Antelope

Antelopes are a large group of hoofed animals that live mainly in Africa, with a few living in Asia. Antelopes belong to the same group of mammals as cattle, bison, sheep and goats. Gazelles also belong to this same group. Antelopes and their relatives have horns rather than antlers. These are made from bone and are permanent features on the heads.

Four-horned Antelope

Only the males of this species possess horns. There is usually a short set on the forehead, with a pair of longer horns behind.

This little antelope is the only one in its genus. The male is unique among Bovidae in having two pairs of short, unringed, conical horns: the back pair 3 1/4 to 4 in (8 to 10 cm) long, the front pair 1 to 1 1/2 in (2.5 to 4 cm) long; these maybe merely black, hairless skin.

This particular antelope, also known as the chousingha, is usually found close to water, near streams and rivers. These are not gregarious antelope — normally only two are found together, or a female with her young. Solitary by nature, they are not easy to spot, although they are active during the day. They graze on grasses and plants and drink often, running for cover at the least hint of danger with a peculiar, jerky motion.

The breeding period coincides with the monsoons, and extends from June until September. Males become aggressive at this stage, and they have special scent-glands located below the eyes for marking their territory. They can also utter a distinctive husky call if threatened.

Four-horned antelope mate during the rainy season and usually produce between 1 and 3 young after a gestation period of about 6 months.

Distribution: Occurs in India, extending from the Gir forest eastwards to Orissa, and south of the Ganges down to the state of Tamil Nadu. Also found in Nepal.

Habitat: Open forest.

Weight: 15 - 25 kg (33 - 55 lb).

Length: 100 - 125 cm (39 - 49 in), including tail; about 61 cm (24 in) tall.

Maturity: 1 - 2 years.

Gestation Period: 232 - 248 days; weaning occurs at 6 months.

Breeding: 1 - 3.

Food: Herbivorous, grazing on grass and herbs, as well as browsing on taller vegetation; also eats fruit.

Lifespan: Up to 10 years.

Horns

The second pair of horns emerges once the antelope is about 14 months old.

Colouration

Yellowish-brown, with white underparts, and white at the bottom of the legs.

Leg stripe

A black line runs down the centre of the upper part of the forelegs.

Standing tall

The slender hind legs of this species allow it to browse easily on plants.

ESCAPING DANGER

The wary nature and nimble movement of the four-horned antelope can protect it from would-be predators such as tigers.

Mountain Reedbuck

This reedbuck inhabits areas of dense mountain forest. It is not especially shy, and lives in small herds comprising several females and a male.

If disturbed, mountain reedbucks will retreat for a short distance before pausing and looking back, leaving them particularly vulnerable to hunters. They run off with their short tails raised, revealing the white underside. Occasionally, if danger is close by, an individual will drop down into the vegetation, hoping to avoid detection. Young may be born at any time of year, although there tend to be peaks that coincide with the rainy season.

Distribution: Northern Cameroon, and parts of Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, southwards to Mozambique, Botswana and South Africa, in areas of suitable habitat.

Weight: Around 30 kg (66 lb).

Length: 138 - 190 cm (54 - 75 in), including tail.

Maturity: 9 - 24 months.

Gestation Period: About 248 days.

Breeding: 1; the mother spends just 30 minutes daily with her youngster for the first 2 months after birth, suckling her offspring away from the herd.

Food: Herbivorous, grazing largely on grass but also browsing on leaves.

Lifespan: Up to 10 years.

Horns

The horns can measure up to 35 cm (14 in). The ridged horns of the male taper forwards to sharp points.

Height

These antelopes stand about 75 cm (29.5 in) tall at the shoulder.

Ears

The ears are long and slim, located well back on the head and held upright when the reedbuck is alert.

Colouration

The underparts are white, contrasting with the brownish-grey fur elsewhere on the body.

DOMINANT MALE

Each male mountain reedbuck may maintain a territory extending up to 48 hectares (119 acres), defending it from others.

Roan Antelope

There are approximately 6 races of roan antelope, which vary in coloration from gray to reddish-brown.

The roan antelope is also known as the horse antelope. It belongs to a tribe of the horse-like antelopes. This tribe includes the oryxes, sable and gemsbok, all of which share similarities with horses in the way they look. There is, of course, only a distant relationship with horses.

The roan is a large antelope, the largest in Africa after the eland and kudu, and as the name suggests, it superficially resembles a horse, with its long face and stiff, well-developed mane. The male’s backward-curving horns are short but strong; the female’s are lighter.

Roan antelopes live in thickets and areas of shrubs. It lives in two main populations. The first is found in the belt of grassland that grows south of the Sahara Desert and north of the Congo rainforest. Here the roan is found as far west as Gambia and ranges east to Somalia. The second group is centred on Botswana and the surrounding region.

The roan antelope is one of the largest antelope species. Only the cattle-like elands are appreciably larger. Young roan have pale reddish coats, which darken as the antelope ages. Adults also have a mane of short black hairs.

Roan antelopes live in small herds, which rarely contain more than about 20 individuals, led by a master bull, often alongside oryx, impala, wildebeest, buffalo, zebra and ostriches. Each herd has a single bull and several females. The remaining members are their offspring.

Young males form bachelor herds. The roan antelope is preyed on mainly by lion, leopard, hunting dogs and hyena. At least 90 per cent of the roan’s food intake is grass, and they rarely eat leaves or fruit, so they need to drink often.

Roan antelope are aggressive, and males will fight on their knees with vicious, backward sweeps of their horns. In the breeding season, the bull detaches a cow from the herd and they live alone for a while. The female produces 1 calf after a gestation of 8 1/2 to 9 months; it attains sexual maturity at 2 1/2 to 3 years old.

Distribution: Africa, south of the Sahara Desert.

Habitat: Open woodland, dry bush, savanna, near water.

Food: Grasses and leaves.

Size: 1.9 - 2.4 m (6.25 - 7.75 ft); 263 kg (579.75 lb).

Maturity: 2 - 3 years.

Breeding: Single calf born at all times of year.

Life span: 17 years.

Status: Lower risk.

Common rhebok

Rheboks are relatives of the wetland antelopes, such as the kob, waterbuck and lechwe. However, this species of antelope is unlike its relatives. In fact, with its wild woolly coat and odd-shaped head, it is unlike any other antelope. The male has upright, almost straight horns, 6 to 10 1/2 in (15 to 27 cm) long. The rhebok lives in the mountains of South Africa. It occupies rocky alpine meadows and brush-covered areas.

The common rhebok is a browser. Unlike the grazers, which munch on mouthfuls of grass and leaves, this antelope picks the best leaves and buds from bushes and plucks the freshest shoots of grass. The rheboks feed in groups and one individual keeps watch for predators. If danger is near, the lookout animal warns the others in the group with a distinctive coughlike grunt.

Rheboks are often mistaken for mountain goats because they have woolly coats, with hairs that are much longer than any other antelope.

They are found in family parties, consisting of a master ram with a dozen or more females and young. Dominant male rheboks defend a harem of females, which typically contains about five females and their young. Most adult males have no harem or territory, however. These individuals are nomadic, and move through the territories of others, keeping watch for an opportunity to depose a dominant bull or sneak a mating with one of his females. The male is highly territorial and marks out his fairly extensive range by tongue clicking, display and urination. Despite his small size, the ram is extremely pugnacious and is known to attack and even kill sheep, goats and mountain reedbuck; he will also attack smaller predators.

During the rut before the autumn mating season, competition between males is fierce. Unusually for antelopes, fights to the death are not uncommon. One, sometimes 2, young are born after a 9 1/2-month gestation.

Distribution: South Africa.

Habitat: Grassy hills and plateaux with low bush and scattered trees.

Food: Plucks leaves and buds from shrubs and also eats grass.

Size: 1.1 - 1.25 m (3.5 - 4 m); 25 kg (55 lb).

Maturity: 18 months.

Breeding: Calves born in November.

Life span: 8 years in the wild, although unusually these antelopes do not survive that long in captivity.

Status: Lower risk.

Beira Antelope

A rare antelope, the beira is often mistaken for the klipspringer, although it has a slightly longer head, much bigger ears and longer, slimmer legs. The hind legs, especially, are long, with the result that the rump is higher than the shoulders. There is no crest, and only the male has horns; the female is larger than the male.

Beiras live in pairs or small family parties on extremely stony hillsides close to a grassy plain. Their highly specialized hoofs have elastic pads underneath which give a good grip on the stones. Beiras feed in the early morning and late afternoon on leaves of bushes, particularly mimosa, grass and herbage and do not need to drink.

Little is known of their habits or biology, for not only are they rare but their coloration blends so well with the background that they are impossible to spot unless they move. The female gives birth to a single young.

Range: Africa: Somalia.

Habitat: Dry, bush-clad mountains, stony hills.

Size: Body: 31 1/2 - 35 1/2 in (80 - 90 cm); Tail: 2 1/4 - 3 in (6 - 7.5 cm).

Cape Grysbok

The Cape grysbok is a rare antelope that lives only in the southern region of South Africa. It is similar in height to steenboks and other dwarf antelopes, but is considerably more stocky in build. Adults have reddish-brown fur, which helps them to blend into their woodland habitat.

This rough-coated, stocky little antelope has relatively short legs, slightly longer behind, which give it a sloping back. Males have short, sharply pointed horns and generally darker coloration than females. The grysbok is solitary outside the breeding season, and each establishes a fairly small territory, which is marked out by means of scent and dropping sites. This antelope feeds in the morning and late in the afternoon on the foliage of trees and bushes and it is particularly fond of grapevine leaves.

During the day, the grysbok rests up in the shade of a bush or rock or in areas of long grass. Its main predators are leopards, caracals and crowned eagles, and when threatened, the antelope lies flat, darting away with a zigzag gallop when the enemy approaches, only to dive suddenly for cover and disappear again.

The breeding biology of the grysbok is not very well known, but it is believed to be similar to that of the steenbok, which produces a single young after a gestation period of about 5 1/2 months.

Range: Africa: South Africa.

Habitat: Grassy plains, bush savanna at the foot of hills.

Size: 61 - 75 cm (2 - 2.5 ft); 8 - 23kg (17.75 - 50.75 lb).

Dibatag

Dibatags are beautiful antelopes that live in savannah habitats in Ethiopia and Somalia. They have very long, slender necks, which are used to reach the leaves on high branches.

Although superficially it resembles the gerenuk, the dibatag is much grayer, and the male has shorter and quite different horns. The long, thin, black-tufted tail is generally held upright when the animal is running and gives it its name, which derives from the Somali. These animals live in pairs or family parties, consisting of an adult male and 3 to 5 females with young, in a seasonal territory, moving with the rains wherever food supplies are plentiful. They are active morning and evening, browsing on leaves and young shoots of bushes, which, like the gerenuk, they stand on their hind legs to reach. They also eat flowers, berries and new grass; they do not need to drink.

As a rule, 1 calf is born in the rainy season after a gestation of 6 to 7 months but it is possible for a female to produce 2 young in a year.

This species is now under threat of extinction due to poaching and war in the region.

Range: Africa: Somalia, E. Ethiopia.

Habitat: Sandy or grassy plains with scattered bushes.

Size: 1.5 - 1.7 m (5 — 5.5 ft); 22 - 35 kg (48.5 - 77.25 lb).

Southern reedbuck

Southern reedbucks range from the southern fringe of the Congo Basin to northern South Africa. They are found close to water and spend most of their time hidden in thick cover. Reedbucks feed mainly at night. They are grazers and eat mainly grass and sedges.

They are solitary during dry periods, but when the rains come they gather into small family groups. Individuals communicate using whistles to greet and warn other herd members. The whistle is made by sharp exhalations through the reedbuck's nostrils.

Female southern reedbucks do not have horns and are slightly smaller than the males, though both sexes are slender.

The whistling sounds are also used during courtship. At this time the females also perform a dance that involves a series of pronks, or high, floating jumps. The jumps serve to spread the scent of glands located between her hind legs. The scent is released with a pop. After mating, the male defends the female from other males. Once the calf arrives, the male’s role comes to an end, although he may return to the family once the calf is several months old.

Distribution: Southern Africa.

Habitat: Marshy areas and river banks.

Food: Grasses.

Size: 1.5 m (5 ft); 58 kg (127.75 lb).

Maturity: 2 - 3 years.

Breeding: Breeding peaks in summer.

Life span: 12 years.

Status: Lower risk.

Gallery of Antelope