GAZELLE (Heb. צְבִי, ẓevi). The gazelle is included among the seven wild animals permitted as food (Deut. 14:5; 12:15), and is the only one among them that has survived in Israel. Though it was almost extinct in the early 1940s, there has been a considerable increase in the number since the passing of the Wild Life Protection Law by the State of Israel, which made hunting the gazelle an offense, and today hundreds of them are to be found in the Judean hills and in the Negev. There are two species of gazelle in Israel; the more common is the Gazella gazella, which is grayish-brown in color, 55 inches (140 cm.) in length, and up to 27½ inches (70 cm.) in height. The other species, Gazella dorcas, which is found in the Negev, is light-brown in color, has large ears and diverging horns, and stands only 23½ inches (60 cm.) high. The gazelle's delicate appearance, its slender legs, narrow body, and beautiful eyes, made it a symbol of grace and beauty (Song 2:9; 4:5; 7:4). It was hunted extensively for its delicious meat (Isa. 13:14; Prov. 6:5). Its light-footedness became a symbol of speed (ii Sam. 2:18). In Song of Songs (2:7; 3:5) there twice occurs the adjuration "by the gazelles and by the hinds of the field," the reference being to the habit of the males and females of living apart during most of the year and meeting again at the mating season. Perhaps the maiden here intimates that her beloved will surely return to her. Because the gazelle is not found in Europe, the translators of the Bible there identified the ẓevi with the *deer (Heb. אַיָּל), which abounds there. Whereas, however, the horns of the deer are branched and solid ("antlers"), the Talmud clearly states that those of the ẓevi are unbranched (Ḥul. 59b) and hollow (tj, Er. 1:17, 19b). "Gazelle" and not "deer" is also the meaning of the Aramaic and Arabic cognates of ẓevi. The halakhah refers to the prohibition of crossbreeding the gazelle with the goat, which it resembles (Kil. 1:6), the progeny of such cross-breeding being, according to some, the animal known as the koi (Ḥul. 132a).
I. Aharoni, Torat ha-Ḥai, 1 (1923), 87; F.S. Bodenheimer, Ha-Ḥai be-Ereẓ Yisrael (1953), 246; Tristram, Nat Hist, 127–30; J. Feliks, Animal World of the Bible (1962), 11. add bibliography: Feliks, Ha-Ẓome'aḥ, 270.
ga·zelle / gəˈzel/ • n. (pl. same or gazelles ) a small slender antelope (Gazella and other genera) that typically has curved horns and a fawn-colored coat with white underparts, found in open country in Africa and Asia. ORIGIN: early 17th cent.: from French, probably via Spanish from Arabic ghazāl.