Antelopes are a diverse group of animals belonging to the Bovidae family. Over 90 species of antelope live worldwide. One of the most notable antelope facts is their ability to thrive in various environments, ranging from African savannas to Asian mountains.
Additionally, some species, like the Springbok, can leap great distances. This article provides a comprehensive overview for adults and kids; antelope are interesting animals that warrant our understanding.
Related: For more animals, check out this list of animals whose names start with "A!"
Antelopes belong to the Bovidae family, which includes various animals, from small goats to large sheep. Also, antelopes vary dramatically, adapting to their habitats. However, they are all herbivores; antelopes eat vegetation on the ground or trees.
The royal antelope has a shoulder height of only 25 cm, making it the smallest of the pack. In contrast, the eland, the largest antelope species, towers over the rest at 180 cm at the shoulder. These two antelope species have unique coat patterns and colors that help them blend into their respective environments.
Similarly, the oryx has pale fur that blends in with the desert, while the bongo has vibrant stripes that help it blend into the forest. Antelopes also have top-notch hearing and sight, which help them avoid predators.
Additionally, the waterbuck has splayed hooves ideal for navigating wet and muddy swamps. On the other hand, the Springbok has pointed hooves that enable it to traverse sandy terrain. The Tibetan antelope, also known as the chiru, stands out for its exceptional adaptation to high altitudes, often seen living above 4,000 meters in the harsh conditions of the Tibetan plateau.
Some antelopes are solitary, like the dik-diks, while some gather in large herds, like the wildebeest. Curiously, some antelope like the Gerenuk can stand on their hind legs to reach the leaves on trees.
The pronghorn antelope inhabits North America and can sprint up to 60 mph; only the cheetah is faster. Antelopes' speed helps them outrun predators such as lions, cheetahs, and hyenas. Moreover, their endurance is impressive; they are marathon runners and can maintain high-speed chases for longer.
When chased, antelopes can perform sudden turns and gravity-defying leaps. Some species, like the Bushbuck, are adept at navigating through dense forests.
Another interesting antelope fact is that some antelope species can change their fur color over weeks or months1. However, this feature is not present in all antelope species but often occurs in those that live in areas with extreme seasonal changes, such as the Springbok.
Antelopes increase their melanin levels during winter to darken their fur and absorb more warm sunlight. In summer, they lighten their fur to reflect the sun's rays and prevent overheating.
This color-changing ability acts as a built-in thermostat and helps the antelopes blend in with their surroundings. Moreover, male Bontebok antelopes undergo a noticeable darkening during mating season, signaling their intentions to potential mates.
Antelope horns are essential tools for survival. They comprise a bony core and keratin, the same compound in human hair and nails. Several antelope species have different horns, too, ranging from spiraling towers to straight, sharp spikes. For example, the impala antelope and sable antelope have ridges in their antlers, while the kudu antelope has spiral horns.
Moreover, antelope antlers indicate their age, strength, and overall health. During mating season, male antelopes clash with rivals to win over females. Outside the mating season, antelopes lower their heads and charge with their horns to deter or injure attackers.
Antelopes also use their horns to dig up food from the ground, allowing them to find hidden nourishment. However, having horns also comes with risks. For example, antelopes' horns may become entangled during conflicts, leading to injury or death in extreme situations.
The antelope is a social creature that resides in wild grasslands. Their society has leaders, usually dominant males, tasked with protecting the herd. Antelope communities can consist of hundreds of individuals, each playing a crucial role in the group's survival.
The reason for forming such large groups is to spot predators and use shared resources. They spread out across the grasslands but quickly regroup when danger approaches. Among their herds, antelopes communicate using visual displays, smells, and sounds to coordinate their movements and warn each other of threats.
Additionally, the adults form a ring around the young antelopes in the center of the herd, ensuring their safety as they grow. However, other antelopes like the klipspringer, waterbuck, duiker, and roan antelope hide their calves in different spaces.
A newborn antelope calf arrives during the rainy season after six to nine months of gestation. They also have a survival strategy called "hiding," which involves laying low in the tall grass, remaining quiet, and blending in to avoid predators.
Antelope calves are precocial; they can stand and run within hours of birth. They start eating vegetation around three to four months, beginning the weaning process. After a year, they become juveniles, male antelopes showing off by sparring with others.
The age when they become sexually mature can vary; some reach maturity at six months, while others take two to three years. However, young antelopes often stay with their mothers until they are fully grown or until a new calf is born.
During the mating season, the Topi antelope engages in a theatrical display called "lekking," while other species engage in horn-clashing duels. Each ritual highlights the antelopes' distinctive characteristics.
While "lekking," male Topi antelopes gather to compete for the attention of a female antelope, showing off their strength and charm in displays similar to a dance-off. Meanwhile, other species battle head-to-head to win the right to breed. The females act as judges, carefully choosing their mates with their future offspring in mind.
Antelopes follow a nomadic lifestyle on the African plains, covering over 300 kilometers as they move in response to seasonal changes. During the dry season, antelopes migrate for food and water, a challenging test of strength, stamina, and survival.
Antelopes band together in large groups to protect one another against predators such as lions, hyenas, and crocodiles.
While herds of antelope move calmly across the African savanna, these animals face threats to their existence. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, certain antelope species, such as the Springbok and Saiga, are now critically endangered.
Human activities have forced antelopes into ever smaller areas. Moreover, poachers hunt antelope for the illegal wildlife trade, contributing to the decline of their populations.
Antelopes also face health risks from naturally occurring diseases transmitted by domestic livestock. In some regions, invasive plants disrupt their eating habits and transform their homes, affecting the food antelope eat. Humans must work together to protect antelope populations and their lifespan; antelopes pursue a healthy life on this planet as we do.
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Skinner, J. D., & Chimimba, C. T. (2005). The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion. Cambridge University Press.