The scimitar Oryx, also known as the Sahara Oryx, is a species of Oryx once widespread across North Africa which went functionally extinct in 2000.
The scimitar Oryx formed herds of mixed sexes of up to 70 members, usually guided by the bulls. They inhabited semi-desert and deserts and were adapted to live in the extreme heat, with their efficient cooling mechanism and very low requirement of water.
They are sexually dimorphic with males being larger than females. The scimitar Oryx is a straight-horned antelope that stands just over 1 m at the shoulder. The males weigh 140 – 210 kg and the females 91 – 140 kg. The body measures 140–240 cm from the head to the base of the tail.
Its coat is white with a red-brown chest and black markings on the forehead and down the length of the nose. The coat reflects the sun’s rays, while the black portions and the tip of the tongue provide protection against sunburn. The white coat helps to reflect the heat of the desert. Calves are born with yellow coats and lack distinguishing marks, which appear later in life.
Both sexes have horns, but those of the females are more slender. The horns are long, thin, and symmetrical; they curve backwards and can reach 1 to 1.2 m on both the males and the females. The horns are so thin that they can break easily. The large, spreading hooves are well adapted to allow these antelopes to walk on the sand of their dry habitats. A scimitar Oryx can live as long as 20 years.
The habitat of scimitar Oryx in the wild was steppe and desert, where they ate foliage, grass, herbs, shrubs, succulent plants, legumes, juicy roots, buds, and fruit. They can survive without water for nine to ten months because their kidneys prevent water loss from urination – an adaptation to desert habitats. They can get water from water-rich plants such as the wild melon.