What is an Antelope?

Mary McMahon

An antelope is one of roughly 100 species found within the Bovidae family. Antelopes are closely related to other even-toed ungulates such as cows, horses, sheep, and goats. True antelopes are native to Africa and Asia, with the Pronghorn Antelope of the United States being classified entirely differently, despite the name. Many people associate antelope with Africa in particular, where they are quite abundant, and antelope can also be seen in many zoos around the world.

True antelopes are native to Africa, where they are quite abundant.
True antelopes are native to Africa, where they are quite abundant.

Distinguishing antelope from other Bovids can be tricky, as these animals have a lot in common with their relatives. All Bovids, for example, are lanky herbivores with even-toed feet. Antelope tend to be especially slender and very fast, in contrast with bulkier animals like cattle, but it is their horns which really set them apart. The horns of antelope grow quite long, with hollow cores covered in a layer of keratin, and they are permanent. Some antelope develop very elaborate horns which may be twisted, grooved, or deeply curved.

Antelope vary widely in size, from animals little larger than a dog to the Eland, which can be almost six feet (two meters) high at the shoulder. Most antelope are brown to red in color, with short, coarse hair which turns creamy on the belly. While all antelope are speedy, some species are also especially well-adapted to jumping, and others are capable of standing on their hind legs to reach particularly appealing plant material. This trait can also be useful in the dry season, where forage may be limited, and being able to reach high could be critical for survival. Some antelope also exhibit a behavior known as pronking or stotting, in which the animals jump straight up in the air for play, as a physical display, or to avoid a predator.

The lifestyle of antelope varies considerably, depending on the species. Some antelope, for example, are very social, living in large herds and working as collectives to raise and protect young. Others live in pairs, or prefer a more solitary existence. Antelope feed on a variety of grasses, trees, and shrubs, and some are water-independent, getting all the water they need from their diets. These animals are also extremely alert, with senses honed over centuries of evolution to detect potential threats, and many antelope vocalize with alarm calls or stamp to signal other members of the herd when there is a danger.

Some examples of animals which are considered antelope are: impalas, blackbucks, gazelles, dik-diks, duikers, gemsbocks, nilgais, dibatags, oryxes, and springboks, among many others. The health of antelope populations in the wild varies considerably, with some species being considered endangered due to habitat pressures and other issues, while others remain very healthy. Some hunting organizations have actively worked to preserve antelope, recognizing the fact that these animals make popular game and wanting to preserve the experience for future generations.

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Discussion Comments


are they really small? can you see it?


but where do they migrate to?

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