The word antelope has been used to describe a wide variety of horned mammals in the Family Bovidae. They typically have a light, elegant figure, graceful limbs, small cloven hoofs, and a short tail. Antelopes have adapted in many different eco-places and vary in size, shape, locomotion, diet, and social organization.
Running wild in the open or surviving in closed surroundings these animals have amazing features and grace. Let’s read through these interesting facts about antelopes!
Africa’s open grasslands and wooded bushlands support the most splendid biodiversity of small, medium, and large antelope in the world.
The antelope is found in a wide range of habitats: savannah, woodlands, marshes and swamps, rainforests, steppes, and desert.
There are 91 different species of antelope.
Male antelopes are called bucks, females and young antelopes are known as calves.
Almost all antelopes are social animals, living in herds.
Some antelopes are famous for their massive herds, just like the thousands of wildebeests making their annual migration across the African plains.
Different antelope species also make different sounds that may include bleats, bellows, grunts, moos, and more.
Antelopes that live in herds have special glands in their hooves that leave a scented record of their movement. If an antelope were accidentally separated from its herd, it would be able to follow the scent tracks back.
Antelopes also use these scent signals to communicate. The signals can linger for many days.
Antelopes must always be on the lookout for danger, as they make a hearty meal for many predators like leopards, lions, civets, hyenas, wild dogs, cheetahs, and pythons depending on species and location. Large birds of prey may also take young calves.
Antelopes have very well developed senses, which help them detect predators from long distances. This, coupled with their speed, gives them plenty of time to escape from even some of the fastest predators.
Their senses of smell and hearing are also acute, giving them the ability to perceive danger while out in the open where predators often prowl after dark.
Their eyes are on the sides of their heads, and their pupils are elongated horizontally, giving them a broad view of the danger from both the back and front.
All antelopes have horns, they can be straight, spiral, curved, or twisted. In some species, they are only found on the males, whereas in others, such as gazelles, both males and females have them.
The horns are made of a bony core encased in a hard material made largely of keratin.
Antelopes use horns to fight against other antelopes during mating season and to protect themselves, or the herd, from the predators. Antelopes don’t replace their horns annually. They grow continuously throughout their entire life.
Most species have a set of two horns, but there are a few Asian antelope species that have 4 instead of two horns.
Antelopes are smart! They follow the rains to find tender grasses. They also often follow zebras because they eat the tougher, outer grass leaving the soft, tender grass for the antelope.
All antelopes have even-toed hooves, horizontal pupils, stomachs adapted for re-chewing of the food, and bony horns.
All antelopes are ruminants. They have four stomachs for fodder in varying stages of digestion, and like domestic cattle, they reprocess already-swallowed fodder by chewing the cud.
Antelopes are herbivores, with an odd exception: some duiker species have been known to kill and eat insects, small mammals, and birds.
The footprints, or tracks, of antelopes, are generally similar in shape, as they are all even-toed ungulates. The size and angle of the toes do differ among species.
Antelopes are good at quick, precise turns, and they can run very fast for extended periods.
Antelopes live for around 10 years in the wild and up to 20 years in captivity.
The giant eland is the largest species of antelope, with a body length ranging from 220 to 290 centimetres (87–114 inches) and stand approximately 130 to 180 centimetres (4.3 to 5.9 feet) at the shoulder. They weigh from 400 to 1,000 kilograms (880 to 2,200 pounds).
The royal antelope is the world’s smallest species of antelope. It stands up to merely 25 centimetres (10 inches) at the shoulder and weighs 2.5 to 3 kilograms (5.5 to 6.6 pounds).
The rabbit-size royal antelope was referred to as the king of hares, which morphed into the moniker of royal antelope.
Grey rheboks (antelopes native to South Africa) have a fast gallop, up to 40 miles (64 km) per hour, and are good jumpers and climbers. This is probably the reason the popular Reebok sneakers were named after them.
Courtship and mating behaviour in antelopes varies. After mating the gestation period ranges from 4 to 9 months. Female antelopes give birth to a single calf or, more rarely, twins.
Antelope calves have two survival strategies: hideout to avoid predators or start traveling right after birth to join the protection of the herd. The majority of antelopes use the hiding approach.
Between a week and a month or more, depending on the species, the calf then joins the herd and may be put with the other calves in what’s known as a nursery group.
About 25 species are rated by the IUCN as endangered, such as the dama gazelle and mountain nyala.
Desert antelopes, like addaxes and dama gazelles, do not need to drink water. They get all the moisture they need from their food.
One major threat to virtually all antelope is hunting, for both horns and meat.
Do you have any interesting or fun facts about antelopes that we’ve missed? Share them here in the comments section below!