Antelope are even-toed ungulates. They are either grazers (eat grasses) or browsers (eats leaves) but in some cases, like the impala, they are both grazers and browsers depending on the availability of food.

There are 75 species of antelope in Africa compared to the global species count of 91. South Africa is host to 29 of the 75 African species and on any safari you are bound to spot a number of different antelope.

Although antelope may not seen as exciting to watch as the predators or massive elephants, its always worth a few minutes of your time. Paying attention to the herd dynamics and behaviour of the animals often reveals secrets of the bushveld. Are the antelope barking….this mean a predator in the vicinity. Are the animals in rut….males sparring for access to females. In late spring and early summer the calves are born….the future generations of the herd.

Antelope can generally be divided into three groups based on their size. The large antelope include the Eland (1.7m at shoulder), Kudu, Gemsbok, Roan, Sable and Waterbuck.

Medium sized antelope include Bushbuck, Nyala, Impala and Springbuck

Small antelope are Klipspringer, Duiker, Suni and Steenbok. The Blue Duiker (an Afrikaans word meaning “diver” because of its habit of diving into thick bush for cover) is only 30cm high at the shoulder!

Here’s a graphic showing approximate heights and sizes of some common antelope compared to a man. The man’s height is taken to be 1.8m or about 6′ tall.

Man vs antelope size

Scroll through the slider below to view photos of various antelope species and learn a little about them. Like all animals in the wild, antelope play a vital roll in their habitats and have adapted many strategies to survive in harsh, predator populated areas.

The slides below start with the larger species moving to the medium and smaller antelope as you scroll to the right. There are about 3 to 5 slides on each species.

Eland Bull
Eland are Southern Africa's largest antelope standing 1.7m high and weighing 700kgs for the male and 450kgs for females. Older males become a bluish/grey colour and develop a large dewlap, the skin under their necks. They also develop heavy, thick necks. They are renowned for being able to jump a 2m high game fence from a standing position....quite amazing for such a heavy animal.
Eland Bull
Eland Bull
Males have thick, robust horns. They generally occur in dryer, semi-desert areas in central northern Southen Africa and in Mozambique. Males have a matt of hair on their heads which smells strongly due to glands underneath. Eland are browsers but will take freshly sprouted grasses as well.
Eland Bull
Female Eland have less robust horns. Interestingly females do not tolerate calves that are not their own and will quite aggressively push them aside with their horns.
Eland have high quality meat and milk and are being progressibely domesticated as a food resource.
Predators are lion and wild dog but the young may be taken by leopard, spotted hyena and cheetah.
Kudu
Kudu are the second tallest antelope in the region and have beautiful spiral horns which can grow up to 1.7m in length. They are truly majestic animals to see in the bush and quite common in the Lowveld. In the Kruger Park they are the second most populous antelope species after impala.
Kudu
Kudu Bull
Kudu favour scub bushland for browsing and protection and are not generally found in open grassland. They favour areas with available water. The Kudu bark is distinctive and is said to be the loudest of all the antelope species. Groups of Kudu generally consist of females and their calves. Males form bachelor groups or are solitary and will join the female groups for mating.
Kudu Bull
Kudu Springbuck and Gemsbok
Kudu in the foreground with Impala in the middle and Gemsbok at the back. This image was taken in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
Kudu Springbuck and Gemsbok
Kudu Female
Female Kudu dont have horns but are equally attractive if you spend some time watching them in their natural habitats. Large ears allows them to pick up any sounds of danger...a great help in thick bushy terrain that muffles sounds.
Kudu Female
Gemsbok
Gemsbok live in semi-desert and arid climates and have a specialised metabolism that allows them to survive the high temperatures and dry areas.
They only sweat at very high temperatures which helps conserve body water. They also have adaptations that keep the blood in the brain at a lower temperature than the rest of the body.
Both males and females have horns but the horns of the females are longer and thinner.
Gemsbok
Gemsbok Herd
Gemsbok are gregarious and forms small herds of about 10 or 12 animals. Males also live in bachelor herds.
Gemsbok Herd
Gemsbok Bulls
Gemsbok are quite common in Kgalagadi. This image shows two males having a standoff. Gemsbok males control a larger territory than any other antelope species.
The use their long sharp horns for fights of dominance and also to defend themselves agains predators.
Lions, leopards and wild dogs are natural enemies but youngsters may fall victim to hyenas, cheetahs, serval, caracal and jackal.
Gemsbok are grazers and browsers and get most of their water requirements from their food but will drink if water is available.
Gemsbok Bulls
Gemsbok vs Wildebeest
Gemsbok have beautiful facial markings. In this photo a male Gemsbok faces off against a Blue Wildebeest.
Gemsbok vs Wildebeest
Roan
The Roan antelope gets its name from its colour, a strawberry tint in certain light. They are second in size only to the Eland and are magestic and regal animals.
Both sexes have horns but the female horns are smaller and lighter.
Roan
Roan
Roan prefer lightly wooded and well grassed open savannah habitats and need available water.
Roan
Roan herd
Roan are gregarious animals living in small herds generally consisting of up to 12 animals but can even be 25 stong. The dominant male defends the females against strange males.
Fights between males involves clashing horns, mostly from a kneeling position.
Roan herd
Roan
Roan make formidable adversaries and are well adapted to ward off predators with sweeping strokes of their backward curving horns. Natural enimies are lion, leopard, hyena and crocodiles.
Roan
Sable
Sable closely resemble Roan on body and horn shape although they are not as heavy. The name refers to the black satiny colour of the males. Females and young are a dark reddish brown colour.
Sable
Sable
Sable prefer open sparesly wooded savannah with stands of thick grass. They are diurnal, like many of the antelope species. They live in herds up to 30 animals but also form loose aggregations of over 150.
Sable
Sable
Like the Roan, Sable also fight from a kneeling position using backwards sweeps of the sharp, powerful horns. these fights can become very serious and may result in the death of one of the adversaries.
Predators are, like the Roan, lions, leopards, hyenas and crocodiles and also like the Roan human hunters are also at risk from the very sharp sweeping horns.
Sable
Sable antelope
Sables antelops striking features make them a favorite stop for safari goers.
Sable antelope
Waterbuck
Waterbuck are large animals seldom found far from water, hence their name.
They have a large and rather distinctive white ring on the rump.
Only the males have horns and these are impressive and heavily annulated (course ring structure)
Waterbuck
Waterbuck
Waterbuck are rather sedentary animals. They have glands under the skin that produces a strong musky odour and this is thought to waterproof the shaggy coats, particularly useful for the water loving buck. It was thought for some time that this strong smell makes them immune to predation, but this is not the case and they are preyed on by medium to large predators, including crocodiles.
Waterbuck
Waterbuck near water
Waterbuck are particularly prone to dehydration and so spend their lives close to water. They may also flee predation by running into water.
Waterbuck near water
Waterbuck
Younger males form bachelor herds and wont be able to form their own territories until at least 6 years of age. Oler males advertise their status and dominance by standing in an obvious position with head held high. Bulls are very territorial and fights can lead to the death of one of the contenders over territory or females.
Waterbuck
Waterbuck Babies
Waterbuck calves are unique amongst antelope in that they are quite mobile in their lying-up period (a period of a few weeks or months where very young antelope stay hidden away and do not join the herd). So much so that they find their own hiding places when the mother leaves them from time to time after feeding.
Waterbuck Babies
Bushbuck Ewe
Bushbuck, as thier name suggests, prefer heavily wooded and bushy habitats and can have quite small territories if food resources are good. They are the smallest of the spiral horned antelope in Southern Africa.
They are remarkably good swimmers.
Bushbuck Ewe
Bushbuck
Only the males have horns.
Bushbuck have very loud barks for their size and interestingly are able to throw their voices to confuse predators as to their location.
Bushbuck
Impala
Impala are the most common antelope in the north and estern parts of Southern Africa.
Only the males have horns and also have a conspicuous black tuft of hair on the lower back legs. This tuft covers glands under the skin although the purpose of this scent gland is not well understood.
Impala
Impala
All impala have a distinctive 3 stripe black mark on their rumps which is a "follow-me" sign for other impala.
They live in quite large herds which can be 100 strong and in some cases even more although typical herd sizes are 20 or so individuals.
The herd is watched over by a dominant male.
Impala
Impala
Impala are diurnal and most active during the cooler hours of the day and spend the hottest hours in summer in shade.
They are both grazers and browsers, thus being able to make the most of available food resources.
Impala
Impala suckling
The peak of the rut occurs in May and by late November all the pregnant females give birth. For safari tourists this can be an exciting time to visit as you are bound ot see many new born impala calves. This group lambing is a survival strategy for the impala as a species as a higher percentage of young will survive due to the large number of young animals "flooding" the bushveld in a short space of time.
Impala are very athlecit antelope and are able to run fast and jump 3m high and over 12m in length.
Being so numerous and of medium size they are the primary prey items of many predators and even the young are taken by large eagles.
Impala suckling
Impala and baboons
Impala often associate with other herbivores such as baboons. This is primarily due to similar food resources but both species benefit from the relationship. More ears and eyes means a higher chance of detecting predators. In addition, impala may eat fruit discarded over by baboons.
Impala and baboons
Klipspringer
The word Klipspringer is derived from the Afrikaans for stone or rock jumper and aptly describes these animals agility on rocky outcrops, thier favored habitat.
They are a golden colour but have a rough textured appearance. Each hair is hollow and and grizzeled with black with the tips being the golden colour. The hollow hair allows Klipspringer to thermoregulate their body temperatures which is required when living on exposed rocky terrain.
Klipspringer
Klipspringer
Klipspringer have unique feet amongst antelope and actually walk on the tips of their hooves. The hoof tip provides the neccessary traction on rocks and boulders and also absorb the shock of landing, allowing these buck to bound from one rock to another and change direction quickly.
Klipspringer
KlipSpringer Mal
The black mark just below the eye is called the preorbital gland and is used to deposit scent in a tar like substance. They demarcate territory by copious dung piles and scent marking when they rub the preorbital gland on twigs and bushes. They also stand conspicuousy to warn other Klipspringers of their presence and although they do defend territories they seldom fight.
KlipSpringer Mal
Klip Springer
Taken in Kruger Park, this Klipspringer has chosen a stone sign post as a resting place.
These buck are rare amongst mammals in that they form a life long monogamous pair.
They are so well adapted and capable in their rocky terrain that they can easily outrun predators on their turf.
Klip Springer
Springbuck
Springbuck are probably the only gazelle species in Southern Africa (some maintain that impala are also gazelle) and occur in the dryer western parts of the region.
Both males and females carry horns although the female horns are more slight.
Springbuck
Springbuck
Springbuck are extremely agile animals, capable of running at 80kms per hour and leaping high in the air with all four feet landing simultaneously with an arched back and bounce again to repeat this display. This is most often done when fleeing predators.
Springbuck
Steenbok
Steenbok are a rich red in colour with white underparts. This brick red colour gives them their name as Steen in Afrikaans means brick. They are small antelope standing just over 50cms at th shoulder.
They are solitary antelope except for females accompanied by their young.
They have large oval ears to detect the slightest predatory sound.
Steenbok
Steenbok
Only the males have horns and these are thin and parallel to each other.
Besides the large ears to detect prey they also conceal themselves in thick grass to prevent detection.
Steenbok are capable diggers and eat bulbs and rhizomes. Due to their food sources being high in water content, Steenbok are water independant and do need need to drink.
Steenbok