Tommie Gun: A recognizable example of the gazelle is Thomson's Gazelle (Gazella thomsonii), which is around 60 to 90 cm in height at the shoulder and is colored brown and white with a distinguishing black stripe. The males have long, often curved, horns. Tommies, as they are familiarly called, exhibit a distinctive behavior of "stotting" (running slowly and jumping high before fleeing) when they are threatened by predators such as lions or cheetahs.
Dating Rituals: Thomson's gazelles social structure consists of several types of groups. Male gazelles are territorial throughout their adult lives, though not usually before 2-3 years of age. During the non-territorial periods males usually spend their time in bachelor groups or as part of a mixed herd. Likewise females will form migratory female groups that travel through the males' territory. As the female groups pass through, the territorial males will try to herd them to prevent them from leaving. Adult male bucks with adjoining territories will engage in combat several times a day, fighting with their horns to establish dominance and the boundaries of their territories. In this way, the accepted boundaries of the territory can change on a daily basis. If a lone male, a bachelor group, or in some cases even an adolescent male fawn of a female gazelle should be passing through a territorial male's region, the male will chase the offender out of his territory. Interestingly, this territoriality does not extend to males of other species. The territory of a Thomson's gazelle and several other types of ungulates may overlap with no problem whatsoever. Occasionally, a Thomson's gazelle and a zebra or other ungulate will even appear to enjoy one another's company with great sociability.
Bi-Annual Births: Female Thomson's gazelles give birth to single fawns after a 5-6 month gestational period. They are unusual among other ungulates in that they can give birth twice yearly, rather than just once.
Dinner Rush: In the wild, Thomson's gazelles can live up to 10-15 years, although they are preyed on by most African big cats and hyenas, and are (depending on the location), sometimes the preferred prey of cheetahs. Half of all the fawns born will be lost to predators before reaching adulthood. The cheetah and the Thomson's gazelle are the two fastest animals on land, with cheetahs able to attain higher speeds, but Thomson's gazelles able to outlast the cheetahs in long chases and able to make turns more speedily.
Family Ties: The gazelle species are classified as part of the order Artiodactyla, family Bovidae and genus Gazella. Members of the Articodacycla order are principally distinguished by the foot; they have an even number of toes (The bovid family includes 49 genera and 59 species.) The taxonomy of the genus Gazella is a confused one, and the classification of species and subspecies has been an unsettled issue. Three species—the Red Gazelle, the Arabian Gazelle, and the Queen of Sheba's Gazelle—are extinct. All other gazelle species are listed as endangered, to varying degrees.
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