The Gemsbok Shofar, Eland Shofar and Other Exotic Horns

The gemsbok shofar has been gradually making its way onto the shofar market in recent years. According to Rabbi Natan Slifkin, it is made from the horn of an antelope, the southern African oryx (Oryx gazella), known in Afrikaans as the “gemsbok.”

The horns are about two and a half feet long, straight, ridged along half their length, and dark brown or black in color, lending the shofar a striking appearance that can command a hefty price. They are considered kosher, but according to halacha are not preferred, because they are not bent. However, for the Jubilee year, the Mishna states that a straight horn is ideal (Rosh Hashana 3:2).

A gemsbok at Etosha National Park in Namibia

Another exotic shofar appearing on the shofar market is the eland shofar, which is straight, but has a twist (not a curve) along part of its length. Ibex shofars and pronghorn shofars are also sometimes sold, and are kosher, but not preferable. (According to the Pri Megadim, the ibex shofar is preferable to the eland shofar, because the ibex is from the goat family and the Torah uses the same terminology for goats and sheep.)

Ram’s Horn Shofar vs. Kudu Horn Shofar

Kudu shofars, sometimes mistakenly identified as “gazelle shofars,” come from the Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), a woodland antelope found throughout eastern and southern Africa.

The males, which weigh in at 190-270 kg (420-600 lbs), have large horns with two and a half twists. If straightened they reach an average length of one meter. However, the male horns do not begin to grow until the male is at least six months old, forming their first spiral at around two years of age, and not reaching the full length until the age of six.

Yemenite shofar

Yemenite kudu shofar

The Yemenite shofar is therefore much larger than its contemporary European counterparts. Some hold that Yemenite shofars made of the kudu horn were the original shofars used by the Jewish people, brought to the Land of Israel from Africa.

Ram's horn shofar

Traditional European shofar

The Yemenite kudu shofar has a polished exterior from the mouthpiece to the middle portion. The rest of this Jewish Shofar has a natural finish and texture. The original color of the Shofar is retained across this portion.

Small-sized Yemenite shofars measure between 26 and 29 inches, while medium ones measure 30 to 33 inches and the large ones between 34 and 38 inches.

The typical non-Yemenite shofar is made of a ram’s horn. The Talmud discusses why a shofar should be made from a ram’s horn. “Why do we blow with the shofar of a ram? As the Holy One says, Blow before Me with the shofar of a ram, so that I will recall the binding of Isaac, son of Abraham for you, and I will consider it as though you bound yourselves before me” (Rosh Hashana 16a).

Pro Shofar Teacher David Perkins

Each shofar has its own distinctive sound. According to professional musician and shofar blowing instructor David Lloyd Perkins, the longer the shofar, the easier it is to play and produce harmonics.

“On a short ram’s horn I can get three harmonic tones,” says Perkins, “but on a long kudu shofar I can produce between 9 and 12 harmonics.”

Perkins has blown his shofar in such diverse locations as the roof of the Vatican in Rome, and in Seoul, Korea, on Israel Independence Day 1995, when he was an official representative of the Israeli government.

According to Perkins, playing the shofar is not difficult at all. “Even the three- and four-year olds in my classes play the shofar wonderfully,” he says. Sometimes, though, he says, “the mouthpiece cut into the shofar is too small, which is very often the case with the factory-produced shofars.”

What should the correct mouthpiece size be? “Big enough to be comfortable for human lips,” says Perkins, who heats the ends of his shofars in order to enlarge the mouthpiece.

Yemenite Shofar Price Survey

If you’re in the market for a shofar, the most significant cost factor is length, which is typically measured around the outer curve (not end to end). Ram’s horn shofars range from 10 inches for a compact shofar to 24 inches for an extra large shofar, with several more shofar sizes in between. Typical online prices for short shofars can run as low as $30. For a medium shofar, expect to pay $40-$90 and for a large shofar $60-$120. An extra large ram’s horn shofar will set you back $130 or more.

The same principles apply to Yemenite kudu shofars as well, though these shofars are considerably longer, of course. A 30-inch kudu shofar will cost around $100, while a jumbo kudu shofar, which is typically about 48 inches (yes, that’s right, four feet long) can cost $200 or more.

A natural finish is slightly less than polished.

In the exotic shofar category, gemsbok shofars typically range in length from 26-32 inches and cost between $80 and $150.

If you’re in the market for a decorative shofar, expect to pay anywhere from $100 for a silver-plated ram’s horn shofar, to $400 or more for a sterling silver plated Yemenite shofar. Anointing shofars are typically $100. Note that decorative shofars are not kosher and should not be used on Rosh Hashanah.

If you are ready to order a shofar and prefer to buy from Israel, you can find links to several dealers based in Israel listed on our Yemenite Shofar Price Survey page. You can also find shofars at your local Judaica dealer, but prices are often marked up significantly.

When it comes to shofar accessories, a basic velvet shofar pouch may cost just $15 and up for a ram’s horn pouch, but a long pouch for a Yemenite shofar can be over $40. A simple shofar stand can be found for as little as $10, while a hand-painted wooden shofar stand can cost $35 or more.

Info on prices of shofar for sale>>