Placed in a monospecific genus, the Beira (Dorcatragus megalotis) is a handsome long-legged antelope, intermediate in size between the dik-dik and klipspringer, and distantly related to both.
It has a grizzled grey back and flanks, separated from the tan legs and belly by a black side stripe, and a red face with bold white circles around the eyes, as well as a bushy white tail.
The horns, present in the male only, are straight and short, but it has unusually large ears, which gives it exceptional hearing. It can obtain all the water it requires from its diet of leaves and grass. Listed as ‘Vulnerable’ by the IUCN, the beira is near-endemic to Somaliland, where the estimated population of a few thousand individuals probably represents more than 95% of the global total. Its core range is focused on the mountains of the escarpment, but it does occur on isolated rocky hills elsewhere in the country. Outside Somaliland, it is present in small numbers on the other side of the unofficial borders with Puntland and Somalia, and its historical range also extends into Djibouti and the far east of Ethiopia, where its current status is uncertain. Unlike most other small antelope, it lives in small herds, typically comprising one or two males and up to five females, although groups of more than a dozen have been recorded.
A resident of rocky slopes, where it tends to be highly territorial, the beira is a wary creature, ever ready to flee, using its rather goat-like hoofs to manoeuvre across scree and larger rocks. Its existence was first made known to Western science by Captain Swayne, a dedicated hunter who heard word of a ‘small, red antelope [with the] habits of a klipspringer’ from Somali hunters, who knew it as a behra, in the early 1880s. Despite his prowess with the gun, Swayne was never able to bag a specimen himself, and eventually he paid some local hunters for the two type specimens he sent to the Zoological Society of London in 1894.