Proudly the most successful exotic in South Texas, nilgai antelope range along the Gulf Coast of Texas from Baffin Bay to Brownsville and inland to Highway 281. Native to India, nilgai antelope were initially brought to the United States as zoo animals during the early 1920s. They were subsequently released on the Norias Division of King Ranch during 1930s and have dispersed to occupy their present range in South Texas.
There are now an estimated 15,000 nilgai on Texas rangelands. El Sauz Ranch is home to a herd of several thousand animals.
Nilgai are the largest Indian antelope, with adult males (bulls) weighing well over 600 pounds. Nilgai bulls are brownish gray to steel gray darkening to a bluish hue with age while cows are light brown. The species was popular game among British sport hunters in India during the 1880s. This is when the animals were inaccurately named "nilgai" which means blue cow in Hindustani instead of "nilgau" which means blue bull. Keen eyes and ears make nilgai antelope a genuine challenge to hunt. In spite of their large size, nilgai exhibit great endurance and can maintain speeds of 30 mph when fleeing danger.
Nilgai bulls sport short, black, bicurved horns. Trophy class horns measure 9-11 inches. Extraordinarily tough skin covers the neck and chest area forming a dermal shield up to one inch thick. This offers some protection during battles for dominance and breeding rights.
In south Texas breeding takes place primarily between November and March. During this time dominant bulls maintain harems of several females. Their gestation period is approximately 245 days. Calving takes place September through November. Twins are typical with the occasional occurrence of triplets.
Nilgai meat is lean, yet tender, lacking the rank, wild flavor characteristic of most native game animals. Considered a delicacy, nilgai meat is often marketed in fine northern restaurants as Texas antelope.
There is no closed season for nilgai antelope, as this species is an introduced exotic.
Handbook of Texas
The Mammals of Texas
The Ultimate Ungulate Page