The Nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus), is one of the most commonly seen wild animals of northern India and eastern Pakistan. In India they are found from the base of the Himalayans in the north, down to the state of Karnataka in the south. They are found all along the entire eastern length of Pakistan and across the border of Rajasthan in the West to the states of Assam and West Bengal in the East.
Nilgai stand 4-5 feet at the shoulder and are 6-6.6 feet long. Their tails are 15.50 to 17.75 inches. Mature nilgai typically weigh 260 to 530 pounds. Babies usually weigh 30-35 pounds at birth after an 8 month gestation period. Over 60% of births result in twins, though births of 1 or 3 do occur. They reach sexual maturity at around 18 months and can live as long as 21 years.
Nilgai have thin legs and a robust body that slopes down from the shoulder. Their long, narrow heads are topped by two small conical horns which are straight and tilted slightly forward. Horns on trophy males are normally 8.5-10 inches. They have an erectile mane on the back of the neck and a tubular shaped “hair pennant” on the midsection of the throat.
Female nilgai have a short yellow-brown coat. Males’ coats gradually darken to a grey-blue as they reach maturity. They have white spots on the cheeks and white coloring on the edges of the lips. They also have a white throat bib and a narrow white stripe along the underside of the body that widens at the rear.
Nilgai are diurnal and live in grasslands and woodlands where they eat grasses, leaves, buds, and fruit. Their favored food is the succulent kader grass of acacia forests. They are also a crop menace, causing large-scale damages especially along the gangetic belt. It has been declared as vermin in northern India, and they may be legally hunted after obtaining a permit.
This species has also been exported to Texas where it was mainly found in zoos and private ranches. Now nilgai can be found on open grazing land throughout Texas and Alabama. Their estimated population in Texas number around 15,000. The numbers in India are approximately 100,000. They are listed as low risk of extinction by the IUCN.
Threats to the species include predation by tigers and lions. Leopards may attack and kill calves. Many nilgai are hit by vehicles and their carcasses can be seen along roadsides in northern India. The main threat to this species is loss of habitat due to human population growth.