The very first animal in the spotlight is my all-time favorite (although it is very difficult for me to pick a favorite animal), the Thomson’s “Tommy” Gazelle. They are so adorable. I love their big bright eyes, their cute faces, striped tawny patterns, wagging tails, and the phenomenal speed and agility they possess.
Tommy Gazelles are the most common Gazelles found on the continent of Africa. They number in the hundreds of thousands and are adapted to living life on the open plains. They are herbivorous (plant eating), highly social, herd animals, that feed on low lying grasses and shrubs. They often congregate with larger herbivores such as: Zebra, Wildebeest, Impala, and Grant’s Gazelles, due to the fact that the larger plant eaters eat the leafy top plants while Tommies devour the fresh short grass on the bottom.
Tommies generally weigh between 30-50 pounds, with males being slightly bigger than females. Males also have large beautifully arched horns (used during intra-specific conflict, with other males, for territorial/mating rights). Females generally have no horns (or mere spikes, for maternal defense of their fawns).
Being that Tommies are small herbivores they are susceptible to predation from a menagerie of ravenous predators ranging from: Cheetah, Lions, African Hunting Dogs, Crocodiles, Leopards, and Hyenas. However, Tommies are not without their own defenses. Tommies have extraordinarily acute senses enabling them to spot a stalking predator before it even gets close enough to strike. Furthermore, there is strength in numbers. Tommies congregate in large herds, thus employing hundreds of eyes, ears, and noses to keep watch.
Once spotted good luck catching a Tommie…Tommies can take off running at speeds of 55 mph. Moreover, they can endure at 40 mph for up to 35 minutes (still capable of outrunning most predators). Although they are not as fast as their preeminent predator, the Cheetah (capable of sprinting at 70 mph), the wily little gazelle escapes more often than not. Due to the fact that Tommies are extremely agile and have more stamina they often juke young and unsuspecting cheetah.
Furthermore, the Tommy’s grace in high speed flight is almost lyrical. Even though the Tommy in question is fleeing for his or her life it’s almost miraculous to watch. They are such powerful and magnificent runners.
I love these little creatures because of their tenacity to survive and thrive. They dwell in a world full of dangers and perils; yet, they manage to proliferate to the point of becoming common. Their will to live is what makes them fantastic to me. And did I also mention that they are adorable and graceful? I would love to have some as pets.
A young female escapes a Cheetah…
Run Tommy Run!