AskDefine | Define antelope

Dictionary Definition

antelope n : graceful Old World ruminant with long legs and horns directed upward and backward; includes gazelles; springboks; impalas; addax; gerenuks; blackbucks; dik-diks

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Any of several African mammals of the family Bovidae distinguished by having hollow horns. Unlike deer antelope do not shed their horns.
  2. The pronghorn, Antilocapra americana.
    • 1881, John W. Forney, The New Nobility, page 80
      "It reminds me of when I was hunting antelope in Colorado," he said to her.


any of several African mammals of the family Bovidae

Extensive Definition

Antelope are ruminant hoofed mammals of the family Bovidae in the order of even-toed ungulates. These animals are spread relatively evenly throughout the various subfamilies of Bovidae and many are more closely related to cows or goats than to each other. There are many species of antelope, ranging in size from the tiny Royal Antelope to the ox-like Elands.
Male antelope are noted for their horns, which are permanent, unlike the annually-shed antlers of deer, and which often take on extravagant curved shapes such as arcs and helices. The midrange antelope, such as gazelles, impala, and blackbuck antelope, typically have a light and elegant frame, slender, graceful limbs, small cloven hoofs, and a short tail. Small antelope and large antelope can both be quite variable in form, but tend to have proportionally shorter legs and thicker builds than the mid-sized antelope.
Antelope exhibit different defensive behaviors based on their size, habitat, and number. Small solitary antelope tend to live in dense forested areas, and defend themselves by hiding. Duikers get their name from this ability to dive into the vegetation. Gazelle-sized antelope run and leap, and some species exhibit the unique behavior of pronking or stotting. Large antelope congregate in larger herds and can depend on running or group defense.
Antelope are found in a wide range of habitats, typically woodland, forest, savannahs, grassland plains, and marshes. Several species are adapted to mountains and rocky outcrops, a few to deserts (both hot and cold), and a couple are semi-aquatic and live in swamps.

Species and distribution

Antelopes occur naturally in Eurasia and Africa. There are about 90 species, most of which are native to Africa, where the largest herds are also to be found, in about 30 genera. About 15 species are endangered.
Antelope are typically divided into "tribes", or subfamilies under the family Bovidae.
Species of antelope include:
There is still some debate regarding placement in genera and species vs subspecies placement.
Blackbuck antelope and Gemsbok have been imported into the United States, primarily for the purpose of "exotic game hunts", common in Texas. While blackbuck antelope and other species have established wild populations in parts of Texas, they are not native to the United States.
There are no true antelope native to the Americas. The Pronghorn "Antelope" of the Great Plains belongs to family Antilocapridae, not Bovidae. They can be distinguished by the horns, which are branched and shed. True antelope have horns which are unbranched and are never shed.
Most familiar species of antelope are located in Africa, but some exist in Asia as well. The Arabian peninsula is home to the Arabian Oryx and Dorcas gazelle, while India and Southeast Asia have the Four-horned Antelope, Tibetan antelope, Saiga antelope, Nilgai, Chinkara, and Blackbuck.
Antelope are not a cladistic or taxonomically defined group. The term is used loosely to describe all members of the family Bovidae which do not fall under the category of sheep, cattle, or goat.


There are at least two classification systems at the subfamily level of the Bovidae. In the "lumped" system (of, e.g., Kingdon 1997), antelope occur in both subfamilies—the Bovinae (alongside the cattle) and the Antilopinae (alongside the sheep and goats). The alternative classification of 10 subfamilies is given under "Bovid" in this encyclopaedia—in this classification, antelope occur in 9 of the 10 subfamilies (one of which is the single-species subfamily of the Tibetan Antelope).
Antelope are not a monophyletic group, but a miscellaneous category for members of the family Bovidae that are not cattle, sheep, goats, or bison. Confusingly, Pronghorn (commonly known as Pronghorn Antelope) are not antelope, but belong to their own family, Antilocapridae.

Physical characteristics

The characteristics of bovids in general are: long legs; even number of hoofed toes (as per all even-toed ungulates); in most species the males are horned, and in some species the females are also; most have horizontally oriented pupils; they ruminate. In all species, the males display horns (typically two, but sometimes four). Horns are not shed and are not made of bone, which distinguishes them from antlers.
These basic characteristics, however, mask huge differences in appearance between antelopes, cattle, goats and sheep, and among the antelopes themselves. For example, a male Common Eland can measure 178 cm at the shoulder and weigh almost 950 kg, whereas an adult Royal Antelope may stand only 24 cm at the shoulder and weigh a mere 1.5 kg.
The antelope's horn is prized for medicinal and magical powers in many places. The horn of the male saiga in Eastern practice is ground as an aphrodisiac, for which it has been hunted nearly to extinction. In the Congo, it is thought to confine spirits. Christian iconography sometimes uses the antelope's two horns as a symbol of the two spiritual weapons that Christians possess: the Old Testament and the New Testament. Their ability to run swiftly has also led to their association with the wind, such as in the Rig Veda, as the steeds of the Maruts and the wind god Vayu.


External links

antelope in Afrikaans: Wildsbok
antelope in Arabic: ظبي
antelope in Bulgarian: Антилопа
antelope in Catalan: Antílop
antelope in Czech: Antilopa
antelope in German: Antilope
antelope in Spanish: Antílope
antelope in Esperanto: Antilopo
antelope in French: Antilope
antelope in Scottish Gaelic: Antalop
antelope in Ido: Antilopo
antelope in Zulu: Inymazane
antelope in Italian: Antilope
antelope in Hebrew: אנטילופות
antelope in Georgian: ანტილოპები
antelope in Marathi: कुरंग हरीण
antelope in Dutch: Antilopen
antelope in Japanese: レイヨウ
antelope in Polish: Antylopa
antelope in Portuguese: Antílope
antelope in Russian: Антилопа
antelope in Swedish: Antiloper
antelope in Telugu: జింక
antelope in Ukrainian: Антилопи
antelope in Chinese: 羚羊

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Angora goat, Arctic fox, Belgian hare, Caffre cat, Cape elk, Indian buffalo, Kodiak bear, Virginia deer, aardvark, aardwolf, alpaca, anteater, antelope chipmunk, aoudad, apar, armadillo, arrow, ass, aurochs, badger, bandicoot, bassarisk, bat, bear, beaver, bettong, binturong, bison, black bear, black buck, black cat, black fox, black sheep, blue darter, blue fox, blue streak, bobcat, brown bear, brush deer, brush wolf, buck, buffalo, buffalo wolf, burro, burro deer, cachalot, camel, camelopard, cannonball, capybara, carabao, caribou, carpincho, cat, cat-a-mountain, catamount, cattalo, cavy, chamois, cheetah, chevrotain, chinchilla, chipmunk, cinnamon bear, coon, coon cat, cotton mouse, cotton rat, cougar, courser, cow, coyote, coypu, dart, deer, deer tiger, deerlet, dingo, doe, dog, donkey, dormouse, dromedary, eagle, echidna, eland, electricity, elephant, elk, ermine, express train, eyra, fallow deer, fawn, ferret, field mouse, fisher, fitch, flash, flying phalanger, foumart, fox, fox squirrel, gazelle, gemsbok, genet, giraffe, glutton, gnu, gnu goat, goat, goat antelope, gopher, greased lightning, greyhound, grizzly bear, ground squirrel, groundhog, guanaco, guinea pig, hamster, hare, harnessed antelope, hart, hartebeest, hedgehog, hind, hippopotamus, hog, horse, hyena, hyrax, ibex, jackal, jackass, jackrabbit, jaguar, jaguarundi, jerboa, jerboa kangaroo, jet plane, kaama, kangaroo, kangaroo mouse, kangaroo rat, karakul, kinkajou, kit fox, koala, lapin, lemming, leopard, leopard cat, light, lightning, lion, llama, lynx, mammoth, mara, marmot, marten, mastodon, meerkat, mercury, mink, mole, mongoose, moose, mouflon, mountain goat, mountain lion, mountain sheep, mouse, mule, mule deer, muntjac, musk deer, musk hog, musk-ox, muskrat, musquash, nilgai, nutria, ocelot, okapi, onager, oont, opossum, otter, ounce, ox, pack rat, painter, panda, pangolin, panther, peccary, peludo, phalanger, pig, pine mouse, platypus, pocket gopher, pocket mouse, pocket rat, polar bear, polar fox, polecat, porcupine, possum, pouched rat, poyou, prairie dog, prairie wolf, pronghorn, puma, quicksilver, rabbit, raccoon, rat, red deer, red squirrel, reindeer, rhinoceros, rocket, roe, roe deer, roebuck, sable, scared rabbit, serval, sheep, shot, shrew, shrew mole, sika, silver fox, skunk, sloth, snowshoe rabbit, springbok, squirrel, stag, stoat, streak, streak of lightning, striped snake, suslik, swallow, swamp rabbit, swine, takin, tamandua, tamarin, tapir, tarpan, tatou, tatou peba, tatouay, thought, thunderbolt, tiger, tiger cat, timber wolf, torrent, tree shrew, urus, vole, wallaby, warthog, water buffalo, waterbuck, weasel, wharf rat, whistler, white fox, wild ass, wild boar, wild goat, wild ox, wildcat, wildebeest, wind, wolf, wolverine, wombat, wood rat, woodchuck, woolly mammoth, yak, zebra, zebu, zoril
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