confused — it sounded like the nilgai were first roaming freely, then they decided to try breeding them, and I wondered how they originally got to Texas. But I think I figured it out now.

    I’m slow, but I get there eventually.

  2. Thank you, Ted! Sorry that wasn’t clear: the King Ranch imported the nilgai from India, and now they’re roaming somewhat freely here and there in Texas. When they’re not being hunted by guys who then pose for pictures with their carcasses, which they post online for me to stumble across when I’m looking for reference photos.

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