What are the different kinds of antelopes that live in South Africa?
There are an astounding number of separate antelope species found here! These remarkable creatures are very different from each other, each one being uniquely adapted to its specific habitat.
In this article, you’ll find interesting facts, photos, and even range maps so you can learn all about these incredible animals!
18 Antelopes Found in South Africa:
- Aepyceros melampus
- Adults are 70–92 cm (28–36 in) tall at the shoulder.
- Males have thin, ridged, s-shaped horns that are 45–92 cm (18–36 in) tall.
- They have reddish-brown hair on the upper parts of their bodies, and the undersides of their bellies, chins, lips, inside ears, the line over the eye, and tails are white.
Look for these well-known antelopes in the grasslands and savannas of South Africa.
While Impala are predominantly grazers, especially when the grass is lush and abundant, they switch to shrubs, trees, and other plants as needed. They’re ruminants, meaning that they have multi-chambered stomachs and regurgitate and chew their food, called cud, multiple times to get the most nutrients possible.
Impalas share their grassland and woodland habitats with many large, capable predators, so they have to stay alert and ready to make a quick escape! When they sense danger, Impalas leap in a random direction and then run quickly to startle their enemies.
They’re incredibly athletic and may jump up to 3.5 m (10 ft) in the air! To avoid being grabbed, Impalas often kick their back feet up as they land on just their front legs.
Calves are the most susceptible to predation, harsh weather conditions, and illness. Thankfully female Impalas have some incredible strategies to care for their young. For example, they’re able to delay giving birth for up to one month if weather conditions are harsh. They also typically give birth around mid-day when most predators are sleeping.
#2. Greater Kudu
- Tragelaphus strepsiceros
- Adults stand up to 160 cm (63 in) tall at the shoulder.
- Their coloring ranges from reddish-brown to blue-gray, with 6 to 10 stripes down their back and black-tipped tails with white undersides.
- Males have beards and large horns with two and a half twists that can grow as long as 120 cm (47 in).
This species is one of the biggest antelopes in South Africa!
Greater Kudus are tall and large with impressive horns. These graceful creatures can clear obstacles up to 2.5 m (8 ft) tall with ease and run up to 100 kph (62 mph).
Greater Kudus are social and surprisingly vocal animals. You may hear them make whimpers, bleats, barks, grunts, and hums. The females stay together in groups of up to 25 with their offspring, and the males gather in small herds of 2-10. Males and females only come together to mate.
The map above shows the ranges of the different Greater Kudu subspecies.
The females give birth during the rainy season when the grass is high, which is essential for keeping the calves hidden from predators. For the first four weeks of their lives, the calves remain hidden before they can join the herd. During this time, their mother will only visit to nurse them to avoid attracting attention from predators.
You can find these incredible creatures in various habitats that provide them with brush and thick cover. Greater Kudus are opportunistic herbivores and consume grass, leaves, herbs, vines, fruits, and flowers.
#3. Southern Bushbuck
- Tragelaphus sylvaticus
- Adults average about 90 cm (35 in) at the shoulder.
- They are light brown with up to 7 white stripes on their backs, white splotches on their sides, and often some white on their ears, chins, tails, legs, necks, and muzzles.
- Males have horns with a single twist up to 0.5 m (1.64 ft) long.
Bushbucks are one of the least social antelopes in South Africa. Unlike many of their relatives that move about in herds, Southern Bushbucks are solitary animals. However, they aren’t aggressive towards each other and will sometimes forage in close proximity.
While they are herbivores, Bushbucks rarely eat grasses. Instead, they feed on tree leaves, shrubs, and herbaceous plants. They live in a wide range of habitats, including woodlands, montane forests, rainforests, and savannas. Each individual has a home area, and they rarely leave it.
Bushbucks only come together to mate and then go their separate ways. Females hide their young and go to great lengths to keep them hidden. When they visit their calves, they go so far as to eat their dung to keep the scent from attracting predators.
#4. Blue Wildebeest
- Connochaetes taurinus
- Adults are 115–145 cm (45–57 in) tall at the shoulder, and both sexes have horns that can reach 83 cm (33 in) in males and 30–40 cm (12–16 in) in females.
- They have broad shoulders, broad muzzles, and cow-like horns.
- They are typically slate-colored with tan forelegs, dark vertical stripes on their shoulders and backs, and white or tan manes and beards.
These animals are the most unique-looking antelope in South Africa!
Blue Wildebeests look more like a cow than an antelope, but their behavior is similar. They eat short grasses and live in various habitats. However, their favorite spots are moderately moist with rapidly regrowing grasses and a nearby water source.
Despite their shrinking population, Wildebeest herds are protective of their young. Females give birth in the middle of the day, allowing the calf time to get steady on its feet before most predators come out in the evening.
The map above shows the ranges of the different Blue Wildebeest subspecies.
While healthy adult Blue Wildebeests are perfectly capable of defending themselves, the calves are not. If the adults spot a potential predator, they will bunch together, stamp their feet, and issue loud, shrill alarm calls. The larger the herd, the more likely the calf will survive.
The calves closely follow the mothers for the first few months of their lives, and the pair can recognize each other by scent even if they get separated during large herd movements. Female Blue Wildebeests are fierce mothers. Researchers have found that mothers can often successfully ward off Cheetahs and individual hyenas that are after their calves.
Blue Wildebeest herds are famous for their historic long-distance migrations with the change of season, where they move to areas where good forage is more available. Sadly, Blue Wildebeests have seen serious population declines. Today, they typically live in much smaller herds and are less nomadic. Only three populations are known to migrate more than 100 miles.
- Damaliscus pygargus
- Adults are 80 to 100 cm (31 to 39 in) tall at the shoulder.
- They are chocolate brown with black tails, white undersides, white stripes from their foreheads to the tips of their noses, and a white patch surrounding their tails.
- Both sexes have large, dark-colored, noticeably ringed, curving horns. The horns can reach a length of 0.5 m (1.64 ft).
These antelopes are some of the easiest to spot in South Africa!
They have a striking color pattern unlike any other, with rich brown fur and a large white patch on the front of the head. Their curved, ringed horns add another level of glamor to their appearance.
Males are territorial and fiercely guard harems of females and young year-round. They will attempt to intimidate other males by stamping their feet, digging up the soil with their horns, and swinging their heads. If their intimidation tactics fail, things may get violent. Males clash their horns and occasionally catch each other on the sides or head, which can be deadly.
In the early 1900s, Bonteboks came within a hair’s breadth of extinction! In 1931 only 17 Bonteboks remained in the wild! Thankfully, these 17 were conserved, and Bontebok National Park was created. Today, their population ranges from 2,500 to 3,000 individuals descended from those original 17 animals. However, Bonteboks remain listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
- Kobus ellipsiprymnus
- Adults are 120-136 cm (47-54 in) tall at the shoulder.
- They have shaggy brown-gray coats, large rounded ears, and white patches above the eyes, on the throat, and around the nose and mouth.
- Males have prominently ringed horns that curve back and up and may reach 55–99 cm (22–39 in) long.
The Waterbuck’s appearance may vary throughout its range. There are 13 recognized subspecies, all with slightly different traits! In general, all waterbucks keep their glossy coats with a unique oily secretion. It makes them smell a bit funny to humans, but the scent helps them to find a mate! The oil secretion also serves to help keep their coat waterproof.
These robust antelopes live in grasslands in South Africa and are almost always found near water, as their name suggests. Compared to some more migratory antelope species, Waterbucks tend to be rather sedentary, remaining in valleys with rivers and lakes. This is because their diet depends on access to fresh water along with the protein-rich medium and short grasses that grow in moist areas.
Waterbucks are social animals and usually live in herds of up to 30 individuals. Typically, bachelor males form herds together, and females form separate herds comprised of only females and their young.
Once born, mothers leave their calf hidden in the thicket and only visit to nurse. This helps prevent predators from smelling or finding the calf, though mortality is still quite high.
- Tragelaphus angasii
- Adults are 90-110 cm (35-43 in) tall at the shoulder.
- Females are a rusty red color, while males are slate gray, and both sexes have some white stripes and spots that vary with the individual.
- Both sexes have a dorsal crest of hair running from the back of the head to the base of the tail.
- Males also have spiraling horns up to 60–83 cm (24–33 in) long.
Nyalas are one of the oldest antelope species in South Africa!
These amazing animals emerged as a separate species at the end of the Miocene era, close to six million years ago!
They live in savannas and woodlands, always within close proximity to freshwater sources. They’re mainly active in the morning and late afternoon when they browse and graze on grasses, twigs, fruit, and tree leaves. They’re clever, too, sometimes following baboons to eat the fruits and leaves that they dislodge from trees.
Interestingly, Nyalas are among the few species that benefit from poor agricultural practices. Overgrazing by cattle usually encourages weeds to grow, and these plants are some of their favorite things to eat!
Large carnivores are a major concern for these antelopes. When they feel threatened, they give a deep barking alarm call that warns other Nyalas in the area. Nyalas listen closely to other animals, too, and react to the alarm calls of impala, baboons, and kudu.
Nyalas aren’t territorial, but adult males will fight for mates. These fights can be incredibly violent and occasionally result in the death of one of the males if he catches the other’s horns.
#8. Common Eland
- Tragelaphus oryx
- Adults are 1.4-1.6 m (4.5-5 ft) tall at the shoulder, and females are usually much smaller than males.
- They are a uniform fawn color with some vertical white striping on their upper parts.
- Both sexes have long dewlaps, short manes, and corkscrew horns that are 43–66 cm (17–26 in) long.
Elands are the largest antelope in South Africa.
But they also hold the title as the slowest antelope, only running at speeds up to 32 kph (20 mph). However, they can jump nearly 1 m (3 ft) into the air. They are one of the world’s most adaptable ruminants and can survive in deserts, grasslands, and mountainous areas.
These unique antelopes have another feature that sets them apart: a weird sound that lets you know they’re near. When walking, the tendons and joints in their front legs produce sharp clicking sounds that can be heard from a distance. Scientists believe that these sounds may help an Eland advertise their territory.
Elands are generally social creatures and may form large herds of up to 500 individuals. Typically these larger herds are mostly females and their young, while males tend to roam by themselves or in small groups. Males often fight for mates, and females tend to select the most dominant males to breed with.
- Raphicerus campestris
- Adults are 45–60 cm (18–24 in) at the shoulder.
- They are reddish-fawn with a white throat and belly, large white-lined ears, and sharp hooves.
- Males have vertical horns that grow 7–19 cm (3-7.5 in) long.
Steenbok are some of the smallest antelopes in South Africa!
They prefer to live in open areas that offer some cover in the form of grasses or sparse trees. They’re herbivorous but don’t just graze like some antelopes. Steenboks will actually use their sharp hooves to dig up roots and tubers. They get most of the moisture they need from their food, so you may find them far from fresh water.
Due to their small size, Steenboks have to be on high alert for predators. If they sense danger, their first instinct is to freeze and lie low in dense vegetation, but if they still feel threatened, they will run and sometimes try to hide in aardvark burrows!
Unlike other antelope, you’ll usually see Steenboks by themselves or in pairs. The males are territorial and solitary, remaining in their own territory for life. Males and females only come together to mate.
Although they are sometimes hunted for food, Steenboks are the most abundant small antelope in South Africa. Because of their dense and widespread populations, they’re listed as a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species.
- Oreotragus oreotragus
- Adults are 43–60 cm (17–24 in) tall at the shoulder.
- Adults are stocky with short necks and bodies, large hindquarters, large rounded ears, and sometimes short, straight horns.
- Their coats may be yellow and speckled with brown, bright golden-yellow, or gray and dull, with each individual hair being light at the base and dark towards the tip.
Look for Klipspringers in the arid, rocky hills of South Africa.
To make life in these rocky regions a bit easier, Klipspringers have specially adapted feet. The last joints of their toes are rotated so that they walk on the tips of their hooves. The rocks wear the hooves down into cylindrical shapes well-suited for balancing on the rocks.
These unique little antelopes are also monogamous to a greater extent than most other antelopes. A pair will mark and defend a territory together, with males performing dominance displays and butting heads. Females are a bit aggressive too, and may bite and rip out each other’s fur.
Klipspringers are usually most active in the morning and evening. One of the pair, usually the male, will stand guard while the other feeds. They are preyed on by many large predators and have to remain constantly alert.
- Antidorcas marsupialis
- Adults are 71-86 cm (28-34 in) tall at the shoulder.
- They have white faces with dark stripes running from eyes to mouths, light brown coats with reddish stripes on their sides, and white undersides and rump flags.
- Both sexes have long black horns that curve backward and grow up to 35-50 cm (14-20 in) long.
Springboks were once the most-hunted antelope in South Africa.
Today, most live within game preserves and farms, but Dutch farmers killed enormous numbers because they ruined crops.
Amazingly, Springboks can live without drinking water for years! They survive by selecting various leaves, flowers, and other succulent vegetation that is high in moisture. They will graze and browse, and their diet varies seasonally.
Springboks are preyed on by lions, cheetahs, and other big predators. When threatened or startled, Springboks display a unique defense tactic known as “pronking.” They leap straight up into the air up to 2 m (6.6 ft) off the ground in a stiff-legged position with their tail up and back arched. This is believed to startle and throw off predators.
Thankfully, the predators don’t seem to impact this species’ population too severely. They are one of the few antelope species that are actually believed to be increasing.
#12. Bush Duiker
- Sylvicapra grimmia
- Adults grow up to 50 cm (20 in) tall.
- They vary in color and may be chestnut, grizzled gray, or light brown, with an erect tuft of hair on the top of their head.
- Males have small, spike-like horns up to 11 cm (4.3 in) long with grooves at the base.
Bush Duikers are the smallest antelopes in South Africa!
These little animals will adapt to various habitats and live in woodlands, savannas, grasslands, and mountainous areas. They inhabit higher altitudes than any other African ungulate. To help live in these inhospitable conditions, they consume insects and have occasionally been observed stalking and eating birds, rodents, lizards, and frogs.
Bush Duikers are territorial and form monogamous pairs. Both sexes will use threat displays to drive other Duikers of the same sex out of their territory. If these displays fail, battles may ensue! Females will head-butt other females, and males may fight, chase, and stab each other with their horns.
The lifespan of Bush Duikers in the wild is unknown, but they have lived up to 14 years in captivity. This species is listed as one of least concern on the IUCN Red List.
- Alcelaphus buselaphus
- Adults are around 1 m (3.3 ft) tall at the shoulder.
- They have deeply sloping backs, long legs, long, narrow snouts, tufted tails, and large glands below their eyes.
- Their coloring varies and may be pale brown to brownish gray, and both sexes have dark, oddly shaped horns.
Look for these antelopes in grasslands and savannas in South Africa.
Hartebeests are almost entirely grazers, and their diet is never less than 80% grass. Their odd, long snout may look funny, but it enhances their chewing ability, allowing them to gain more nutrition from poor-quality food.
The map above shows the ranges of the different Hartebeest subspecies.
Hartebeests are usually rather sedentary animals that appear to be relaxing on the plains, but don’t let their casual appearance fool you. They are alert and cautious. Hartebeests always have a sentinel watching for predators. When danger is spotted, the herd will bolt away as a group.
Despite their somewhat awkward appearance, Hartebeests can reach speeds up to 80 kph (50 mph). They also outmaneuver predators by making a quick 90-degree turn as a group.
Although their populations are stable as a whole, some subspecies of Hartebeests are endangered or threatened. They are dependent on conservation efforts to keep their numbers up. Hartebeests are affected by hunting and habitat loss and destruction, primarily related to cattle farming.
- Oryx gazella
- Adults are about 1.2 m (4 ft) at the shoulder.
- They are typically light taupe to tan in color with lighter patches towards the bottom of their rump.
- Black markings extend from the base of the horns and sweep back in stripes over the eyes and cheeks, continuing down their necks and backs. They have black bands around all four legs.
- Both sexes have slightly curved black horns with light-colored rings that average 85 cm (33 in) long.
Gemsboks are some of the most-hunted antelope in South Africa.
They are prized by hunters for their long, curved horns, which are often turned into trophies or other ornamental objects. Although they’re a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List, there have been large declines in several parts of their range. They’re most susceptible to hunting, climate change, habitat destruction, and livestock overgrazing.
Surprisingly, their diet can provide all the water they need. Additionally, Gemsboks are excellent at storing excess water for later. In times of highly productive grazing, noticeable fat deposits will appear under their skin, which will keep them hydrated and healthy during dry periods.
As they live in areas with limited resources, they often move nomadically, searching for food. They’re gregarious animals that usually move together in small groups of about 14, though herds of 50-200 animals may occur during the wet season.
Oddly, you can also find these unique creatures in parts of North America. The New Mexico Department of Fish and Game introduced a herd to the Tularose Basin between 1969 and 1977. Today, scientists estimate their current North American population at around 3,000 individuals, and an unknown number have also spread north into the San Andres Wildlife Refuge and the Jornada Biosphere Reserve.
#15. Sable Antelope
- Hippotragus niger
- Adult males are 117–140 cm (46–55 in), and females are slightly smaller.
- Adult males are black, adult females are chestnut, and all adults typically have white eyebrow markings, cheek stripes, bellies, and rump patches.
- Both sexes have horns that arch backward, but the horns of females are generally 61–102 cm (24–40 in) long, while males’ horns may reach 81–165 cm (32–65 in).
These stunning antelopes in South Africa prefer mixtures of savanna, open woodlands, and grasslands. They tend to avoid extensive areas of open land. Researchers believe that their food preferences dictate their somewhat limited habitat. Sable Antelopes prefer grasses at specific heights and only graze during certain seasons in a highly specific feeding pattern.
They also require water at least every other day. You will rarely spot this species more than two miles from a river or watering hole. Interestingly, Sable Antelopes will chew on bones to ingest important minerals they can’t get from grass.
Despite their calm appearance, these antelope are impressive fighters with few natural predators besides humans. Their formidable size and abilities make even lions think twice about taking on adults. However, the young are susceptible to predation from various species.
To help protect against predators, Sable Antelopes typically live in herds of 15 to 25 members. The herds with females, their young, and one dominant male will rally around all the young to protect them in case of an attack. Non-dominant males will also form bachelor herds until they are old enough to mate.
- Nesotragus moschatus
- Adults are 30-43 cm (12-17 in) tall at the shoulder.
- They may vary in color from gray to rich chestnut with a reddish tinge with paler underparts, and each leg has a black band above the hoof.
- Adult males have wide-set, black, ringed horns, which slant backward and measure 8–13 cm (3–5 in) long.
These antelopes in South Africa are small but MIGHTY!
They live in high-altitude forests that many other animals can’t tolerate. This helps Suni’s stay away from predators because their small size makes them an easy target for carnivores. Their coloring helps camouflage them in dense foliage as well.
In addition to their inhospitable habitat, Suni are excellent at maintaining their diet through tough conditions. They eat fallen leaf litter and follow monkeys to feed on the fruit that they drop! Sunis don’t need to live near a fresh water source because all the water they need comes from their food.
If a Suni does encounter a predator, their first instinct is to freeze when threatened. When this fails, they will quickly leap away through the underbrush in hopes of escaping larger animals. They tend to be shy and secretive, active in the early morning, late evening, and night. This is another way they avoid predators.
Although their risk of extinction is low, Sunis are a conservation-dependent species. Their population varies widely across their range, and they are threatened by habitat destruction as well as uncontrolled hunting with dogs, nets, and snares. If efforts to maintain their population were to stop, they would likely become threatened.
- Damaliscus lunatus
- Adults are 100 to 130 cm (39 to 51 in) at the shoulder.
- They have glossy, tan coats with grayish or bluish-black markings on their upper legs, black faces and tail tufts, and light undersides.
- Both sexes have ringed, s-shaped horns, but they are typically slightly larger in males. They range in size from 37-40 cm (15-16 in) long.
Tsessebes are one of the most territorial antelope species in South Africa.
Their territories are taken seriously by other Tsessebe herds, to the point that traveling herds will go to great lengths to avoid them. They will move around the outskirts of another herd’s territory, occasionally risking entering neutral areas with lions and other predators!
Tsessebe Range Map
The map above shows the ranges of the different Tsessebe subspecies.
All of the Tsessebes’ territories have high vantage points, which allow females to alert others of danger and males to display their territory. They prefer grassland habitats, including open plains and lightly wooded savannas. As their habitat suggests, they feed primarily on grass.
During the rainy season, when the grass is fresh and wet, they get all their water needs from their food, but during dry periods, they need fresh water every day or two. Tsessebes are most active in the morning and evening and spend the hotter parts of the day watering, resting, and digesting their food.
#18. Roan Antelope
- Hippotragus equinus
- Adults are 130–140 cm (51–55 in) at the shoulder.
- They are reddish-brown with lighter undersides, black faces, and white eyebrows, cheeks, and around the nose.
- They have short erect manes, light beards, and red nostrils, and both sexes have ringed horns that sweep backward.
Roan Antelopes are one of the largest in South Africa!
Look for these large ruminants in lightly wooded savanna with medium or tall grass and access to water. They feed in the morning and evening and retreat to shaded areas in the middle of the day, so you’ll need to rise early to observe them.
Unlike many antelopes, healthy adult Roan Antelopes are formidable opponents to most predators. They don’t flee like many animals. Instead, they face down even the most fearsome predators, like lions. They’re known to gore attacking lions with their long, scimitar-like horns.
These fierce antelopes don’t travel alone either, instead living in mixed herds of about 20 animals, including females, young, and one dominant bull. Less dominant bachelor males tend to form their own groups. Being a herd animal is one more way these antelope discourage attacks.
Roan Antelopes are currently listed as lower risk but conservation dependent by the IUCN. Their populations have rapidly declined in recent years due to hunting and poaching, habitat deterioration and loss, and slaughter as part of tsetse fly control efforts.
Check out these other guides about animals found in South Africa!
Which of these antelopes have you seen before in South Africa?
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