antelope, name applied to a large number of hoofed, ruminant mammals of the cattle family (Bovidae), which also includes the sheep and goats. The North American pronghorn is sometimes called an antelope, but belongs to a separate, related family (Antilocapridae). True antelopes are found only in Africa and Asia. They range in size from pygmy antelopes, 12 in. (30 cm) high at the shoulder, to the giant eland, with a shoulder height of over 6 ft (180 cm). Most types stand 3 to 4 ft (90–120 cm) high. The horns of antelopes, unlike the antlers of deer, are unbranched, consist of a chitinous shell with a bony core, and are not shed. Africa is the home of most antelopes. The spiral-horned antelopes are the bushbucks (including the nyala and the sitatunga), kudu, eland, and bongo. These oxlike animals have patterns of light and dark stripes on the body, and most have them on the face as well. The duikers are a group of small, straight-horned antelopes of forest and thick brush country. Marsh antelopes are deerlike animals of marshes and reedbeds; they include the waterbuck, kob, puka, lechwe, reedbuck, and rhebok. The gnu (or wildebeest) and the closely related hartebeest and damalisk are horselike antelopes of the grasslands. The name oryx is applied to smaller horselike animals of the desert and scrublands, including the gemsbok and the beisa; the addax is a related desert antelope. The sable antelope and the closely related roan antelope have enormous, backward-curved, scimitar-shaped horns. Gazelle is the name for a number of small, delicate antelopes with spreading horns, inhabiting deserts and grassy plains. The largest of these is the pale brown impala, the kind of antelope best known from motion pictures. The gazelle tribe also includes the gerenuk, dibatag, springbok, and blackbuck, as well as the so-called true gazelles (genus Gazella ). The blackbuck, found in India, was the first antelope to be described by zoologists, and has the generic name Antilope. The delicate pygmy antelopes include the royal antelope, beira, klipspringer, oribi, grysbok, steinbok, dik-dik, and suni. Males have tiny, straight horns. The nilgai and the four-horned antelope are found in SE Asia. More closely related to the goats than to any of the above-named animals, but often called antelopes, are the saiga of central Asia and the chiru of Tibet. Antelopes are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Bovidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.