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antelope, name applied to any of a large number of hoofed, ruminant mammals of the cattle family (Bovidae), which also includes the bison, buffalo, sheep, and goats. Found in Africa and Eurasia, 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 nyalas and the sitatunga), kudus, bongo, and more distantly related eland. 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, and reedbuck.

The gnu (or wildebeest) and the closely related hartebeest and damalisks 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. The term gazelle has been used for a number of small, delicate antelopes with spreading horns, inhabiting deserts and grassy plains, such as the pale brown impala, the antelope best known from motion pictures; the impala is now classified in a different subfamily. True gazelles belong to the genera Gazella, Eudorcas, and Nanger. Antelopes related to the gazelles as well as the gerenuk, dibatag, springbok, and blackbuck. 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, steenbok, dik-dik, and suni. Males have tiny, straight horns. The nilgai and the four-horned antelope are found in SE Asia. Other antelopes include the saiga of central Asia, which has an enlarged nasal structure, and the chiru, or Tibetan antelope. The North American pronghorn is sometimes called an antelope, but it belongs to a separate family (Antilocapridae) more closely related to the giraffe.

Antelopes are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Bovidae.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a varied group of artiodactyl animals of the family Bovidae, excluding cattle, buffalo, goats, and sheep. The term antelope refers to all the subfamilies of the family Bovidae; the term pronghorn refers to the particular family Antilocapridae. Antelopes are animals of diverse form and dimensions, from the Madoqua saltiana, the size of a hare, to the eland, which is as large as a cow. In most species of antelopes, only the males have horns, which can be straight and short or long and bent in an arc or spiral. Their coloring ranges from light sand-colored to gray-blue or almost black, with markings in the form of stripes or patches of various colors and forms. The majority of antelopes inhabit Africa and the southern part of Asia. They live in herds and feed on grassy vegetation or, more rarely, on the leaves of trees. There are several groups of antelope, some of which are closer in origin to cattle, and others, to goats and sheep. The only member of the genus Antilope proper is the Indian Antilope cervicapra, or black buck, an animal with spiraling horns. On the African steppes and savannas live the large bovine antelopes, the gnu and bubalis. The African semidesert and desert are inhabited by horse antelope and oryx. Living hidden in the African forests are the royal antelope, Madoqua saltiana, oribi, dik dik, and other pygmy antelope, as well as the duiker. The deserts, steppes, and forest-steppes of Africa and Asia are the homes of a broad group of gazelles; the goitered gazelle and zeren, which live within the boundaries of the USSR, belong to this group. A special group of antelope is represented by the African marsh antelope, which inhabits marshy ground and riverside thickets. The African spiral-horned antelopes (eland, kudu, bushbuck) and the Indian four-horned antelope and nilgai are closer in origin to buffalo and cattle than to other antelopes. The chamois, which lives in the mountains of Europe, the Caucasus, and Transcaucasia, and the saiga, a steppe antelope, are more closely linked with sheep and goats. Many antelope are hunted for their flesh, hides, and horns. The numbers of most antelope species are markedly decreasing. Hunting of many species is partially or entirely prohibited.


Sokolov, I.I. “Opyt estestvennoi klassifikatsii polorogikh.” Trudy Zoologicheskogo instituta Akademii Nauk SSSR, 1953, vol. 14.
Mlekopitaiushchie Sovetskogo Soiuza, vol. 1. Edited by V. G. Geptner and N. P. Naumov. Moscow, 1961.
Sclater, P. L., and M. R. O. Thomas. The Book of Antelopes, vols. 1–4. London, 1894–1900.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(vertebrate zoology)
Any of the hollow-horned, hoofed ruminants assigned to the artiodactyl subfamily Antilopinae; confined to Africa and Asia.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. any bovid mammal of the subfamily Antilopinae, of Africa and Asia. They are typically graceful, having long legs and horns, and include the gazelles, springbok, impala, gerenuk, blackbuck, and dik-diks
2. any of various similar bovids of Africa and Asia
3. American antelope another name for pronghorn
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005