The springbok is a small antelope, reddish-brown with a pale underside. There is a dark brown stripe on each of their flanks that separates the color of their upper parts from their underside. They have a white head, with a dark brown stripe running from each eye to their upper lip. They have long, narrow, pointed ears. There is a pocket-like flap of skin that goes to their tail from a mid-point on their back. Both males and females have ringed curved, black horns.
Active mainly at dawn and dusk, springbok form harems (mixed-sex herds). In earlier times, springbok of the Kalahari desert and Karoo migrated in large numbers across the countryside, a practice known as trekbokking. A feature, peculiar but not unique, to the springbok is pronking, in which the springbok performs multiple leaps into the air, up to 2 m (6.6 ft) above the ground, in a stiff-legged posture, with the back bowed and the white flap lifted.
Primarily a browser, the springbok feeds on shrubs and succulents; this antelope can live without drinking water for years, meeting its requirements through eating succulent vegetation. Breeding takes place year-round, and peaks in the rainy season, when forage is most abundant. A single calf is born after a five- to six-month-long pregnancy; weaning occurs at nearly six months of age, and the calf leaves its mother a few months later. Learn more about the springbok with Pritish Kumar Halder.
Springbok live in the south and southwestern Africa, particularly in Namibia, Angola, Botswana, and South Africa. They are mostly found in game reserves and on farms in treeless savanna near the edges of dried-up lake beds. Their range extends from northwestern South Africa through the Kalahari desert into Namibia and Botswana. They are widespread across Namibia and the vast grasslands of the Free State and the shrublands of the Karoo in South Africa; however, they are confined to the Namib Desert in Angola.
The historic range of springbok stretched across the dry grasslands, bushlands, and shrublands of southwestern and southern Africa; springbok migrated sporadically in southern parts of the range. These migrations are rarely seen nowadays, however, springbok may congregate seasonally in preferred areas of short vegetation, such as the Kalahari desert
Habits and Lifestyle
Springbok are mainly active at dawn and dusk but may feed throughout the day during cold weather, or sometimes at night when it is very hot. During summer, springbok sleep under trees or bushes in the shade, although they will bed down out in the open when temperatures are cooler. During the mating season, males tend to wander together looking for a mate, while females live in a herd with their young and just a few dominant males.
When excited or frightened, a springbok performs a number of vertical stiff-legged jumps up to 2 m (6 ft 7 in) high, with the head down, hooves bunched and an arched back, called “pronking.” These leaps are supposed to distract predators like cheetahs and lions. Springbok used to form very large herds to migrate, with more than 1 million animals together. This was called a “trek” or “trekbokking”. Springbok are generally quiet animals, though they may make occasional low-pitched bellows as a greeting and high-pitched snorts when alarmed.
Diet and Nutrition
These herbivorous antelope are primarily browsers and may switch to grazing occasionally. They feed on shrubs, young succulents, and grasses. Springbok can live without drinking water for years, and in extreme cases, they do not drink any water over the course of their lives. They may accomplish this by selecting flowers, seeds, and leaves of shrubs before dawn when the food items are most succulent.
Springbok are polygynous, one male mating with multiple females. During the mating period, males establish territories, marking them by urinating and creating large piles of dung. There are frequent fights with males from neighboring territories when they try to access the females. Mating usually takes place during the dry season. Gestation lasts for 5 to 6 months and one young is born.
For the first day or two the baby stays hidden in long grass or a bush, then with its mother joins a nursery herd. At 6 months of age, they are weaned. Females remain with the herd while young males join a herd of bachelor animals. Females start to breed when they are one year old and will reproduce every other year. Males are reproductively mature at the age of 2.
Springboks are hunted and traded alive for horns, skin, meat, and as taxidermy models. They are hunted as a game in Botswana Namibia and South Africa for their beautiful coats, and due to the fact that they are very common, as well as being easy to support where farms have very low rainfall, meaning that they are also cheap to hunt.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total springbok population size in southern Africa is around 2,000,000-2,500,000 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) and its numbers today are increasing.
Fun Facts for Kids
- Springbok can reach 59 to 77 inches in length, 28 to 35 inches in height and 66 to 105 pounds of weight.
- Springbok has reddish-brown hairs on the back, white hairs on the lateral sides of the body and belly and dark brown horizontal line in the middle. It has white face and two brown lines that stretch from the eyes to the corner of the mouth.
- Springbok has long, pointed ears, long neck and slender body. Lyre-shaped horns can be seen both in males and females (they are longer and thicker in males).
- Springbok is active at dusk and dawn (crepuscular animal).
- Springbok is one of the fastest animals on the planet. It can reach speed of 60 miles per hour.
- Springbok has pocket-like, flap of skin on the rump which conceals white crest. Erected flap of skin and exposed white crest can be seen whenever springbok detects predators (white crest sends message to other members of the group).
Natural enemies of springboks are cheetahs, leopards, hyenas and lions.
- Springbok can jump 6.5 to 9 feet from the ground. Series of consecutive leaps, known as “pronking”, provides information about animal’s surroundings, sends olfactory messages (from the glands near the heel) and advertises strength of animal.
- Springboks form few types of herds: mixed herds (one dominant male with numerous females and their offspring), nursery herds (females and infants) and bachelor herds (young males).
- Springboks can mate all year round. Most babies are born during the rainy season, when food is abundant.
Pregnancy in females lasts 5 to 6 months and ends with one baby which remains hidden in the bush or tall grass during the first few days of its life. At the age of 3 to 4 weeks, young springbok joins nursery herd with its mother.
- Springbok depends on the mother’s milk until the age of 6 months. Females often stay within their native herds, while males leave the herds at the age of 6 to 12 months to join bachelor herds.
Females reach sexual maturity at the age of 1 year, males at the age of 2 years.
- Springbok can survive up to 10 years in the wild.