Wednesday, November 30, 2011

No Antelope on Antelope Island

Just as Bison are quite commonly called Buffalo, Pronghorn are also misnamed, and referred to as Antelope. While they do indeed resemble Antelope, they are quite different animals. Not even in the same family.

Here we have some Antelope, family Bovidae. The term antelope is a general term used to describe all members of the family Bovidae which don't really fit into the category of sheep, cattle or goat. Other members of the family Bovidae include bison, African buffalo, water buffalo, gazelles, and muskoxen.

Blackbuck Antelope

True antelope have unbranched horns which are never shed. They continue to grow throughout their lives. And if they get broken or knocked off, they may or may not grow back depending on the severity of the break.

Here we have a Pronghorn, family Antilocapridae. Pronghorn are the only surviving member of this family, and so have no close relatives to compare them to. Pronghorn are native to North America.

Pronghorn at Antelope Island

Female Pronghorn
Both male and female Pronghorn have horns. The horns of the male are considerably larger than those of the female and are branched, or at least have a slight "prong" on them, hence the name.

Male Pronghorn
The horns of Pronghorns are different from both the antlers of deer, and the true horns of sheep or bison. Antlers are heavily branched, made of bone and are shed every year. True horns are made a keratin, or compressed hair, growing on a bony core, and are never shed, nor are they ever branched. The horns of Pronghorns are a little of both. They are made of a branched keratin sheath, growing on a bony core, and the sheath is shed each year. 

Pronghorn are the second fastest land animal in the world, just behind the cheetah. It has been noted that they can run up to 70 mph for short distances, and can maintain half that speed over great distances. Pronghorn are truly a plains animal, and while they can jump, they almost never do. Out on the plains, they will travel for miles along a fence looking for an area they can climb under.

Out on Antelope Island, they have no such barriers and can be seen ranging over the entire 28,000 acre land mass.

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