Richard Moore: South Texas Nilgai

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RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – The largest Asian antelope roams the wildlands of deep South Texas, and this mature bull is perfectly at home in the thorny brush country. Originally, from India and Pakistan, Nilgai were introduced to South Texas by the King Ranch in the 1920’s and 30’s and have since spread all the way to the Rio Grande.

Mature males can weigh more than 600 pounds with dark gray to gunmetal blue coats and are referred to by some as blue bulls. Females are tan in color as are young males before taking on their darker hue in maturity.

With no natural predators and habitat similar to their land of origin, Nilgai have proliferated in the coastal plains and South Texas brush country. Primarily grazers content to feed on grasses, they also browse shrubs, and this bull leisurely feeds on a granjeno bush.

No one knows the exact number of these exotic animals scattered throughout the ranchlands of southernmost Texas, but they likely exceed 30,000.

They have become very popular and challenging game animals with South Texas hunters providing landowners with an important added source of revenue.

Nilgai are extremely wary with exceptional eyesight, keen hearing and super sensitive sense of smell. With superior height and unusually long necks, they are able to scan their surroundings with unparalleled perception.

Only the males have horns, and after reaching sexual maturity they will wield them lethally to fight a rival. They will often gore an opponent, sometimes getting down on their knees to stab an adversary in the belly, as these young bulls demonstrate in playful sparring.

In addition to their gleaming dark coats and formidable horns, if you are able to get a close-up look at a wary bull you will see he has a white throat patch, ears tipped with black and sports a couple of distinctive white spots on both sides of his face.

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