Scientific Classification

Common Name
nilgai, bluebuck
Genus Species
Boselaphus (ox/bull) tragocamelus (goat-like camel)

Fast Facts

The nilgai's short coat is yellow-brown in females, and gradually turns blue-gray in males as they mature. It also has a mane on the nape and back, a "hair pennant" in the middle of the underside of the neck, white markings on cheek and edges of the lips, and a white throat patch. The nilgai has slender legs and a stocky body, which slopes downwards towards the rear. The head is long and slender.
Male:  Males have 20 to 25 cm (8 to 10 in.) long horns which are straight and tilted slightly forwards.
Shoulder height 120 to 150 cm (4 to 5 ft.)
Approximately 120 to 240 kg (264 to 528 lbs.)
Herbivores, diet includes desert succulents, grasses, herbs, and leaves of small bushes.
Gestation lasts approximately 8 months
Life Span
Up to 21 years
Throughout India
Found on the grassy steppe and in woodlands
Global: Unknown
IUCN: Lower Risk/Conservation Dependent
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

  1. Nilgai are the largest Asian antelope.
  2. There is debate as to the origin of the name "nilgai." Literally translated, it means blue cow. Some feel this indicates the reverence in which the Tharu residents held the animal. But with the introduction of outsiders, the nilgai is now referred to as nilgaddi or ghodggadaha ('donkey' and 'mule'), indicating a change in attitude towards the animal. Others feel nilgai is a reference to the male's slate blue coloration.
  3. When chased, nilgai can run up to 48 kph (29 mph).
  4. Males compete with each other by using threatening posture displays and neck wrestling, sometimes leading to both males kneeling and lunging at each other with their horns.
  5. Although nilgai are normally silent, scientists have recorded them roaring.

Ecology and Conservation

Though not listed by CITES or USFWS, nilgai still suffer from habitat loss and poaching. Forests buffering residential areas are on the decline and the animal is losing its original habitat. However, poaching is the major reason for decline, because of the nilgai's preference for agricultural crops. 

Nilgai are also prey for tigers. 

Currently, there are 15,000 nilgai living in the state of Texas and 10,000 in their native India.


Parker, S. P. Grzimek's Encyclopedia: Mammals. Vol. 5, New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, 1990.

Nowak, R. M. Walker's Mammals of the World, Fifth Ed. Vol. II, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.

Spinage, C.A. The Natural History of Antelope. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1986.

Top B. K. Status and Food Habits of Nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus) in Royal Bardia National Park. Agricultural University of Norway. 1993.