Thomson's Gazelle | African Wildlife Foundation

This gazelle is the most
common in East Africa

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Thomson's Gazelle

Conservation Status:

Near Threatened

  • Estimated population of 550K individuals
  • Can run up to 60 miles per hour
  • Horns grow to 17 inches long

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Gazella thomsonii


35 to 55 lb.


22 to 26 in. at the shoulder

Life span

10 to 15 years in the wild


Open plains and grassland




6 months


Cheetahs, lions, leopards, hunting dogs, hyenas, humans


Where do Thomson’s gazelles live?

Thomson’s gazelles prefer savannas and grassland habitats, particularly in the Serengeti region of Kenya and Tanzania. 

Tags: Kenya, Tanzania, Kilimanjaro, Samburu, East Africa View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What is a Thomson’s gazelle?

Thomson’s gazelles, named for researcher Joseph Thomson, have light-brown coats with darks stripes running down their sides, a white patch on their rumps extending underneath the tail, and ridged horns that curve backward. Females may have shorter, smoother, and slimmer horns than males or none at all. Grant’s gazelles are sometimes confused with Thomson’s. However, Thomson’s is distinguished from Grant’s by its smaller size and the white patch on its rump. On Grant’s gazelles, the patch always extends above the tail. 

Behavior & Diet

Thomson’s gazelles enjoy a fairly basic diet. 

In the dry season, grasses make up about 90% of their diets. They will also eat seeds and browse on shrubs. Thomson's gazelles will congregate with larger ungulates, such as wildebeest and zebra, which trample and graze on tall grass, making it easier for them to feed on short grass. 

They have no true hierarchy or leaders.

The strongest Thomson’s gazelle males set up territories in home ranges using an exaggerated display posture and scent gland secretions to mark their boundaries. Females and offspring form groups of five to 50 and wander through male territories. However, the groups change members and numbers by the hour, so no obvious patterns of hierarchy or leadership emerge.

The Thomson’s gazelle balances its vulnerability with exceptionally keen senses.

It is extremely alert to sounds and movements, relying on visual awareness of one another to stay in contact. Its strong senses of hearing, sight, and smell balance its vulnerability and small size on the open plains.

They play hide-and-seek with their young.

Births usually peak right after the rainy seasons. After giving birth, the mother hides the newborn in the grass and returns several times a day to nurse it. Nevertheless, predation on the young is heavy, and many predators are able to feed solely on newborn Thomson’s gazelles during the calving peaks.

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Thomson’s gazelles are victims of hunting.

Tomson's gazelles are often found on ranches and farmlands after many animals have left, feeding on the short grasses exposed by cattle. Here, they are an easy target and are often shot or snared for food.

Humans are encroaching on their living spaces.

The Thomson’s gazelle’s habitat is decreasing as human populations grow and agriculture, settlements, and roads expand.


Our solutions to protecting the Thomson’s gazelle:

  • Set aside space for wildlife.

    African Wildlife Foundation works with governments and villages to designate wildlife corridors—large swaths of land that Thomson’s gazelles use to roam freely and safely from one park, or country, to another. Corridors link protected areas and allow wildlife to follow rains or travel to their calving grounds.

  • Provide agricultural training.

    AWF engages communities living near wildlife to create sustainable practices for agricultural and settlement growth by providing training on best practices and incentivizing conservation agriculture when appropriate. These techniques maximize revenue while ensuring agriculture minimizes its impact on Thomson’s gazelles and other wildlife.

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