Genus: there are over 30 genera of antelope, with over 90 species. (This does not include cattle and oxen species or goat and sheep species, which are also part of the Bovidae family.)
Body length: largest—giant eland Taurotragus derbianus, up to 11 feet (3.3 meters) in males; smallest—royal antelope Neotragus pygmaeus, 19 inches (48 centimeters)
Shoulder height: giant eland—up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) in males; royal antelope—10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 centimeters)
Weight: giant eland—up to 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms) in males; royal antelope—about 4.5 pounds (2 kilograms)
Life span: 10 to 25 years, depending on the species
Gestation: 4 to 9 months, depending on the species
Number of young at birth: usually 1; twins sometimes occur in a few species
Size at birth: 5.6 ounces (160 grams) for common duiker Sylvicapra grimmia to 80 pounds (36 kilograms) for giant eland; most are less than 22 pounds (10 kilograms)
Age of maturity: 9 months to 5 years, depending on the species
Conservation status: 15 species of antelope are endangered, including Arabian oryx Oryx leucoryx, saiga Saiga tatarica, and slender-horned gazelle Gazella leptoceros
Royal antelope calves are so small they can rest in the average person's open hand!
Some antelope are good swimmers. Sitatungas Tragelaphus spekeii and lechwes Kobus sp. spend their lives near water and can jump in and swim away if they feel threatened. They also hide in water, with only their noses sticking out.
Several antelope species make a warning or threat noise that sounds like a dogs bark.
Desert antelope, like addaxes and Dama gazelles Gazella dama, do not need to drink water—they get moisture from their food. The gemsbok Oryx gazella gazella even eats wild melons called cucurbits.
Even though theyre big, elands and kudus Tragelaphus sp. can really jump: they can easily leap over a 6-foot (2-meter) fence from a standing start!
Male impalas Aepyceros melampus have a strange way of attracting females or warning off other males: they repeatedly stick their tongues out! Its a display known as tongue flashing.
The San Diego Zoo was the first facility in the world to welcome a royal antelope calf.
The Zoo welcomed our first birth of a black duiker in February 2012.
Its about horns and hooves
Horns— All antelope species have horns, although in some species they are only found on the males. The horns are made of a bony core, encased in a hard material made largely of keratin. They are permanently attachednot like a deers antlers, which are shed each year.
Some antelope horns, like those of the kudu Tragelaphus sp. and eland Taurotragus sp., twist in interesting spirals; others have ridges, like those of the impala Aephyceros melampus and the sable antelope Hippotragus niger; and others grow in wide curves with a sharp point on the end, like those of the wildebeest Connochaetes sp. (also called the gnu, a name it gets from its call, which sounds like ge-nu).
Hooves— Hooves are another specialty for many antelope. Each hoof has a split down the middle, dividing the hoof into two toes. Because they live in wetlands and swamps, sitatungas Tragelaphus spekeii have wide hooves up to 7 inches (18 centimeters) across that help them walk on mud and mats of plants without slipping.
Nile lechwes Kobus magaceros, which also live in swampy areas, have long, pointed hooves to give them sure footing in the water. The slender-horned gazelle Gazella leptoceros has sturdy, wide hooves so it can walk on the shifting sand of its desert habitat. And the klipspringer Oreotragus oreotragus has tiny, rounded hooves with a pad in the center that acts like a suction cup, so these nimble antelope can hop from rock to rock without falling.
Having a social life
We tend to think of antelope as living in big groups, but not all species form large herds. Some antelope are famous for their massive herds, like the thousands of wildebeest making their annual migration across the African plains. Others, like duikers Cephalophus sp., bongos Tragelaphus euryceros, dik-diks Madoqua sp., and sitatungas, live alone, in pairs, or in small groups of between 3 and 10 animals. The social life of antelope depends a lot on the type of habitat they live in and how much food and water is available.
species, like impalas, springboks Antidorcas marsupialis,
and saigas Saiga tatarica form very large herds during migratory
seasons when they are on the move to find the best food. The males
are not usually territorial
at these times, but they may separate out during the breeding season
and stake out a territory where they compete for females. They may
also use size or strength displays or threaten with their horns
to determine whos dominant
and to keep females. Many antelope that live in large groups at
least part of the year also have special scent glands on their hooves,
so they leave the herds scent on the ground for any stray
members to find.
In territorial species like sable antelope, oryx Oryx sp., waterbuck Kobus ellipsiprymnus, bontebok Damaliscus pygargus, and gazelles, the males choose a particular piece of habitat and defend it from other adult males. Herds of females and their young can come and go freely, although in the breeding season the male will try to keep them in his territory. If he has a stream or shady tree in his area, hes more likely to keep the females around. The territorial males of these species also mark their territory with secretions from special scent glands and with urine and dung piles. Males that are not quite full grown or that have not established a territory form bachelor herds.
Antelope are herbivores,
with an odd exception: some species of duikers have been known to
kill and eat insects,
small mammals, and birds.
Otherwise, antelope tend to be either browsers
Some species switch back and forth, eating whatever is most nutritious
or whats available during dry or cold times of the year.
Some antelope have special feeding adaptations for their environments. Addaxes Addax nasomaculatus know to follow the rains, traveling great distances to eat the new plant growth. Thomsons gazelles Gazella thomsonii follow herds of migrating wildebeest and zebras, which eat the tougher layer of grasses and leave the shorter, more tender shoots behind. Perhaps two of the oddest-looking antelope are the gerenuk Litocranius walleri and the dibatag Ammodorcas clarkei, both of which have slender bodies, long thin legs, and very long necks. They can stand upright on their hind legs and stretch up with those long necks to eat leaves that other species cant reach!
Hidden away or on the run
Antelope calves have two survival strategies: either they hide out
to avoid predators, or they start traveling right after birth so
they can join the protection of the herd. The majority of antelope
use the hiding approach, like elands, greater kudu Tragelaphus
strepsiceros, roan antelope Hippotragus equinus, waterbucks,
klipspringers, and duikers. In some species that live in groups
the mother, called a dam, goes away from the herd to give birth,
and when the calf is strong enough, she moves it to another location
where there are bushes, long grasses, rocks, or a thicket to hide
the youngster from predators. The dam then rejoins the herd, and
the calf remains hidden and quiet. She comes back periodically
to feed the calf, calling softly to it and listening for the bleat.
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
whats known as a nursery group. In
species, the dam hides her calf and then stays nearby to guard it
as she feeds, returning to nurse it when needed. When the calf is
strong enough, it joins her and they stay together until the calf
is mature and heads out on its own.
In species that migrate or live in large ranges, like the hartebeest Alcelaphus buselaphus, topi Damaliscus lunatus, bontebok, and wildebeest, the calves are up and on their feet within a few minutes to a day or so after they are born, and they immediately start traveling with the herd. They often stick together as a group and are protected by adults surrounding them. This way they dont get left behind and can nurse from their mothers. If danger approaches, the adults can face the challenge with their strength and their horns.