A gazelle (Arabic: غزال ġazāl) is any of many antelope species currently or formerly in the genus Gazella. Six species are included in two genera (Eudorcas and Nanger) which were formerly considered subgenera. The genus Procapra has also been considered a subgenus of Gazella, and its members are also referred to as gazelles; however they are not dealt with in this article.
Gazelles are known as swift animals – some are able to maintain speeds as high as 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) for extended periods of time. Gazelles are mostly found in the deserts, grasslands and savannas of Africa, but they are also found in southwest and central Asia, and the Indian Subcontinent. They tend to live in herds and will eat less coarse, easily digestible plants and leaves.
The gazelle species are classified in the Gazella, Eudorcas and Nager. The taxonomy of these genera is a confused one, and the classification of species and subspecies has been an unsettled issue. Currently, the genus Gazella is widely considered to contain about 13 species. Four further species are extinct – the Red Gazelle, the Arabian Gazelle, the Queen of Sheba's Gazelle and the Saudi Gazelle. Most surviving gazelle species are considered threatened to varying degrees.
One widely familiar gazelle is the African species Thomson's Gazelle (Eudorcas thomsoni), which is around 60 to 70 cm (24 to 28 in) in height at the shoulder and is coloured brown and white with a distinguishing black stripe (as in the picture on the right). The males have long, often curved, horns. Like many other prey species, Tommies (as they are familiarly called) exhibit a distinctive behaviour of stottong (running slowly and jumping high before fleeing) when they are threatened by predators such as lions or cheetahs. This is a primary piece of evidence for the handicap principle advanced by Amotz Zahavi in the study of animal communication and behaviour.