Springbok

The name of these antelopes originates from the way they leap, springing up to 3.65 m (12 ft) in the air if they are frightened.

The brightly coloured, strikingly marked springbok has a most unusual glandular pouch in its skin that stretches from the middle of the back to the base of the tail. When the animal is excited or alarmed, the pouch opens and reveals a crest of long, stiff, white hairs. Male and female look alike, both with ridged strong horns.

Of all the gazelles, this species is perhaps the one most associated with “pronking”. These are high and graceful leaps that are inserted at seemingly random intervals as the gazelle runs along. The legs are held straight and stiff during a pronk, with feet together and the head tucked toward the chest. The leaps are thought to be an evasion tactic when the gazelle is being chased by predators. The springbok’s chief threats are lions and cheetahs, both of which generally attack from behind and can easily outrun the gazelle over short distances. The leaps make it harder for the predators to judge when to pounce. The antelope’s odd posture might add to the hunter’s confusion as well as moving the vulnerable hind legs to a less accessible position.

Typically of a gazelle, the springbok has long, thin legs and a slender body.

Springboks used to move, or trek, in herds of hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, across the grasslands of southern Africa. Treks of anything approaching this magnitude are almost unheard of now, although larger herds might form in remote parts of Botswana and Angola. Today, most springboks live in nature reserves. Breeding takes place in the dry season. Male-only herds migrate in search of mates. In the breeding season, the male may establish a territory and a harem of 10 to 30, but large mixed herds are the norm. The female produces 1 young after a gestation period of about 6 months.

They are very social by nature, and live in herds of hundreds. Once one member of the group jumps, others will follow. They can spring up repeatedly, uttering a high-pitched alarm call at the same time. These gazelles are able to run fast from danger as well.

Springboks eat the leaves of shrubs and bushes and grass and are independent of water. They were once exceedingly numerous, and in times of drought, herds of up to a million would make long migrations in search of fresh grazing, devastating the pasture and farmland that lay in their path. As a result, thousands were slaughtered, but they have now been reintroduced throughout their range and are again thriving.

Distribution: Restricted to southern parts of Africa, occurring in open country in Botswana, Namibia and southwestern parts of Angola, as well as South Africa.

Habitat: Treeless savannahs often among the tall grass close to dry lake beds.

Weight: 32 - 45 kg (70 - 100 lb).

Length: 142 - 165 cm (56 - 65 in).

Maturity: Between 1 and 2 years.

Gestation Period: About 171 days, with births most common between October and December at the start of the wet season, which triggers the growth of fresh vegetation.

Breeding: Females are pregnant for 5 months. A single calf is born at intervals of 2 years.

Food: Eats both grass and shrubs, according to the season.

Lifespan: Maximum 6 - 9 years in the wild.

Status: Lower risk.

Horns

Both sexes have horns, but they are stouter and longer in adult males, growing up to 48 cm (19 in) in length.

Hindquarters

This part of the springbok’s body appears to be higher than the shoulders.

Ears

Long, narrow ears are a feature of these gazelles. The ears are also quite mobile, helping to detect potential danger.

REACHING UP

By being able to support its weight on its hindquarters, the springbok is able to graze easily on branches.

Gallery of Springbok