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Antelopes and Gazelles

species horns africa males

Antelopes and gazelles belong to the family Bovidae, which includes even-toed hoofed animals with hollow horns and a four-chambered stomach. Sheep, cattle, and goats are also bovids. The family Bovidae in Africa includes nine tribes of antelopes, one of which includes the 12 species of gazelles (Antilopini). Other tribes are the duikers (Cephalophini), dwarf antelopes (Neotragini), reedbuck, kob, and waterbuck (Reduncini), hartebeeste, topi, and wildebeeste (Alcelaphini), impala (Aepycerotini), bushbuck, kudu, and eland (Tragelaphini), rhebok (Peleini), and horse antelopes (Hippotragini). Most antelopes and gazelles are found in Africa where 72 of the 84 species live. The word gazelle comes from an Arabic word that means affectionate. Antelopes and gazelles can be found throughout the grasslands of Africa, in mountains, forests, and deserts. Antelopes range in size from small 15 lb (7 kg) antelopes to a 1,200 lb (545 kg) animal, the eland, of East and West Africa.

Antelopes and gazelles are noted for the beauty of their horns. Some are spiral in shape, others are ringed, lyre-shaped, or S-shaped. Gazelles have black-ringed horns 10–15 in (25–38 cm) long. Depending on the size of the species, the horns can be as short as 1 in (2.5 cm) or as long as 5 ft (1.5 m). The Grant's gazelle has horns that are as long as the shoulder height of the animal. In most species the females as well as the males have horns.

The prevailing color of antelopes and gazelles is brown or black and white, but different species show a range of coloration and markings. All antelopes and gazelles have scent glands that they use to mark territory and to signal, age, sex, and social status. Glands can be preorbital (below the eyes), interdigital (between the hooves), subauricular (below the ears), or on the back, shins, and genital areas of the animals.

Smaller species of antelopes with well-developed hind quarters and coloration indicate a reliance on concealment and bounding escape runs. The larger species tend to inhabit open spaces, since they are able to escape predators by their ability to reach high speeds, some reaching 35 MPH (56 km/h).

Some species, such as the Dorcas gazelle and the oryx of the dry savanna regions, have developed effective ways to decrease the need for water. Some species are solitary in habit while others such as the impala live in herds, which are either single sex (all females) that mate only with the dominant male, or are herds of both males and females. They can be polygamous—one male to a number of females—or monogamous. Some groups are adolescent males. Common to all species is the birth of one offspring. Pregnancy ranges from four to nine months depending on the size of the species.

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