|Blackbuck antelope of India|
|Cladistically included but traditionally excluded taxa|
The term antelope is used to refer to many species of even-toed ruminant that are indigenous to various regions in Africa and Eurasia.
The term “antelope” is a wastebasket taxon and is defined as comprising any of numerous Old World grazing and browsing hoofed mammals belonging to the family Bovidae of the order Artiodactyla.
A stricter definition, also known as the "true antelopes," includes only the genera Gazella , Nanger , Eudorcas , and Antilope .One North American species, the pronghorn, is colloquially referred to as the "American antelope," but it belongs to a different family from the African and Eurasian antelopes.
A group of antelope is called a herd.Unlike deer antlers, which are shed and grown annually, antelope horns grow continuously.
The English word "antelope" first appeared in 1417 and is derived from the Old French antelop, itself derived from Medieval Latin ant(h)alopus, which in turn comes from the Byzantine Greek word ἀνθόλοψ, anthólops, first attested in Eustathius of Antioch (c. 336), according to whom it was a fabulous animal "haunting the banks of the Euphrates, very savage, hard to catch and having long, saw-like horns capable of cutting down trees". It perhaps derives from Greek ἀνθος, anthos (flower) and ώψ, ops (eye), perhaps meaning "beautiful eye" or alluding to the animals' long eyelashes. This, however, may be a folk etymology in Greek based on some earlier root. The word talopus and calopus, from Latin, came to be used in heraldry. In 1607, it was first used for living, cervine animals .
The 91 antelope species, most of which are native to Africa, occur in about 30 genera. The classification of tribes or subfamilies within Bovidae is still a matter of debate, with several alternative systems proposed.
Antelope are not a cladistic or taxonomically defined group.The term is used to describe all members of the family Bovidae that do not fall under the category of sheep, cattle, or goats. Usually, all species of the Antilopinae, Hippotraginae, Reduncinae, Cephalophinae, many Bovinae, the grey rhebok, and the impala are called antelope.
More species of antelope are native to Africa than to any other continent, almost exclusively in savannahs, with 25-40 species co-occurring over much of East Africa.Because savannah habitat in Africa has expanded and contracted five times over the last three million years, and the fossil record indicates this is when most extant species evolved, it is believed that isolation in refugia during contractions was a major driver of this diversification. Other species occur in Asia: the Arabian Peninsula is home to the Arabian oryx and Dorcas gazelle. India is home to the nilgai, chinkara, blackbuck, Tibetan antelope, and four-horned antelope, while Russia and Central Asia have the Tibetan antelope and saiga.
No antelope species is native to Australasia or Antarctica, nor do any extant species occur in the Americas, though the nominate saiga subspecies occurred in North America during the Pleistocene. North America is currently home to the native pronghorn, which taxonomists do not consider a member of the antelope group, but which is often locally referred to as such (e.g., "American antelope"). In Europe, several extinct species occur in the fossil record, and the saiga was found widely during the Pleistocene but did not persist into the later Holocene,except in Russian Kalmykia and Astrakhan Oblast.
Many species of antelope have been imported to other parts of the world, especially the United States, for exotic game hunting. With some species possessing spectacular leaping and evasive skills, individuals may escape. Texas in particular has many game ranches, as well as habitats and climates that are very hospitable to African and Asian plains antelope species. Accordingly, wild populations of blackbuck antelope, gemsbok, and nilgai may be found in Texas.
Antelope live in a wide range of habitats. Most live in the African savannahs. However, many species are more secluded, such as the forest antelope, as well as the extreme cold-living saiga, the desert-adapted Arabian oryx, the rocky koppie-living klipspringer, and semiaquatic sitatunga.
Species living in forests, woodland, or bush tend to be sedentary, but many of the plains species undertake long migrations. These enable grass-eating species to follow the rains and thereby their food supply. The gnus and gazelles of East Africa perform some of the most impressive mass migratory circuits of all mammals.
Antelope vary greatly in size. For example, a male common eland can measure 178 cm (5 ft 10 in) at the shoulder and weigh almost 950 kg (2,100 lb), whereas an adult royal antelope may stand only 24 cm (9+1⁄2 in) at the shoulder and weigh a mere 1.5 kg (3+1⁄4 lb).
Not surprisingly for animals with long, slender yet powerful legs, many antelope have long strides and can run fast. Some (e.g. klipspringer) are also adapted to inhabiting rock koppies and crags. Both dibatags and gerenuks habitually stand on their two hind legs to reach acacia and other tree foliage. Different antelope have different body types, which can affect movement. Duikers are short, bush-dwelling antelope that can pick through dense foliage and dive into the shadows rapidly. Gazelle and springbok are known for their speed and leaping abilities. Even larger antelope, such as nilgai, elands, and kudus, are capable of jumping 2.4 m (7 ft 10 in) or greater, although their running speed is restricted by their greater mass.
Antelope have a wide variety of coverings, though most have a dense coat of short fur. In most species, the coat (pelage) is some variation of a brown colour (or several shades of brown), often with white or pale underbodies. Exceptions include the zebra-marked zebra duiker, the grey, black, and white Jentink's duiker, and the black lechwe. Most of the "spiral-horned" antelope have pale, vertical stripes on their backs. Many desert and semidesert species are particularly pale, some almost silvery or whitish (e.g. Arabian oryx); the beisa and southern oryxes have gray and black pelages with vivid black-and-white faces. Common features of various gazelles are white rumps, which flash a warning to others when they run from danger, and dark stripes midbody (the latter feature is also shared by the springbok and beira). The springbok also has a pouch of white, brushlike hairs running along its back, which opens up when the animal senses danger, causing the dorsal hairs to stand on end.
Antelope are ruminants, so have well-developed molar teeth, which grind cud (food balls stored in the stomach) into a pulp for further digestion. They have no upper incisors, but rather a hard upper gum pad, against which their lower incisors bite to tear grass stems and leaves.
Like many other herbivores, antelope rely on keen senses to avoid predators. Their eyes are placed on the sides of their heads, giving them a broad radius of vision with minimal binocular vision. Their horizontally elongated pupils also help in this respect. Acute senses of smell and hearing give antelope the ability to perceive danger at night out in the open (when predators are often on the prowl). These same senses play an important role in contact between individuals of the same species; markings on their heads, ears, legs, and rumps are used in such communication. Many species "flash" such markings, as well as their tails; vocal communications include loud barks, whistles, "moos", and trumpeting; many species also use scent marking to define their territories or simply to maintain contact with their relatives and neighbors.
Many antelope are sexually dimorphic. In most species, both sexes have horns, but those of males tend to be larger. Males tend to be larger than the females, but exceptions in which the females tend to be heavier than the males include the bush duiker, dwarf antelope, Cape grysbok, and oribi, all rather small species. A number of species have hornless females (e.g., sitatunga, red lechwe, and suni). In some species, the males and females have differently coloured pelages (e.g. blackbuck and nyala).
The size and shape of antelope horns varies greatly. Those of the duikers and dwarf antelope tend to be simple "spikes", but differ in the angle to the head from backward curved and backward pointing (e.g. yellow-backed duiker) to straight and upright (e.g. steenbok). Other groups have twisted (e.g. common eland), spiral (e.g. greater kudu), "recurved" (e.g. the reedbucks), lyrate (e.g. impala), or long, curved (e.g. the oryxes) horns. Horns are not shed and their bony cores are covered with a thick, persistent sheath of horny material, both of which distinguish them from antlers.
Horns are efficient weapons, and tend to be better developed in those species where males fight over females (large herd antelope) than in solitary or lekking species. With male-male competition for mates, horns are clashed in combat. Males more commonly use their horns against each other than against another species. The boss of the horns is typically arranged in such a way that two antelope striking at each other's horns cannot crack each other's skulls, making a fight via horn more ritualized than dangerous. Many species have ridges in their horns for at least two-thirds the length of their horns, but these ridges are not a direct indicator of age.
Antelope are often classified by their reproductive behavior.
Small antelope, such as dik-diks, tend to be monogamous. They live in a forest environment with patchy resources, and a male is unable to monopolize more than one female due to this sparse distribution. Larger forest species often form very small herds of two to four females and one male.
Some species, such as lechwes, pursue a lek breeding system, where the males gather on a lekking ground and compete for a small territory, while the females appraise males and choose one with which to mate.
Large grazing antelope, such as impala or wildebeest, form large herds made up of many females and a single breeding male, which excludes all other males, often by combat.
Antelope pursue a number of defense strategies, often dictated by their morphology.
Large antelope that gather in large herds, such as wildebeest, rely on numbers and running speed for protection. In some species, adults will encircle the offspring, protecting them from predators when threatened. Many forest antelope rely on cryptic coloring and good hearing to avoid predators. Forest antelope often have very large ears and dark or striped colorations. Small antelope, especially duikers, evade predation by jumping into dense bush where the predator cannot pursue.Springboks use a behavior known as stotting to confuse predators.
Open grassland species have nowhere to hide from predators, so they tend to be fast runners. They are agile and have good endurance—these are advantages when pursued by sprint-dependent predators such as cheetahs, which are the fastest of land animals, but tire quickly. Reaction distances vary with predator species and behaviour. For example, gazelles may not flee from a lion until it is closer than 200 m (650 ft)—lions hunt as a pride or by surprise, usually by stalking; one that can be seen clearly is unlikely to attack. However, sprint-dependent cheetahs will cause gazelles to flee at a range of over 800 metres (1⁄2 mile).
If escape is not an option, antelope are capable of fighting back. Oryxes in particular have been known to stand sideways like many unrelated bovids to appear larger than they are, and may charge at a predator as a last resort.
About 25 species are rated by the IUCN as endangered,such as the dama gazelle and mountain nyala. A number of subspecies are also endangered, including the giant sable antelope and the mhorr gazelle. The main causes for concern for these species are habitat loss, competition with cattle for grazing, and trophy hunting.
The chiru or Tibetan antelope is hunted for its pelt, which is used in making shahtoosh wool, used in shawls. Since the fur can only be removed from dead animals, and each animal yields very little of the downy fur, several antelope must be killed to make a single shawl. This unsustainable demand has led to enormous declines in the chiru population.
The saiga is hunted for its horns, which are considered an aphrodisiac by some cultures. Only the males have horns, and have been so heavily hunted that some herds contain up to 800 females to one male. The species has shown a steep decline and is critically endangered.
It is difficult to determine how long antelope live in the wild. With the preference of predators towards old and infirm individuals, which can no longer sustain peak speeds, few wild prey-animals live as long as their biological potential. In captivity, wildebeest have lived beyond 20 years old, and impalas have reached their late teens.
The antelope's horn is prized for supposed medicinal and magical powers in many places. The horn of the male saiga, in Eastern practice, is ground as an aphrodisiac, for which it has been hunted nearly to extinction.In the Congo, it is thought to confine spirits. The antelope's ability to run swiftly has also led to their association with the wind, such as in the Rig Veda , as the steeds of the Maruts and the wind god Vayu. There is, however, no scientific evidence that the horns of any antelope have any change on a human's physiology or characteristics.
In Mali, antelope were believed to have brought the skills of agriculture to mankind.
Humans have also used the term "Antelope" to refer to a tradition usually found in the sport of track and field.
Domestication of animals requires certain traits in the animal that antelope do not typically display. Most species are difficult to contain in any density, due to the territoriality of the males, or in the case of oryxes (which have a relatively hierarchical social structure), an aggressive disposition; they can easily kill a human. Because many have extremely good jumping abilities, providing adequate fencing is a challenge. Also, antelope will consistently display a fear response to perceived predators, such as humans, making them very difficult to herd or handle. Although antelope have diets and rapid growth rates highly suitable for domestication, this tendency to panic and their nonhierarchical social structure explains why farm-raised antelope are uncommon. Ancient Egyptians kept herds of gazelles and addax for meat, and occasionally pets. It is unknown whether they were truly domesticated, but it seems unlikely, as no domesticated gazelles exist today.
However, humans have had success taming certain species, such as the elands. These antelope sometimes jump over each other's backs when alarmed, but this incongruous talent seems to be exploited only by wild members of the species; tame elands do not take advantage of it and can be enclosed within a very low fence. Their meat, milk, and hides are all of excellent quality, and experimental eland husbandry has been going on for some years in both Ukraine and Zimbabwe. In both locations, the animal has proved wholly amenable to domestication.Similarly, European visitors to Arabia reported "tame gazelles are very common in the Asiatic countries of which the species is a native; and the poetry of these countries abounds in allusions both to the beauty and the gentleness of the gazelle." Other antelope that have been tamed successfully include the gemsbok, the kudu, and the springbok. Nor are the characteristics described above necessarily barriers to domestication; for further information, see animal domestication.
A wide variety of antelope hybrids have been recorded in zoos, game parks, and wildlife ranches, due to either a lack of more appropriate mates in enclosures shared with other species or a misidentification of species. The ease of hybridization shows how closely related some antelope species are. With few exceptions, most hybrid antelope occur only in captivity.
Most hybrids occur between species within the same genus. All reported examples occur within the same subfamily. As with most mammal hybrids, the less closely related the parents, the more likely the offspring will be sterile.
Antelope are a common symbol in heraldry, though they occur in a highly distorted form from nature. The heraldic antelope has the body of a stag and the tail of a lion, with serrated horns, and a small tusk at the end of its snout. This bizarre and inaccurate form was invented by European heralds in the Middle Ages, who knew little of foreign animals and made up the rest. The antelope was mistakenly imagined to be a monstrous beast of prey; the 16th century poet Edmund Spenser referred to it as being "as fierce and fell as a wolf."
Antelope can all also occur in their natural form, in which case they are termed "natural antelope" to distinguish them from the more usual heraldic antelope.The arms previously used by the Republic of South Africa featured a natural antelope, along with an oryx.
The springbok is a medium-sized antelope found mainly in south and southwest Africa. The sole member of the genus Antidorcas, this bovid was first described by the German zoologist Eberhard August Wilhelm von Zimmermann in 1780. Three subspecies are identified. A slender, long-legged antelope, the springbok reaches 71 to 86 cm at the shoulder and weighs between 27 and 42 kg. Both sexes have a pair of black, 35-to-50 cm (14-to-20 in) long horns that curve backwards. The springbok is characterised by a white face, a dark stripe running from the eyes to the mouth, a light-brown coat marked by a reddish-brown stripe that runs from the upper fore leg to the buttocks across the flanks like the Thomson's gazelle, and a white rump flap.
The Bovidae comprise the biological family of cloven-hoofed, ruminant mammals that includes cattle, bison, buffalo, antelopes, and caprines. A member of this family is called a bovid. With 143 extant species and 300 known extinct species, the family Bovidae consists of 11 major subfamilies and thirteen major tribes. The family evolved 20 million years ago, in the early Miocene.
The impala or rooibok is a medium-sized antelope found in eastern and southern Africa. The only extant member of the genus Aepyceros and tribe Aepycerotini, it was first described to European audiences by German zoologist Hinrich Lichtenstein in 1812. Two subspecies are recognised—the common impala, and the larger and darker black-faced impala. The impala reaches 70–92 cm (28–36 in) at the shoulder and weighs 40–76 kg (88–168 lb). It features a glossy, reddish brown coat. The male's slender, lyre-shaped horns are 45–92 cm (18–36 in) long.
Oryx is a genus consisting of four large antelope species called oryxes. Their pelage is pale with contrasting dark markings in the face and on the legs, and their long horns are almost straight. The exception is the scimitar oryx, which lacks dark markings on the legs, only has faint dark markings on the head, has an ochre neck, and has horns that are clearly decurved.
The common eland, also known as the southern eland or eland antelope, is a savannah and plains antelope found in East and Southern Africa. It is a species of the family Bovidae and genus Taurotragus. An adult male is around 1.6 m (5 ft) tall at the shoulder and can weigh up to 942 kg (2,077 lb) with a typical range of 500–600 kg (1,100–1,300 lb), 340–445 kg (750–981 lb) for females). It is the second-largest antelope in the world, being slightly smaller on average than the giant eland. It was scientifically described by Peter Simon Pallas in 1766.
The giant eland, also known as the Derby eland and greater eland, is an open-forest and savanna antelope. A species of the family Bovidae and genus Taurotragus, it was described in 1847 by John Edward Gray. The giant eland is the largest species of antelope, with a body length ranging from 220–290 cm (86.5–114 in). There are two subspecies: T. d. derbianus and T. d. gigas.
The scimitar oryx, also known as the scimitar-horned oryx and the Sahara oryx, is a Oryx species that was once widespread across North Africa. In 2000, it was declared extinct in the wild on the IUCN Red List.
The hirola, also called the Hunter's hartebeest or Hunter's antelope, is a critically endangered antelope species found on the border between Kenya and Somalia. It was first described by the big game hunter and zoologist H.C.V. Hunter in 1888. It is the only living member of the genus Beatragus, though other species are known from the fossil record. The global hirola population is estimated at 300–500 animals and there are none in captivity. According to a document produced by the International Union for Conservation of Nature "the loss of the hirola would be the first extinction of a mammalian genus on mainland Africa in modern human history".
The gerenuk, also known as the giraffe gazelle, is a long-necked antelope found in parts of East Africa. The sole member of the genus Litocranius, the gerenuk was first described by the naturalist Victor Brooke in 1879. It is characterised by its long, slender neck and limbs. The antelope is 80–105 centimetres tall, and weighs between 18 and 52 kilograms. Two types of colouration are clearly visible on the smooth coat: the reddish brown back or the "saddle", and the lighter flanks, fawn to buff. The horns, present only on males, are lyre-shaped. Curving backward then slightly forward, these measure 25–44 cm.
The blackbuck, also known as the Indian antelope, is an antelope native to India and Nepal. It inhabits grassy plains and lightly forested areas with perennial water sources. It stands up to 74 to 84 cm high at the shoulder. Males weigh 20–57 kg (44–126 lb), with an average of 38 kg (84 lb). Females are lighter, weighing 20–33 kg (44–73 lb) or 27 kg (60 lb) on average. Males have 35–75 cm (14–30 in) long, ringed horns, though females may develop horns as well. The white fur on the chin and around the eyes is in sharp contrast with the black stripes on the face. The coats of males show a two-tone colouration; while the upper parts and outsides of the legs are dark brown to black, the underparts and the insides of the legs are white. Females and juveniles are yellowish fawn to tan. The blackbuck is the sole living member of the genus Antilope and was scientifically described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758. Two subspecies are recognized.
The Antilopines are even-toed ungulates belonging to the subfamily Antilopinae of the family Bovidae. The members of tribe Antilopini include the gazelles, blackbucks, springboks, gerenuks, dibatags, and Central Asian gazelles, are often referred to as true antelopes. True antelopes occur in much of Africa and Asia, with the highest concentration of species occurring in East Africa in Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, and Tanzania. The saigas and Tibetan antelopes inhabit much of central and western Asia. The dwarf antelopes of tribe Neotragini live entirely in sub-Saharan Africa.
Thomson's gazelle is one of the best known species of gazelles. It is named after explorer Joseph Thomson and is sometimes referred to as a "tommie". It is considered by some to be a subspecies of the red-fronted gazelle and was formerly considered a member of the genus Gazella within the subgenus Eudorcas, before Eudorcas was elevated to genus status.
The oribi is a small antelope found in eastern, southern and western Africa. The sole member of its genus, it was described by the German zoologist Eberhard August Wilhelm von Zimmermann in 1783. While this is the only member in the genus Ourebia, eight subspecies are identified. The oribi reaches nearly 50–67 centimetres (20–26 in) at the shoulder and weighs 12–22 kilograms (26–49 lb). It possesses a slightly raised back, and long neck and limbs. The glossy, yellowish to rufous brown coat contrasts with the white chin, throat, underparts and rump. Only males possess horns; the thin, straight horns, 8–18 centimetres (3.1–7.1 in) long, are smooth at the tips and ringed at the base.
Przewalski's gazelle is a member of the family Bovidae, and in the wild, is found only in China. Once widespread, its range has declined to six populations near Qinghai Lake. The gazelle was named after Nikolai Przhevalsky, a Russian explorer who collected a specimen and brought it back to St. Petersburg in 1875.
Grant's gazelle is a species of gazelle distributed from northern Tanzania to South Sudan and Ethiopia, and from the Kenyan coast to Lake Victoria. Its Swahili name is swala granti. It was named for a 19th-century British explorer, James Grant.
The tribe Bovini, or wild cattle, are medium to massive bovines that are native to North America, Eurasia, and Africa. These include the enigmatic, antelope-like saola, the African and Asiatic buffalos, and a clade that consists of bison and the wild cattle of the genus Bos. Not only are they the largest members of the subfamily Bovinae, they are the largest species of their family Bovidae. The largest species is the gaur, weighing up to 1,500 kg (3,300 lb).
The tribe Tragelaphini, or the spiral-horned antelopes, are bovines that are endemic to sub-Sahara Africa. These include the bushbuck, kudus, and the elands. The scientific name is in reference to the mythical creature the tragelaph, a Chimera with the body of a stag and the head of a goat. They are medium-to-large, tall, long-legged antelopes characterized by their iconic twisted horns and striking pelage coloration patterns.
A gazelle is one of many antelope species in the genus Gazella. This article also deals with the seven species included in two further genera, Eudorcas and Nanger, which were formerly considered subgenera of Gazella. A third former subgenus, Procapra, includes three living species of Asian gazelles.
The preorbital gland is a paired exocrine gland found in many species of hoofed animals, which is homologous to the lacrimal gland found in humans. These glands are trenchlike slits of dark blue to black, nearly bare skin extending from the medial canthus of each eye. They are lined by a combination of sebaceous and sudoriferous glands, and they produce secretions which contain pheromones and other semiochemical compounds. Ungulates frequently deposit these secretions on twigs and grass as a means of communication with other animals.
The fringe-eared oryx is a subspecies of the East African oryx. It was originally described as a distinct species by Oldfield Thomas in 1892, but was subsequently re-evaluated as a subspecies by Richard Lydekker in 1912. Recently, however, analysis using the phylogenetic species concept has led some authors to conclude that it should be returned to full species status.