Sable Antelope

These large antelopes can be dangerous when cornered, although they can run away quickly - at speeds of 57 kph (35 mph) - if chased by a predator.

The word 'sable' is the heraldic term for 'black', and was applied in this case to describe the predominant colour of the male. They will challenge each other for the right to lead a herd. The males will wrestle with their horns, undertaking trials of strength - with their forelegs held down on the ground — rather than seeking to inflict serious injury. If threatened by a predator such as a leopard, however, a sable antelope will aim to cripple its opponent.

The sable antelope, also called mbarapi, is known for the jet-black coat of the adult males. The females and immature antelopes have a red-brown coat. Both sexes have long, curved horns. Sables live in the savannahs of East and southern Africa. They are a favourite on safaris and are common in zoos. Like many grazing antelopes, sables live in small herds populated by several females and their juvenile offspring. The herd has just one adult male, who has sole mating rights over the females in the herd.

Distribution: Found in southeast Africa, from Kenya to northern South Africa, where it has been reintroduced over a wider area. There is an isolated population in Angola.

Weight: 180 - 280 kg (397 - 617 lb).

Length: 230 - 330 cm (91 - 130 in), including tail.

Maturity: 2-3 years; weaned at 8 months.

Gestation Period: About 279 days; births coincide with the rainy season.

Breeding: A single youngster; lies hidden after birth for 10 days.

Food: Herbivorous, eating grasses, leaves and flowers.

Lifespan: Up to 17 years in the wild; may reach 20 in captivity.


The semi-circular horns can reach 165 cm (66 in) in mature males, and up to 100 cm (40 in)

in females.


Males are predominantly black, while females and young of both sexes are brown.


This thick area of hair on the neck could protect against attack by lions or leopards.


The underparts of the body are white.


When challenged, a sable antelope can prove to be quite fierce and determined, often standing its ground rather than running away.