Saola Fact Sheet

Common Name:

Saola, siola, Vu Quang ox, spindlehorn, Asian unicorn

Scientific Name:

Pseudoryx nghetinhensis

Wild Status:

Critically Endangered / Possibly Extinct


Moist, dense evergreen forests


Annamite Mountains forests on the border between Vietnam and Laos.



Life Span:

Believed to live about 8 to 11 years


4'11" to 6'4" in length and weighs between 176 and 220 pounds

Cool Facts:

  • The name Saola means ‘spindle horns’ in Vietnamese.
  • The Saola was discovered in 1992 when the Vietnamese Ministry of Forestry discovered the skull of a two horned mammal.
  • The Saola looks a lot like an antelope however it is more closely related to cattle.
  • The Saola are elusive and to date have only been photographed 3 times in the wild which is how they earned the nickname of the "Asian Unicorn."
  • The Saola does not thrive in captivity.
  • The Saola eats all plants.


The Saola is one of the world's rarest largest mammals and is related to antelopes, goats and cattle. The Saola was first photographed in the wild in 1999.  The Saola live in the forest and are very rare to find. They are the first mammal to be discovered in Vietnam in 50 years. After studying the remains of a Saola, it was found that they differed from all other bovid genera that they could be placed into their own genus. The female's height is about 33 inches at the shoulder and 4.7 inches taller than shoulder height. The hair is straight, soft and long which is odd for an animal with montane habitats. The hair is short on the neck and thick and woolly on the forelegs and belly. They have a thick stripe that goes from their shoulders to the tail along the middle of the back. Their eyes have round pupils and their irises look orange if light is shone on them. The males and females all have horns which are different in lengths. The horns have a resemblance to parallel wooden posts which were used to support a spinning wheel, hence the name "spindlehorn." The Saola's habitat is wet evergreen forests and they prefer rivers and valleys. They seem to active during the day and night but will rest midday probably due to the hot midday hours. The Saola eats all plants and will chew leaves after grabbing it with their tongue and putting it in their mouth instead of pulling on the leaves. It is believed that the birthing season for Saola's is over 2 to 3 months.  

Taxonomic Breakdown:

Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Mammalia Order: Artiodactyla Family: Bovidae Subfamily: Bovinae Genus: Pseudoryx Species: Pseudoryx nghetinhensis

Conservation & Helping:

The Saola is considered critically endangered due to habitat loss and habitat fragmentation. They are also hunted and their fur sold in illegal trade, traditional medicines and they are used for meat. The Saola Working Group was formed by the IUCN Species Survival Commission's Asian Wild Cattle Specialist Group in 2006 to protect them and their habitat. Conservation groups have removed more than 26,651 snare traps that were meant for wild boar, sambar and munjac but have trapped Saolas instead.

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