The Smaller Antelope

Africa offers a wide variety of antelope. Although they are not as "sexy" as the big cats, other predators or elephants, they are quite beautiful. One of the challenges is trying to distinguish among all the various smaller antelope. Even the larger ones can be difficult at times (there's a separate page for large antelope).

Dik diks, steenboks and duikers all appear very similar to the untrained eye (mine, for example). Only by taking notes as I took the photos and by consulting a guidebook as I prepared these pages have I been able to keep them straight (if in fact I have). Even impala, Grant's gazelles and Thomson's gazelles become difficult unless seen together.

The dik diks and steenboks have remarkably small territories, sometimes no more than 100 meters square. In order to avoid predators within such small confines, they must learn every nook and cranny by heart so they can disappear at a moment's notice. They have a funny way of running just a short distance when startled and then freezing, hoping the predator will not see them. If this strategy fails, however, they are quick to vanish into a hiding place. Some require little or no drinking water, getting all the moisture they need from the grass they feed on. Dik diks are almost always seen in pairs. They reportedly mate for life, and if their mate should die, the one remaining usually does not survive for long.

Impala, Grant's gazelles and Thomson's gazelles are frequently seen in larger herds in the more open areas. One male impala will have dominion over a harem of females. He does frequent battle to keep rival males away from his territory and the females in it. Despite his best efforts, however, changes in control are frequent. It takes a lot of energy to constantly ward off competitors and still satisfy all the females in the herd.

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. Featured on this page are dwarf antelopes (such as dik-diks, steenboks and klipspringers), the duikers, gazelles (such as Grant's gazelles, Thomson's gazelles, springboks and gerenuks) and impala.

Tribes that appear on the large antelope page include the reedbok/kob tribe (such as red lechwe, kob, defassa waterbuck and common waterbuck), the horse antelope tribe (such as oryx, sable and roan) and the bushbuck tribe (such as bushbuck, kudu and eland). Other antelope tribes include wildebeest, hartebeest and topi.

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