Africa is home to a variety of antelope species that are as diverse as they are widespread across the continent. Antelopes embody the essence of the African wilderness and the spirit of the continent. Join us on an Ultimate Kilimanjaro® safari and see them for yourself.

What are Antelope?

Antelopes is a term loosely used to describe the members of the Bovidae family that are not cattle, sheep, goats, buffalo, or bison.

Scientifically, antelope do not form a single taxonomic group but are instead spread across several distinct genera. Characteristically, antelopes are noted for their speed and agility. They share some common traits such as even-toed hooves and, in many cases, horn structures. These horns, which are permanent fixtures, are made of keratin and serve various purposes, from defense against predators to tools in mating rituals.

Antelopes vary significantly in size. This size variation is matched by their habitats: they are found in a range of environments across Africa, from the forests of the Congo to the vast savannahs of the Serengeti. In addition, they exhibit a range of behaviours and adaptations, from the solitary bongo to the highly social impala.

Differences Between Antelopes, Deer, and Gazelles

Antelopes are often confused with deer and gazelles, but they have distinct differences. Deer are Cervidae and thus belong to a completely different family than antelopes. Unlike deer, most antelopes have permanent horns, which are present in both males and females in some species. Antelopes are also strictly confined to the Old World, particularly Africa, where their diversity peaks.

Gazelles are a subgroup within the antelope family. They are known for their lighter build and remarkable speed. They are extremely agile and can perform high-speed leaps to evade predators.

African Antelopes

Here are Africa’s most captivating antelopes:

1. Sable Antelope

The sable antelope is among the most iconic African antelopes. They are members of the hippotragini tribe of horse antelopes, named due to their powerful stature, thick necks and erect mane. The male’s striking jet-black coat contrasts sharply with the white underbelly and facial markings, while females and juveniles display a rich chestnut to dark brown hue. Both sexes have semi-circular, ridged horns that arch backwards, reaching lengths of up to 65 inches (165 centimeters). As inhabitants of the savannah and woodland areas, they are known for their fierce defense against predators, including lions.

2. Kudu (Greater and Lesser)

The kudu is divided into two species: the Greater Kudu and the Lesser Kudu. The Greater Kudu is one of Africa’s largest antelopes while the Lesser Kudu is slightly smaller and more elusive. The kudu has an elegant striped body and spiraled horns that are capable of reaching over 70 inches (178 centimeters) in length. Both species exhibit a incredible agility, capable of clearing heights of over 8 feet (2.4 meters) when threatened. Their shy nature and preference for dense bush or forest cover make their sighting a cherished moment. They produce one of the loudest sounds made by antelope in the form of a gruff bark.

3. Impala

The impala epitomises the grace and agility of African antelopes. They use their tremendous abilities to avoid predation, and seemingly for pure enjoyment. They are capable of jumping over obstacles up to 10 feet high (approximately 3 meters) and cover distances of 33 feet (about 10 meters) in a single bound. The name impala comes from a Zulu word which means antelope. The males have slender, lyre-shaped horns while the females have no horns. Impalas are highly sociable, forming herds that adapt to the changing seasons, shifting from tight-knit groups in the wet seasons to larger, mixed gatherings in the dry months.

4. Gerenuk

The Gerenuk is one of Africa’s most peculiar and intriguing antelopes, often referred to as the ‘giraffe gazelle’ due to its remarkably elongated neck and limbs. This adaptation enables the Gerenuk to stand on its hind legs, stretching up to 6 feet (approximately 1.8 metres) to reach succulent leaves. This feat grants it access to a niche of high foliage in the arid landscapes of East Africa. With its slender build and large, doe-like eyes, the Gerenuk possesses an ethereal beauty. These antelopes lead a solitary or small-group lifestyle. They can also go without direct water for extended periods, relying instead on the moisture found in their leafy diet.

5. Eland (Common and Giant)

The Eland is Africa’s largest antelope, with males reaching up to 2,000 pounds (approximately 907 kilograms) and standing up to 6 feet (about 1.8 metres) at the shoulder. However, they still exhibit an unexpected grace. They are capable of hopping over fences that are 8 feet (approximately 2.4 metres) high. These animals have spiral horns, which can grow up to 4 feet (about 1.2 metres) long, and a dewlap on their neck that aids in thermoregulation. Elands are versatile feeders, adapting to a variety of habitats by grazing on grass and browsing leaves. Their social behavior is equally interesting, with herds often led by a dominant female.

6. Roan Antelope

The Roan Antelope is a stunning figure across the savannahs and grasslands of Africa. It is regarded as one of the most handsome antelopes. Males and females alike boast ringed horns, stretching up to 39 inches (about 99 centimetres) long. Their fur is greyish-brown fur while their face has a black and white mask. Weighing up to 660 pounds (approximately 300 kilograms) and standing at about 4.5 feet (roughly 1.4 metres) at the shoulder, the Roan is one of the continent’s largest antelopes. These antelopes are known for their strong social structures, typically forming herds of up to 20 individuals, led by a dominant male who vigilantly defends his territory and group.

7. Nyala

The Nyala is a captivating sight in the woodlands and thickets of Southern Africa. Males have a shaggy dark-brown coat, spiral horns that can reach up to 33 inches (approximately 84 centimetres), and distinctive white stripes and spots. In contrast, females sport a reddish-brown coat, are hornless, and have more vibrant markings. This antelope species thrives in dense bush where they can easily hide from predators, feeding on leaves, fruits, and flowers. Nyalas are typically shy. They are one of Africa’s most alert antelope, sensing danger with their exceptional hearing, smell, and sight.

8. Oryx (Gemsbok)

The Oryx personifies the essence of the African desert. It stands out with its stark, contrasting markings, including distinct black and white facial features, and long, straight horns that can reach up to 47 inches (about 119 centimetres) in length. These horns serve as defensive weapons against predators and as symbols of status within their groups. Adapted to thrive in arid environments, the Oryx has the ability to survive without water for extended periods, relying on moisture from the food they consume. Weighing up to 460 pounds (around 209 kilograms) and displaying a coat that reflects the sun’s rays, the oryx has adapted to live in hot, dry areas where most large mammals cannot.

9. Waterbuck

The Waterbuck is a large antelope that lives along the waterways and floodplains of sub-Saharan Africa. This antelope can weigh up to 600 pounds (approximately 272 kilograms) and stands about 4 feet (around 1.2 metres) at the shoulder. As their name suggests, it is intrinsically linked to bodies of water, seldom straying far from its life-giving refuge. They often take to the water to escape predators, which include lions, cheetahs, hyenas, and wild dogs. Waterbucks are primarily grazers, with a diet that helps maintain the health of grasslands. The males’ long, spiraled horns can grow up to 40 inches (about 102 centimetres).

10. Bongo

Bongos are shy forest dwellers that are rarely seen. They are nocturnal and inhabit dense forest regions in West and Central Africa. The Bongo has a white-striped chestnut coat which serves as camouflage amongst the thick underbrush. They have heavy, long, spiralling horns, which can be found on both males and females. This elusive animal is the third-largest antelope in the world, weighing up to 900 pounds (around 408 kilograms). Bongos are known to carry out crop raiding and have been reported to venture into farming areas to feast.

11. Topi

The Topi is known for its blue-grey coat and dramatic, lyre-shaped horns. These antelopes are found in the savannahs and floodplains of East and Southern Africa, where they gather in large herds. Topis are fast, reaching speeds of 40 miles per hour (64 kilometers per hour), and can sustain high speeds over long distances, making it one of the savannah’s most able runners. Weighing up to 300 pounds (about 136 kilograms), Topis are also known for their adaptations to their environment, including tolerance to high temperatures and the ability to utilize sparse water sources efficiently.

12. Dik Dik

The dik-dik is the smallest African antelope, belonging to the genus Madoqua. It lives in the bushlands of eastern and southern Africa. These diminutive creatures are about 12-16 inches (30-40 centimetres) tall at the shoulder. Dik-diks are known for their pointed snout and large, dark eyes surrounded by a white ring. Their small size and cryptic colouration allow them to blend into their environment, evading predators. They namesake call resembles a “zik-zik” or “dik-dik” sound, used as an alarm to alert others of danger. Dik-diks engage in monogamous pair bonds, a rarity in the antelope world.

African Antelopes List

Here is a list of African antelope species, categorized by their general habitat preferences and size:

Forest and Bush Antelopes

  • Bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus)
  • Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)
  • Sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekii)
  • Nyala (Tragelaphus angasii)
  • Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros)
  • Lesser Kudu (Tragelaphus imberbis)
  • Eland (Common Taurotragus oryx, and Giant Taurotragus derbianus)
  • Suni (Neotragus moschatus)
  • Blue Duiker (Philantomba monticola)
  • Red Forest Duiker, various species
  • Yellow-backed Duiker (Cephalophus silvicultor)
  • Black Duiker (Cephalophus niger)
  • Bay Duiker (Cephalophus dorsalis)
  • Dik-dik (Several species including Madoqua kirkii, Madoqua guentheri)

Savannah and Grassland Antelopes

  • Impala (Aepyceros melampus)
  • Various Gazelles including Thomson’s (Eudorcas thomsonii), Grant’s (Nanger granti), and Dama (Nanger dama)
  • Wildebeest (Blue Connochaetes taurinus, and Black Connochaetes gnou)
  • Hartebeest, various subspecies
  • Topi (Damaliscus lunatus), Tsessebe (Damaliscus lunatus lunatus), Bontebok/Blesbok (Damaliscus pygargus)
  • Springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis)
  • Gerenuk (Litocranius walleri)
  • Oryx, including Gemsbok (Oryx gazella)
  • Roan Antelope (Hippotragus equinus)
  • Sable Antelope (Hippotragus niger)
  • Waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus)
  • Lechwe (Red Kobus leche, Kafue Flats Kobus leche kafuensis, and Black Kobus leche smithemani)
  • Kob (Kobus kob)
  • Puku (Kobus vardonii)
  • Common Reedbuck (Redunca arundinum), Mountain Reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula)
  • Addax (Addax nasomaculatus)

Desert Antelopes

  • Dorcas Gazelle (Gazella dorcas)
  • Saharan Dama Gazelle (Nanger dama)
  • Addra Gazelle (Nanger dama ruficollis)
  • Speke’s Gazelle (Gazella spekei)

Additional Species

  • Klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus)
  • Steenbok (Raphicerus campestris)
  • Sharpe’s Grysbok (Raphicerus sharpei)
  • Oribi (Ourebia ourebi)
  • Saiga Antelope (Saiga tatarica) – Though primarily found in Central Asia, they are included in broader discussions of antelopes.

This list attempts to cover a broad spectrum of African antelopes, showcasing the diversity within the continent’s ecosystems. Due to the dynamic nature of wildlife taxonomy, new species may be described, or classifications may change, reflecting the ongoing exploration and study of Africa’s rich biodiversity.