Guenther’s Dik-dik

  • SCIENTIFIC NAME: Madoqua guentheri

  • SWAHILI NAME: Digidigi; Suguya; Dik-dik

Standing just over a foot (30 cm) tall, these miniature antelopes have a very distinctive appearance, with their long noses, big eyes, tufted topknot, and long back legs. The ability of Guenther’s dik-diks to survive without access to water makes them perfectly suited for life in the heat. Of all ungulates ever studied, the dik-dik’s body makes the most economical use of water. Even its pronounced nose decreases water loss and cools the blood going to the brain.

Guenther’s Dik-dik

Guenther’s Dik-dik



Daily Rhythm




Life span

In the wild: 10 years (oldest found)
In captivity: 16 to 17 years

Conservation Status

Lower risk


Male: 7.7 to 8.6 lb (3.7 to 3.9 kg)
Female: 9.9 to 10.1 lb (4.5 to 4.6 kg)


Male: 12.8 to 14.0 in (32.5 to 35.6 cm) high at shoulder
Female: 14.0 to 14.4 in (35.6 to 36.6 cm) high at shoulder

Guenther’s Dik-dik

Tracks and Scat

Tracks: When running, the imprint of the front of the hoof is deep; hind track may not be visible
Scat: Small heaps of black droppings; dik-diks typically return to the same spot to deposit scat.

Guenther’s Dik-dik tracks

Trivia Question

How do dik-diks tolerate living in such hot climates?


During the hottest part of the day, dik-diks stick to the shade to stay cool. If they do move, they do so very slowly.

Social Structure

Dik-diks maintain their territory with a single partner and sustain this pair bond faithfully until one of them dies. Female dik-diks are larger than males, so within the monogamous pair, it is the female that leads the male, establishing both where they go and what they do. The pair’s most recent offspring, and occasionally an older one, remain with the pair for some time. Dik-diks only gather in groups during the dry season, when food is limited to specific areas.


Dik-diks communicate with a handful of calls. When they’re excited or scared, they make a whistling hiss.


Dik-diks are territorial and mark their boundaries with dung and scent. Fights, particularly among neighboring males, occur along these boundaries, although they are mostly ceremonial and rarely involve actual physical contact. Females defend their regions as well, behavior that is very rare in female antelopes. Not having to worry about water allows dik-diks to live in small territories that remain stable and constant for many years. This gives them an advantage over predators, as dik-diks can use their intimate knowledge of their territories and their speed to escape attack. Due to the extreme heat, dik-diks are most active in the early morning and in the evening; they spend the heat of the day resting in the shade. During the day, they stay within their territories; at night, pairs may venture out to find food. Grazing during the coolest parts of the day allows dik-diks to eat leaves when they contain the highest possible amount of water. Because they can extract all the water their bodies need from these water-plump plants, they do not need access to other water sources. When they do drink, which is rare, they lap water like a cat.


Because of their ability to eat a wide variety of plants, dik-diks are not so vulnerable to vegetation and habitat changes caused by increased human activity. In fact, these changes can sometimes benefit them.

Range & Habitat

Dik-diks live in the hottest, driest regions in and around northeastern Africa.

Though dik-diks prefer habitats with shrubbery, they also live in open woodland as long as there is a solid layer of bush. Such a habitat provides plants to eat, shade, and protection from predators. Guenther’s dik-diks, unlike other dik-diks, prefer stony to sandy soil.


With small size comes a small stomach. This means dik-diks do not need to consume huge quantities of food. Instead, they focus their energy on obtaining the best quality available. They are picky eaters, and though they eat leaves, flowers, fruits, and shoots from nearly every species of tree or bush, they choose the freshest parts of the plants. Dik-diks rarely eat grass, though they will eat grass seeds.


Dik-diks have a very ritualized breeding behavior. When ready to mate, the female stands very straight, with her back curved and her tail upright, and allows the male to mount her for a brief mating. After a gestation period of 170 to 180 days, females give birth during the wet season to a single young; in East Africa, this occurs twice a year. A newborn dik-dik can stand within five minutes of birth, and nurses within the first one to two hours. The female dik-dik rears her young with no help from the male. She hides the newborn in dense shrubbery for the first couple of weeks, returning to groom and feed her offspring until it is ready to browse with her. Dik-diks reach sexual maturity between six and eight months of age, and a female gives birth for the first time when she is one year old.

Friends & Foes

Because of their short stature, dik-diks are limited in how high they can browse. However, they have learned that by sticking close to larger animals, such as greater kudus, elephants, and giraffes, they can expand their diet. They simply wait for their tall friends to break off branches and leaves. This help is especially important during the dry season, when dik-diks otherwise would have to rely mainly on fallen leaves and flowers for food. As for predators, researchers at Mpala have found that a pack of wild dogs kills about seven dik-diks each week, or about one a day.

Population in Kenya & Beyond

There are approximately 511,000 Guenther’s dik-diks in the wild. They are common throughout Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia. In Uganda, they persist in the northeast. Sudan had a large dik-dik population in the 1980s, but a good count has not been made since then.

Guenther’s Dik-dik

Did you know?

The name “dik-dik” comes from the animal’s high-pitched warning whistle, which sounds like zik zik when repeated.