[ Addax nasomaculatus ]

Quick Facts

HEIGHT:  4.5 to 5.5 feet

130 to 240 pounds

WILD DIET: grasses, leaves of small bushes and trees
ZOO DIET: herbivore grain, carrots, sweet potatoes, and grass hay
DISTRIBUTION: Distribution is currently restricted to a narrow band of desert between eastern Niger and western Chad, with a few possible from Niger to southern Algeria.; addax are on the verge of extinction with less than 300 in the wild because of severe overhunting and long droughts.
HABITAT: sand and rocky desert, often far from water


In the Heart of the Desert

An antelope alternative
Addax are not your run-of-the mill antelope. They have an unusual appearance, with a comparatively heavy body, a big head, and long, spiraling horns. In the summer they have a sandy-white coat, and in winter it turns grayish-brown. They have white markings on their legs and belly, with a black tuft of hair on the forehead, under the horns. Addax have some of the most impressive horns of all antelope. In older individuals, they can spiral almost three turns and extend nearly three feet!

Deep among the dunes
The world’s largest desert is not the first place you would expect to find a large mammal, but addax are at home deep among the dunes. Before being hunted nearly to extinction, they lived throughout the Sahara Desert. People would even hunt addax from vehicles, driving to chase them down. Now addax have retreated to a few areas in the heart of the desert where the sand dunes are big and hunters in vehicles cannot follow.

Desert ready
Most antelope are fast and graceful, but addax are a bit slow and clumsy by family standards. They have a stiff-legged gait, better suited for long endurance runs in sand than fast sprints through grass. What they may lack in grace, addax make up for in toughness and adaptations. They live in one of the most inhospitable habitats in the world, and they are the most desert-adapted antelope. Their feet are extra-large and spread out, perfect for staying on top of loose sand. Their legs are shorter than most antelope, giving them a low center of gravity and keeping them steady--even when the sand shifts under foot.

Life without water
Addax get nearly all the moisture they need from the sap of vegetation and from dew, going almost their whole lives without drinking water at all. When vegetation is not available, they can live off the water stored in their body fat. Herds of addax, with between 5 and 20 animals, travel long distances across the Sahara to find the vegetation they need to survive. Normally they are grazers, meaning they eat grasses. But addax will also browse leaves from the few bushes and trees they encounter in their dry habitat.


Addax are nomadic, with no fixed territory, following the rains that produce the plants on which they depend. Food and water is so scarce in the desert that they are almost always on the move. To beat the heat of the day, addax are active mainly in the early morning, evening, and the first part of night.

Addax at Brookfield Zoo
You can see these special antelope in their enclosure along the 31st Street path, on the north perimeter of the zoo. Brookfield Zoo is part of the Species Survival Plan for Addax. SSPs are coordinated conservation and education programs between zoos. The goals of SSPs is to maintain healthy populations of endangered animals in a zoo setting.

Get Involved

Conservation Fund of the Chicago Zoological Society