A-z - Animals

antelope

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Antelope One

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"The antelope is one of the fastest land animals in the world"

The antelope is an animal that roams the forests and plains of Africa and Asia, relying on its incredible speed and agility to evade the most fearsome predators with its graceful leaps and bounds.

However, it's important to explain that "antelope" is an umbrella term covering about 91 different subspecies worldwide. Most of these species are native to Africa. In East Africa alone, there are about 40 different subspecies of antelope.

Antelopes were revered and admired even in ancient cultures due to their speed, long horns capable of inflicting a great deal of damage, and their beauty, eyes, and exceptionally large eyelashes.

Although very common and common, it still faces great dangers from overhunting and poaching.



Incredible Antelope Facts!

oribi
The oribi antelope is small in size and has reddish fur.

©Anil Varma/Shutterstock.com

  • Antelope is an animal that plays an important role in human medicine and culture. In some African traditions, it is often associated with wind.
  • Antelope horns are composed of keratin. This is the same substance found in nails, hair, claws and hooves. However, unlike the often compared antelope to deer, the antelope retains the same horns throughout their lives, rather than shedding them once a year.
  • Antelope horns vary widely in structure and shape. Some horns are helical, some are curved, and some have ridges. Experts can often distinguish species of antelope based on the appearance of their horns alone.

evolution and origin

Antelopes are a variety of mammals belonging to the family Bovidae, which also includes cattle, goats, sheep, and buffalo. The first known antelopes appeared in Africa and Asia during the Miocene epoch, about 20 million years ago.

Over time, they evolved into multiple forms adapted to different environments and ecological niches, such as savannas, deserts, and mountains. Today, more than 90 species of antelope are found in Africa, Asia, and parts of Europe and North America.

The horns of male antelope are used for fighting and display, while females usually do not have horns.

scientific name

© Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

Antelope is not so much a scientific classification as an informal one. There is no single scientific name that encompasses all of these animals. Instead, the name antelope describes any deer-like animal in the bovid family that has a similar appearance and physiology.

It is generally accepted that several different subfamilies belong to the collective term antelope, but this remains a matter of scientific debate.

Due to the lack of precise scientific standards, there are many different edge cases. For example, a pronghorn or antelope are not actually true antelopes at all. Giraffes are more closely related to pronghorn than to antelope.

Antelopes are widely distributed animals. They make up about 91 of the 140 or so known species in the family Bovidae, which also includes sheep, goats and domestic cattle. More distantly, they belong to the order Artiodactyla along with giraffes and pigs.

The most notable feature of this order is the even number of hooves. The name antelope comes to us from Proto-Greek via Medieval Latin, but the actual meaning of the word is unclear.

different types of antelope

  • ox
  • domestic buffalo
  • goat
  • sheep
  • Bovine subfamily
  • Boss
  • Ovis subfamily
  • bison
  • Wildebeest
  • sheep
  • eland
  • gazelle
  • domestic yak
  • suede
  • musk ox
  • Antelope subfamily
  • Glenook
  • serum
  • black antelope
  • small antelope
  • sable antelope
  • dick dick
  • Hartebeest
  • soft antelope
  • saiga antelope
  • Addax
  • springbok
  • waterbuck
  • Subfamily
  • Cobbs
  • Cephalopoda
  • common duiker
  • Subfamily
  • Lechwe
  • reed
  • blue deer
  • Hirola
  • antelope
  • topi
  • blue antelope
  • gray rhino
  • yellow-backed duiker
  • red forest duiker
  • zebra duiker
  • Puku
  • Reptobos
  • Maxwell's Gazelle
  • Subfamily Dentures

appearance and behavior

antelope standing on rock
Klipspringers stand 2 feet tall and weigh between 20-40 lbs.

© iStock.com/EcoPic

Due to its diversity, it is difficult to speak of a single characteristic or appearance of the antelope. Most have a deer-like appearance, with spiked or corkscrew horns, but the largest members of the group resemble almost a cross between a deer and a cow.

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There are generally two species of antelope, which vary by habitat. Small and medium-sized animals, such as duiker and reedbuck, are better suited to the shelter of forests and wetlands.

Because of their short legs, rounded back, and large rear end, they are able to move quickly and sporadically to avoid predators. These animals have camouflage or markings to provide an extra layer of defense. They tend to forage on foliage by themselves, then pair monogamously with a mate during the breeding season.

On the other hand, larger antelopes are built for deserts, open plains, and savannas. They graze on grass and rely on sheer speed to help them evade predators. They tend to gather in large groups where one dominant male will mate with multiple females.

Herd size can vary widely. Some herds consist of no more than 10 or 20 individuals, while others number in the thousands, which can be quite a sight on the open plains. These herds may undergo mass migrations at certain times of the year in search of new food banks and pastures.

Antelopes vary widely in size, from the tiny royal antelope, which weighs just 4 pounds, to the truly gigantic eland, weighing up to 1,800 pounds, the weight of some cattle. The topi is probably the longest, reaching nearly 9 feet. Males tend to have larger bodies and horns than females, but in a few species, females may have no horns at all, or they may have smaller horns than males.

Adult male springbok in the desert. antelope on the beach

©Karel Bartik/Shutterstock.com

Like many other bovids, the antelope's entire body is well suited for plant consumption and digestion. It has a multi-chambered stomach filled with specialized bacteria that ferment and break down the tough cellulose in plant matter. Antelopes also regurgitate their food and chew it again with their well-developed molars to aid in digestion.

Another important feature is the eyesight of the antelope. They have horizontal pupils on the sides of their heads, allowing them to see predators flying in from the periphery of their field of vision. A keen sense of smell also aids in communication.

Special fluids secreted from scent glands around the face, knees, and hooves allow them to mark territories and communicate with other members. Antelopes also have a set of whistles, barks, bleats, grunts and moos. These vocalizations can be used as an alarm call, warning or as a means of greeting.

Habitat

Pronghorn grazing on grassland.
Pronghorn grazing on grassland.

©Jen DeVos/Shutterstock.com

About 71 species of antelope inhabit the African continent. Most of the remaining antelopes are found in Asia, including the Middle East, Central Asia and the Russian steppes. These animals flourished in Europe and the Americas before they became extinct. Known antelopes never evolved in Australia.

As mentioned earlier, antelope tend to live exclusively in forests or open plains, rarely mixing the two. Habitat determines each species' survival strategy, from body size to diet to social organization.

diet

Antelopes feed almost exclusively on plants. The only exception is the duiker (a small to medium-sized antelope that lives in forests), which supplements its herbivorous diet with small amounts of meat from mammals, insects and birds.

There are generally two types of foraging strategies: browsers and herbivores. Browsers tend to feed on leaves, seeds, fruit, flowers, and bark near the ground. Herbivores tend to eat grass and similar vegetation.

The gerenuk and dibatags have a unique strategy of standing on their hind legs to reach the leaves of tall trees. It takes a lot of time to break down the plant matter into a usable form, but this strategy is very beneficial because the foliage and pasture can support large numbers of antelope at once.

These animals spend a lot of time finding and eating food. In order to find enough sources, some antelopes cleverly offload the work to other animals. They will actively follow flocks of birds, monkeys or migrating zebras to find key feeding grounds.

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For a complete analysis of antelope's diet, be sure to read "What Do Antelopes Eat?"

Predators and Threats

What Do Antelopes Eat - Eating Gazelles

©Benas Bakevicius/Shutterstock.com

Antelopes are one of the most common prey in Africa. They prepare a tempting meal for cheetahs, lions, hyenas, civets, pythons and large birds. Because of the antelope's incredible speed, many predators prefer to sneak up on them and eat stragglers. Cheetahs are one of the few animals that are fast enough to catch them, relying on sheer speed. These chases often turn out to be spectacular shots in nature documentaries.

These animals have a variety of strategies to deal with dangerous predators, not the least of which is their speed and agility. If an animal cannot completely hide from its pursuers, it may try to hide in water or foliage. Some species will actually freeze in place to avoid being noticed. If all else fails, the antelope may hold its ground, using its sharp horns to defend itself.

Antelopes are hunted by humans for their horns and meat. Some cultures have local taboos against hunting antelope. However, animals can still accidentally fall into the trap. Habitat loss is another major threat to many antelopes.

Reproduction, Babies and Longevity

Antelopes pursue so many different courtship and mating rituals that it's difficult to discuss them all in detail. Breeding strategies can vary between full monogamy and dominant breeding pairs in the herd. In other species, males compete with each other each season for breeding rights with females.

Once a female has conceived, the gestation period lasts four to nine months. Mothers give birth to only one calf at a time, and twins are relatively rare. Because calves are so vulnerable at birth, they typically have two different strategies to protect their young. Most antelope prefer to hide their duiker in a secluded spot while the mother rejoins the herd or hunts on her own.

In the second strategy, calves should start traveling with the herd almost immediately from the moment of birth. In exchange, the herd provides additional protection for the calves.

The age of maturity varies widely among species. Some of these animal species reach adulthood in as little as six months. Some take up to eight years to fully develop. On average, women usually mature faster than men. Lifespan can likewise vary from three to 28 years, depending on the species.

population

According to the IUCN Red List, about a quarter of all antelope species are currently threatened with extinction, some of which were lost in the 19th and 20th centuries. But even among those groups that were in good health, many appeared to be in decline and could be under pressure in the future from hunting and loss of habitat. The exact population size is unknown.

Antelope in the zoo

The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Park has perhaps the largest collection of such animals in the United States, including springbok, antelope, waterbuck, sable, gazelle, gazelle, wildebeest (a species of wildebeest), antelope and more.

One of the most important inhabitants is the breeding herd of the saiga, a critically endangered antelope that inhabits the Eurasian steppe. The zoo is home to more than 100 saiga calves and assists conservation efforts across Russia.

If you don't live near San Diego, there are still a few ways to see live antelope. The Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas is home to three species of antelope: the yellow-backed duiker, kudu and antelope. The Buffalo Zoo contains the impala and Addax antelope. The St. Louis Zoo has addax, lesser kudu, spike gazelle, and gerenuk. Finally, the Smithsonian's National Zoo is home to eland and curved-horned antelope.

antelope and humans

Antelope hunting is very popular in their natural habitat. In fact, many people have turned antelope hunting into a business by creating farms. Some claim to have adapted sustainable practices and conscious hunting practices.

It is noteworthy that, out of 91 species of antelope, 25 species are in different protection stages of IUCN; 9 species are listed as endangered species, 9 species are listed as vulnerable species, and 5 species are listed as critically endangered species. The IUCN also says 70% of species are threatened with extinction and 62% are rapidly declining.

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Meat

Although not as popular as venison, venison, or buffalo meat, antelope meat has a reputation for being lean and healthy. The flavor of the meat depends largely on how quickly the hunter skins, eviscerates, and cooks the meat. According to experienced hunters, if the animal is processed for too long, the meat will not taste good.

Antelope meat has a hint of sage, is grainy and sweet. It is almost the same as venison and just as lean. The best way to cook chamois meat is over a fire, such as grilling, roasting or par-rare in the oven. Meat that is overcooked will become dry and hard to chew.

trumpet

Antelopes are hunted more for their horns than as a game. In many cultures, horns have been used for medicinal and mystical purposes. In ancient times, natives of Africa, America, and Asia used horns for a variety of purposes. In India and China, lethal weapons were strengthened by making horn tips out of metal, and parrying shields were strengthened, which could also be turned into knives and other offensive weapons.

Some cultures consider antelope horn to be a potent aphrodisiac. They are hunted for the sole purpose of collecting horns, which are ground into powder and eaten. Male saigas have fallen prey to this belief and are now a critically endangered species, with about 50,000 left in the world.

Antelope and coat of arms

Antelopes are widely used in heraldry, however, their form differs from their natural form. They were seen with the body of a stag, the tail of a lion, and jagged horns. They were also given small tusks with noses. The coat of arms was designed by medieval Europeans who didn't know the true face of the antelope and imagined it as a monster hunter.

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Antelopes are one of many horned herbivorous deer animals with flat hooves. There is no single scientific classification of antelopes, but multiple distinct groups.

Due to their enormous diversity, it is difficult to classify antelope into specific types. They are distributed in many different subfamilies, tribes and genera. Just to give you an idea of how fragmented the taxonomy is, the eland is actually part of the Bovid subfamily, which includes bison and domesticated cattle, even though it's considered an antelope. However, the following groups generally contain most antelope species.

The answer depends entirely on the species. The springbok is one of the fastest antelopes in the world. They can run at over 50 MPH for short periods of time and 30 MPH at a consistent pace. But even the smaller antelope can be fast enough to evade some predators.

The vast majority of antelope live in forests, savannas, wetlands and deserts in sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the remaining antelope live in Asia.

Antelopes feed almost exclusively on plants. Their physiology is highly adapted to this herbivorous lifestyle. The only exception is the duiker, which also has a limited meat diet.

Antelopes belong to the animal kingdom.

Antelopes belong to the phylum Chordate.

Antelopes belong to the class Mammalia.

Antelopes belong to the family Bovidae.

Antelopes belong to the order Artiodactyla.

Antelopes are covered with fur.

Antelopes have long legs and curved antlers.

Predators of antelope include lions, cheetahs and crocodiles.

The average litter size for antelope is 1 head.

Antelopes can live from 10 to 25 years.

The key differences between antelope and deer include their size, antler morphology, and range of motion. The largest antelope species is larger than the largest deer species, capable of reaching heights of 9 feet tall and 2,000 pounds in length. Deer are smaller than antelope, standing about 4 feet tall and weighing up to 900 pounds.