HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — The nilgai antelope are the largest Asian in the wildlands of deep South Texas. Mature males can top 600 pounds and run 30 mph or more.
Originally, from India and Pakistan, nilgai was introduced to South Texas by King Ranch in the 1920s and ’30s and have since spread all the way to the Rio Grande.
No one knows the exact number of these exotic animals scattered throughout the ranchlands of southernmost Texas, but they are thought to exceed 30,000, and likely there are more here than in their native land.
Mature males sport 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, and only the males have horns.
With no natural predators and habitat similar to their native land, nilgai has proliferated throughout 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.
Nilgai is 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.
They make excellent table fare and have become very popular and challenging game animals with South Texas hunters. Nilgai provides landowners with an important added source of revenue, with the price tag on a bull tallying $2,000 or more.
Unfortunately, they are a host for the fever tick that can cause disease and death in cattle. Since 2007, nilgai has been killed by helicopter on both federal and some private lands in an effort to curb the spread northward from the Rio Grande as the fever ticks persist south of the river.