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Any of numerous Old World grazing or browsing mammals belonging to the family Bovidae (order Artiodactyla), Antelopes are even-toed, hoofed mammals that typically are swift, slender, and graceful plains dwellers. Most are African; the others, except for the North American pronghorn, are Eurasian. Antelopes range in shoulder height from 25 cm (10 inches) in the royal antelope (Neotragus pygmaeus) of Africa to 175 cm (70 inches) in the giant eland (Taurotragus derbianus), also of Africa. The male antelope, and sometimes the female, bears distinctive, backwardly curved horns. The horns vary in form, some being short and spike like, as in the duikers; some spirally twisted, as in the kudu; and some long and lyre-shaped, as in the impala. The Arabian oryx, the giant sable antelope, and other antelopes are almost extinct. ♣
Impalas are swift-running antelopes that are found in large herds, usually near water, on the savannas and open woodlands of central and southern Africa. Impalas are noted for their grace and their ability to jump; when alarmed, they bound off in leaps up to 9 m in length and 3 m high. A lightly built animal, the impala stands 75-100 cm at the shoulder. It has a golden to reddish brown coat, white underparts, a vertical black stripe on each thigh, and a black tuft behind each hind hoof. The male has long, lyre-shaped horns.
Selous Game Reserve / Serengeti NP / Lake Manyara NP, Tanzania // Queen Elizabeth NP, Uganda
Either of two African antelopes of the genus Connochaetes, family Bovidae (order Artiodactyla), the Wildebeest stands higher at the shoulder than at the rump, with a shoulder height of 1-1.3 m. The southern African form, the white-tailed gnu, or black wildebeest (C.gnou), is dark brown with long black tufts on the snout, chin, throat, and chest, and it has a black mane and flowing white tail. The horns, present in both sexes, grow forward and downward, turning up at the tips. Now extinct in the wild, the white-tailed wildebeest is preserved in a number of national parks and reserves. The brindled gnu, or blue wildebeest (C. taurinus), is reasonably abundant over much of central and southeastern Africa, from northern South Africa to Kenya. It is silvery gray with dark vertical bands on the sides and has a black mane, tail, and face; whitish cheeks; and a tuft of dark hair on chin and throat. The horns of the brindled wildebeest, present in both sexes, spread sideways and turn up at the tips. The white-bearded wildebeest is a subspecies (C. t. albojubatus).
Wildebeest live in herds, often of large size, and graze on the grasses and scrub of open plains. Their herds are on the move almost continually as the animals seek pastures that have been renewed by the rains. They are the most abundant of all the wild grazing animals in eastern Africa. When wildebeest are disturbed, they dash away for a short distance and wheel around to gaze at whatever has frightened them. In flight, they toss their heads, prance about, and throw up their heels in a wild, erratic manner that is ludicrous to the human onlooker. They stay within 20-30 miles of water sources, which they visit every two or three days. A single wildebeest calf is born after a gestation of eight to nine months. Virtually all the calves are born within a few days of each other once a year. This ensures the survival of the majority of them because lions, hyenas, and other predators can kill and eat only so many of the calves in the short span of time before the calves themselves become fast runners. ♣
Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania
Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Hartebeest are found in herds on open plains and scrublands of sub-Saharan Africa, where they often mingle with herds of zebras or other antelopes. Hartebeests stand about 1.2 m tall. Their backs slope downward from heavy forequarters to narrow hindquarters, and their long faces are accentuated, in both sexes, by ringed, lyre-shaped horns united at the base.
In one system of classification, the red hartebeest (A. buselaphus) includes such subspecies as the bubal, lelwel, tora, and Cape hartebeest. It is pale reddish brown with a lighter rump and sometimes has black on the head and legs. Lichtenstein's hartebeest (A. lichtensteini) is pale brownish with a bright reddish brown back. Swayne's hartebeest (A. buselaphus swaynei) and the tora (A. b. tora) are listed in the Red Data Book as endangered animals. [- Adapted from Encyclopedia Britannica, 2004.]
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