The Larger Antelope

In Africa there are 72 different antelope species (out of 84 worldwide). The larger antelope offer several advantages to the traveler. First, with a few exceptions, they are relatively easy to find. Second, one can get fairly close. Third, there is a great variety and many of them are quite beautiful.

Nevertheless, one rarely hears of people going to Africa to see antelope. Elephants, lions and other predators are far more popular. One of the benefits of spending several months in Africa, however, was the opportunity to concentrate on animals other than the "Big 5" (elephant, lion, leopard, cape buffalo and rhinoceros – the most dangerous species and those most prized by hunters and tourists).

I came to appreciate many of the antelope – once I learned to tell them apart. It was fascinating to see all the various shapes of horns that have evolved over the years, from the nearly straight horns of the oryx, to the majestic sweep of the sable, the spirals of the kudu, and the lyre shape of the waterbuck. I had been in Africa for several weeks before I realized that none of the antelope (or other creatures in sub-Saharan Africa) have branched antlers such as we see on deer or elk in North America. All antelope species have just two horns with no branches. Also, unlike deer or elk, antelope never shed their horns. Female antelope also have horns in about two-thirds of the species.

Antelope belong to the bovid family, which also includes buffalo, cattle, sheep and goats. All antelope are herbivores (plant eaters), even-toed ungulates (hooved animals) and ruminants (animals with four-chambered stomachs that chew the cud – in other words they regurgitate their food and rechew it as part of the digestive process.). The bovid family breaks down into a number of tribes. There are duikers, dwarf antelopes (such as dik-diks, steenboks and klipspringers), gazelles (such as Thomson's gazelles, Grant's gazelles, springboks and gerenuks) and impala, all of which appear on the small antelope page. There is also a tribe that includes wildebeest, hartebeest, blesbok and topi, likewise on a separate page. Cape buffalo, also on a separate page, belong to yet another tribe of bovids.

Finally, there are the tribes that appear on this page, including the reedbok/kob tribe (such as the Uganda kob, red lechwe, common waterbuck and the defassa waterbuck), the horse antelope tribe (such as oryx (or gemsbok), roan and sable) and the bushbuck tribe (such as the shy bushbuck, nyala, kudu and eland).

Related Pages: Small Antelope, Wildebeest, Hartebeest and Topi and Cape Buffalo.