The Beira, A Very Peculiar Animal

The beira's coat has a marked difference in the neck region, where it's longer and harder than in the rest of the body. This is an adaptation to protect itself from the thorns of the plants its diet is based on. Learn more about this species here.
The Beira, A Very Peculiar Animal
Georgelin Espinoza Medina

Written and verified by the biologist Georgelin Espinoza Medina.

Last update: 17 November, 2022

Among the few species that prefer to live in the arid mountains of the Horn of Africa we find the beira. It’s a very peculiar antelope, rather small, and with a very intriguing life. Have you ever heard about it?

Its scientific name is Dorcatragus megalotis and it’s part of the Bovidae family, and the Antilopinae subfamily, which comprises 15 genera and 38 species. It’s a very territorial animal and also the most endangered antelope in the area, so keep reading and learn all about this bovid.

General characteristics of the beira

As already mentioned, the beira belongs to the small-sized antelopes, their height to the shoulders is no more than 60 centimeters – 24 inches – with an average of 57cm (23 inches) Its body mass ranges from 9 to 14 kilograms (20 to 30 pounds). Their body length is around 93 centimeters (37 inches), while their short tail measures 5 to 8cm (2 to 3 inches).

This species, in particular, doesn’t show differences in size and body weight between females and males. The distinctive feature is the presence of straight horns in males, which reach a maximum height of 12 centimeters (5 inches)

The coloration pattern comprises a reddish hue on the head and on the outside of the legs a dark line is easily distinguishable from the shoulders to the hind limbs, dividing the dorsum from the ventral region. The back and neck are grayish. In addition, the ventral area and inner thighs have cream to light reddish tones.

A relevant characteristic of this species is its large ears, which have long black and white hairs inside. The pattern they form is very useful to distinguish individuals. The scientific name Dorcatragus megalotis makes a reference to this aspect of the animal.

Where does the beira live?

The antelope is native and endemic to East Africa, ranging in distribution from the Gulf of Aden to the Horn of East Africa. It has also been seen in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Djibouti.

Even though the area where it lives has been in conflict for several years, the area where it spends most of its life is the arid mountains. It’s estimated that it can live in areas of up to 2000 meters (1.2 miles) above sea level, which includes areas with scarce vegetation.

Behavior

It’s a gregarious antelope, forming small groups composed of a dominant male and several females with their young. The greatest activity is observed at the beginning of the day and at the end of the afternoon. It’s also a very territorial and sedentary antelope.

A typical aspect of the species is that all members of the herd defecate in the same place. It’s believed that this is the way they mark their territory and it helps them to cohere the group. Likewise, the maintenance of the latrine, or toilet area, is important.

The event occurs in sequence as a true ritual and the last one to perform the process is the male. When he goes to the latrines, he first sniffs all the piles of dung and, with the help of his hooves, hits the ground in order to cover them.

The dominant male is in charge of tending the latrines. When this doesn’t happen, it’s a sign that there’s no mature male in the group or that he is sick.

These animals are herbivores. Their diet consists of leaves and shoots of the shrubs that grow in their natural habitat. They also feed on herbs, grasses, and succulent plants. According to the analysis of their feces, we can see that they are foragers. This means that they select the plants that provide the greatest benefit to their bodies.

Although they live in arid areas, it seems finding water is not such a priority for these mammals. They’re able to take advantage of the liquid contained in their food.

Reproduction

The reproductive process is sexual and occurs seasonally. The female goes into estrus and the male begins to sniff the genital areas and urinates frequently. When the female is ready, she remains still and lifts her tail.

The gestation period is 6 months. After this, a fully developed calf is born. Like other types of antelopes, it will only take a few minutes for it to stand up and take its first steps. It then goes in search of the mother’s udder to feed.

Once the calf is born, the female will go into heat again after 5 to 13 days. Nursing lasts from 3 to 4 months, which is when weaning occurs. However, the young can ingest solid food just 2 days after birth, and the characteristic rumination starts after 3 weeks of life.

Beira conservation status

The beira.
Dorcatragus megalotis.

The beira is an endangered animal. Since 1996, it has been in the vulnerable category of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Its main threats include habitat degradation and hunting.

The loss of its home is attributed to factors such as drought, overgrazing by domestic livestock, and the felling of trees for charcoal. Such trees are essential, as they provide shade for this species.

So, this very peculiar animal of the African continent is in danger of becoming completely extinct, all because of human beings. This should be a wake-up call to reflect and take decisive action to protect this antelope and other species that suffer directly from the shrinking of their populations.

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  • Giotto, N., Picot, D., Moussa, E., Rech, J., Maublanc, M., Bideau, E., Mohamed, N., Gerard, J. (2016). Compared diets of sympatric beira antelopes and domestic goats in the growing season. European Journal Wildlife Research, 62, 687–693.
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  • IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group. (2016). Dorcatragus megalotis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T6793A50185898.

The contents of My Animals are written for informational purposes. They can't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.