African Antelope Basics

Antelopes are hoofed mammals that belong to the Bovidae family. They are close relatives of cows and goats. Most people compare the antelopes to deer, but unlike deer, antelope horns are permanent, and deer shed theirs annually. Africa supports the worlds most astonishing mammalian animals. Africans forests support the wild variety of antelope communities. There are more than 70 antelope species roaming around on the African continent. These antelopes not only contribute a great amount of aesthetic appeal, they also serve as a valuable natural resource. Africa’s antelopes are very diverse. They range from very small, like the suni which is only 12 to 16 inches tall, to large like the eland which is about 95 – 130 inches tall! All antelopes are herbivores and move in large groups or herds. All antelope’s males, and many females, also have big noticeable horns which are made of Keratin. An amazing thing about the horns, is their diversity of shape. They oftentimes use their horns in combat with members of the same species. Another characteristic is their long legs, used no doubt to help them run faster than their predators. African antelopes make up a large portion of food for predators such as leopards, cheetahs and lions. Like most other herbivores, these antelopes rely mostly on their senses to detect incoming predators. Their eyes are placed on either sides of their head which gives them a visual advantage. They also have an acute sense of smell and hearing, to help them perceive danger in the midst of night. Antelopes react much quicker when in the presence of predators than sheep or other similar herbivores. It is very difficult to keep these animals in captivity, and when they are fenced they will try to escape immediately, and may kill themselves in the process. Perseverance! For this reason ( their tendency to panic) and some other reasons, not a single one of the approximately ninety worldwide species have been domesticated. Antelopes also vary in their methods of escape. Sadly, most people tend to underestimate the antelopes and their worth. They often give too much credit to the “bigger” animals of the African plains like the elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos, and cheetahs. There are however, great and interesting qualities about the antelopes. Their diversity for one is sure to impress; Africa is known as the land of the antelopes. Most of the species of antelope are located within Africa ( about 70 of the 90 species). Antelope’s horns have been prized in many places throughout the horns for their mythical magical and medicinal powers. To address the issue of diversity among the antelopes, scientists have grouped these creatures, into 7 groups. The first include the duikers, a group of small to medium sized antelopes that live in the forests. They have large mouths small ears, short legs and short horns. They typically live alone or in very small groups. The next group is the dwarf antelopes, which are very small antelopes with rather large ears, short and spiky horns, and a very short tail. The dwarf antelopes also live alone or ins small groups. The next group would be the gazelles (I am sure you have heard of them). They are a large group of medium sized antelopes. They typically live in large groups. The next group would be the antelopes that like nearby water. They have long necks and bodies and many live in herds. The next group would be the horse antelopes. These antelopes are large and very strong and muscular. They typically have very large horns, stripped faces, a long tail, and a short mane. They can put up quite the defense if needed too, and may attack using their powerful legs or horns! The next group includes large antelopes; these animals have high shoulders, long and thin legs and long bushy tails. They have legs built for long distance running they often form herds. The last group of antelopes is grouped together because of their horns. They all have spiraling horns. These animals also have distinct markings.

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