Antelope

Antelope, belonging to the species of even-toed ungulate, is indigenous to parts of Eurasia and Africa.  They are, however, not taxonomically defined. Being excellent jumpers, even the large-sized ones like the eland, kudu, or nilgai, can leap to a height of 2.4m.

Antelope Scientific Classification

Animalia
Chordata
Mammalia
Artiodactyla
Bovidae

Table Of Content

Scientific Classification

Antelope

Animalia
Chordata
Mammalia
Artiodactyla
Bovidae

List of Common Types Antelope Species

There are 91 species of antelopes occurring in approximately 30 genera. Presently, about 25 of these species are known to be endangered.

  • Gerenuk
  • Saiga Antelope
  • Impala
  • Suni
  • Blackbuck
  • Common Eland
  • Grey Rhebok
  • Addax Antelope
  • Royal Antelope
  • Sable Antelope
  • Bongo
  • Wildebeest
  • Duiker
  • Klipspringer
  • Oribi
  • Sitatunga
  • Reedbuck
  • Cape Grysbok
  • Lechwe
  • Suni
  • Nilgai
  • Chinkara
  • Four-horned Antelope
  • Tibetan Antelope
  • Springbok Antelope
  • Hartebeest

Antelope

Appearance and Physical Description

Size: They show diversity when it comes to size. For instance, male species of Common eland have a shoulder-length of about 70 inches (178cm), while the Royal antelope is only 9.4 inches (24 cm) long. The Dik-dik, on the other hand, has a size of about 15 inches. Males have a larger size than their female counterparts, with exceptions in species like oribi, dwarf antelope, bush duiker, and Cape grysbok.

Weight: Some are heavily built, like the Common eland, weighing about 2090lb (950 kg). The small-sized Royal antelope weighs only 3.3 lb (1.5 kg).

Color: They appear in different shades of gray and brown. Some may even have light or dark markings on their body or face. The presence of sexual dimorphism remains prominent in certain species. For instance, the male sable antelope has a black coat and white underbellies. The females, on the other hand, possess a chestnut or sorrel body. The Addax antelope’s coat is creamy in summer and grayish-brown in winter. 

Eyes: They have big eyes, placed on both sides of the head, helping them to acquire a clear vision.

Ears: Their ears are long, being about 51/2 to 6 inches in length.

Horns: The horns are one of their most prominent features, with the shape and size differing from one species to the other. Dwarf and dulker antelopes have spiked horns, which are straight and upright for the former and backward and curved for the latter. The Common eland, kudu, nyala, and bongo have spiraled horns. Oryx possess thin, straight horns, whereas, it is pointed and curved in the wildebeest.

Antelope Horns

Hooves: All have hooves, with the size and shape depicting the ecological requirements of individual species. The Klipspringer has small, round hooves, while in the Addax it is flat and wide.

Legs: They are long, muscular, and slender, contributing to their graceful movements and excessive speed.

Tails: Their tails are short, with markings.

Teeth: They have well-developed molars, but lack upper incisors. Instead, an upper gum pad of a hard texture is visible, which helps them in the food consumption process.

Antelope Animal

Distribution

They are majorly found in Africa, in the savannah regions, with about 20 to 35 species inhabiting the eastern parts of the continent. Many of them occur in Asia, with antelopes like the blackbuck, chinkara, and nilgai dwelling in different parts of India. Saiga and Tibetan antelope exist in Central Asia and Russia. However, there are no species in Antarctica and Australasia. Of late many of them have been exported to other places, particularly the United States, for game hunting.  

Where Do Antelopes Live

Their habitat mostly includes savannah grasslands. However, some species inhabit forests (bongo), woodlands, rocky terrains (Klipspringer) as well as hot and cold deserts (Arabian oryx, Addax)). Some of them, like the sitatunga, are semi-aquatic, inhabiting wetlands and swamps. Those dwelling in the bushes, forests or woodlands, have a sedentary life. However, antelopes of the plain lands mostly migrate in search of food.

Antelope Habitat

How Long Do They Live

Their lifespan in the wild remains unpredictable with most of them living for 8 to 10 years on average.  In captivity, they may survive for more than 20 years.

What Do They Eat

Most antelopes are herbivores, eating bushes, grass as well as small trees. Certain species of the duiker antelope are exceptions, thriving on small mammals, birds, and insects. The feeding pattern varies from one kind to the other, with the Addax following the rains and traveling across long distances in search of new plants. Duiker goes after flocks of birds and monkeys with the desire for eating the fruits dropped by them.

Behavioral Characteristics

  • They communicate with one another through trumpeting, loud barks, whistles, and moos.
  • Antelopes use their scent for marking or defining their territory as well as maintaining contact with their kith and kin.
  • These species often use the markings on their rumps, head, legs, and ears as flashes while mingling with their fellow mates or intimating them of any potential danger.
  • They (particularly the males) use their horns as a mode of defense against predators, as well as to confront other antelopes during the mating season.
  • Their mode of escaping predators varies by the species. The wildebeest runs to seek protection, while, the dulkers jump into dense bushes. The springboks confuse their enemies by stotting, lifting all of their four feet above the ground.
  • Their social life depends upon their habitat, and while some like the dik-dik is solitary, a few may be found moving in groups of 3 to 10.
Antelope Deer

Adaptation

  • The presence of sharp molars helps them in grinding the cud easily, hence, facilitating digestion. The gum pad assists in tearing stems, leaves, and grass, when bitten against by the lower incisors.
  • Their slender, sturdy legs help them take long strides and run at top speed and even climb trees when the need arises. Their long hind legs help them to stand on it and reach out for leaves or fruits on trees.
  •  The hooves of these species help them in moving around the habitats they dwell in with ease. The klipspringer antelope can get on to steep rocks, because of small pads present on their hooves. The addax species are equipped with splayed or broad hooves, turned in an outward direction, helping them to walk on the sand with ease, without their feet sinking. On the other hand, the long, pointed hooves of the impala assist them in getting a sure footing as they move about in the swampy waters.
  • Species like the Addax’s coat acquire a creamy texture in summer, absorbing the heat, and helping them remain calm in the hot sun.
  • Some like the springbok possesses brush-like white hairs on its back, opening up the moment it senses danger, thus helping it to remain alert.
  • The placement of their eyes, alongside their horizontally elongated pupils, helps the antelopes to get a broader vision of things around them.
  • Their keen sense of hearing and smell warns them of any danger when they are out at night.
  • Since they are ruminants, their digestive system is equivalent to cows. Their stomach has four compartments, facilitating proper digestion, also helping them to survive without water for a long span.
  • The scent tracks they leave, as mentioned above, to keep track of their whereabouts is because of the special glands their hooves contain.
Female Antelope

Reproduction and Mating

They attain sexual maturity between six and eight months, with males witnessing a slower development than females.

Their mating strategies are unique, varying from one species to the other. Smaller varieties like dik-diks are monogamous. They dwell in forests and are unable to find more than a single female under such circumstances. Lechwes adopt the lek breeding technique with males assembling in a designated territory and giving their best show in front of the females so that the latter may select them.

They have a gestation period of four to nine months, and the females move away from her herd before giving birth. She mostly chooses a protective place for the purpose, like an isolated thicket or a secluded rock. Mostly a single calf is born, though there may be a possibility of twins in occasional cases. Post-birth the mother, hides her calf in a protected shelter and returns to her herd. She may get back to nurse her kid after dusk or sometimes even during the day. The young ones move on their own about one or five weeks after which they join their mother.  In species like the gnu and hartebeest, the calves get on their feet in a few minutes after birth, joining their mother in no time.

Conservation

According to the IUCN, 25 of the antelope species are on the verge of extinction. Few of them like the Addax, Ader’s Duiker, and Saiga are Critically Endangered. The Scimitar Horned Oryx has already been extinct in the wild since 2000, though efforts of its revival are on. The primary reasons for the depletion in their numbers include loss of habitat, competition regarding their grazing land with cattle species, as well as hunting. Conservation efforts have been undertaken, to safeguard them from poaching and help in an increase in their numbers.

Male Antelope

Antelope-FAQs

1. What are male and female antelopes called?

A buck and doe.

2. What are baby antelopes called?

A calf

3. Do female antelopes have horns?

In most of the species, both males and females have horns, with that of the latter’s being larger. However, in certain kinds like suni, red lechwe, and sitatunga, the females come without horns.

4. Are they domesticated?

It is difficult to domesticate them since they have the innate jumping ability and may escape at the slightest available opportunity. They are even territorial and could prove harmful to humans. However, at present, species like eland, springbok, and kudu are tamed and kept in captivity.

5. What is a group of antelope called?

A herd.

6. Is pronghorn an antelope?

No, it belongs to the artiodactyl family, though its colloquial name in North America is American antelope.

7. What is the difference between an antelope and a gazelle?

Gazelles are smaller than antelopes, and both the males and females have horns. In antelopes, many female species are devoid of horns.

8. Is cloud antelope real?

No, it is perceived as a mythical creature.

9. Which is the smallest antelope?

The Royal antelope, which is also known for its beautiful body.

10. What is the scientific name of an antelope?

Alcelaphinae

Interesting Facts

  • In various cultures, the antelope’s horn has been a priced possession because of its supposed medicinal and magical properties. For instance, by Eastern practices, the male saga’s horn has been ground for its speculated aphrodisiac properties, putting the species on the verge of extinction.
  • The Indian culture symbolically associates it with the wind because of its ability to run swiftly. On the other hand, in Christianity, they symbolize the Old and New Testament.
  • In Africa’s Mali, the antelopes were credited to have instilled agricultural skills in humans.
  • Antelope hybrids exist in captivity and are a result of crossing species belonging to the similar genus.
  • They serve as a famous symbol in heraldry though in a distorted form. They take the stag’s body, and lion’s tail, also having serrated horns, as well as a small task on its snout located at the end.
  • Being excellent jumpers, even the large-sized ones like the eland, kudu, or nilgai, can leap to a height of 2.4m.