The antelope, a large family of wild ruminants


The antelope constitutes a huge family of wild bovids recognizable by its generally spiraled horns. Zoom on a ruminant that nature has endowed with thin legs allowing it to reach 100 km / h to escape its predators.

The very large antelope family

The word antelope describes a wide variety of horned mammals of the bovidae family. Antelopes bring together several subfamilies :

  • Antilopines (gazelle, springbok, saiga…);
  • Neotragines (dwarf antelope, beira, dik-dik, bleebok, sassa…);
  • Hippotragines (cobe, black antelope, oryx, addax…);
  • Alcelaphines (wildebeest, hartebeest, damalisque, impala….);
  • Cephalophines (cephalophines);
  • The tragelaphines (eland, bongo, koudou, sitatunga, guib…).

Antelope: hooves adapted to its habitat

The antelope usually has a colored fur Wildcat, often clearer on the belly. Many desert and semi-desert species have particularly pale, almost white coats (Arabian oryx). All have a white posterior and a black tail tip. In these ruminant ungulates, the hooves divide into two toes and are adapted to their environment: those of the Lechwe’s cob are long and pointed to facilitate its movement in humid areas and flood plains while the thin-horned gazelle has large sturdy hooves for walking in the sands of the desert.

The elegant horns of the antelope

In antelopes, males are more massive females and their weight varies according to the species: the dwarf antelope weighs up to 3 kg when the giant eland can exceed 800 kg. All have horns ringedwhether straight, S-shaped, lyre-shaped or spiral-shaped. Consisting of a bony core coated largely with keratin, these attributes are used especially during fights between rivals in rutting season or to defend the herd against predators. In some species, females also have horns, but they are then thinner.

Antelope: run to survive

With their long slender and powerful legs, antelopes are able to run extremely fast over short distances. The most athletic individuals can achieve 100 km / h, leap 4 meters high and 15 m long. The majority of species living in discovered in the African plains, nature has endowed them with a vital velocity to escape predators such as the cheetah – the fastest land animal in the world – which however has less endurance. These wild bovids also rely on their sharpened senses To Avoid Enemies: Eyes placed on the sides of the head give them a wide radius of vision while the developed sense of smell and hearing allow them to detect a threat at night.

Savannah and bush for the antelope

While most antelopes are native toAfrica, they are also found in Asia, the Middle East and the American continent where they have been introduced. These emblematic ruminants of the African savannah and the famous bush, generally frequent the open meadows, the steppes. The varieties living in forests and wooded areas (duikers, royal antelopes, dik-dik) tend to be sedentary. As antelopes form a large family, their habitat is very diverse: the saiga endures extreme cold, the Arabian oryx thrives in the desert when the sitatunga adopts a way of life. amphibious.

Vegetarian diet and some exceptions

This mammal herbivorous feeds on leaves, herbs, grasses, tubers, shrub shoots, roots and fruits. Waller’s gazelle can even stand on its hind legs to grab food from trees. To the plants which constitute the main part of their food, the duiker adds insects, small birds and mammals that he kills using his front hooves. He is also a scavenger on occasion. Plains antelopes (wildebeest, gazelles) undertake long migrations aimed at following the rains in search of new pastures.

The antelope: sometimes solitary, often gregarious

Some antelopes such as wildebeest and gazelles are known for their huge herds which make their annual migration to the African plains in the company of the zebras. The springbok, for example, is a social and gregarious animal that lives in a herd made up of several dozen individuals. Many species, however, prefer small group life or solitude. As for the dik-dik, it is monogamous and spends its existence in couple. In addition to running, this species living in the forest protects itself from predators thanks to its coat which allows it to blend into the landscape.

The antelope is born then walks

The antelopes reproduce during two periods (March-April and August-September) during which the males engage in violent fights. After mating, the female gives birth to a only small at the end of a gestation period of between five and six months. She hides her baby in a dense cover and leaves him only to look for food. At mealtime, she calls her fawn which, once supplied, quickly returns to its hiding place. If the natural selection attributed to young people the ability to walk very soon after birth, they remain very vulnerable facing predators.

What threats to the antelope?

Bovid is a meal of choice for many predators carnivorous such as leopard, lion, African civet, hyena or cheetah. Some large birds of prey can also attack juveniles. Of the 91 antelope species, around 25 are considered “endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The hunt constitutes a major threat for almost all species to which is added the loss of their habitat (allocated to livestock) and epizootics : in 2015, pasteurellosis wiped out nearly 200,000 saigas in Kazakhstan in just two months. The life expectancy of an antelope is 8-10 years in the wild and can reach 20 years in captivity.

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