We used implanted miniature data loggers to measure brain and arterial blood temperatures every 5 min for up to 15 days in four free-ranging oryx (Oryx gazella) in their natural habitat. Globe temperatures exceeded 45degreesC and average peak radiant heat load was 800 W.m(-2). Arterial blood temperature exhibited a moderate amplitude nychthemeral rhythm of 1.8+/-0.3degreesC (mean +/-SD). The amplitude of the nychthemeral rhythm was not influenced by variations in ambient heat load. Average brain temperature exceeded carotid arterial blood temperature by 0.29degreesC but there was a range of body temperatures over which the brain could be up to 0.4degreesC cooler or 0.5degreesC warmer than arterial blood. At hi-h body temperatures (>39.5degreesC) at rest, three of the animals tended to maintain the brain cooler than arterial blood. During exercise the brain was always warmer than arterial blood. The slope of the regression line relating brain temperature to carotid blood temperature was less than one. At short time scales of 5-20 min, brain temperature varied significantly more than did carotid blood temperature. We attribute part of the variability in brain temperature to transient stress responses and the influence of sympathetic activation attenuating selective brain cooling. We conclude that, contrary to the widely cited postulate, the carotid rete does not protect the brain during hyperthermia. Oryx also do not show adaptive heterothermy and, over short time intervals, have a brain temperature more variable than carotid blood temperature.