Facts about the Large Antelope
There are many different types of antelope in the world, but when you are thinking of large antelope, the biggest of all is the eland. Antelope are native to Africa, and you will find elands in African savannas. Large antelope have two different species--the common eland and the giant eland. Like so many other animals, the eland population has declined rapidly because of hunting and habitat destruction. Among giant elands, one subspecies is already on the List of Endangered Species.
Large antelope are really something to see, with a male being up to six feet tall and weighing up to 2,200 pounds. The female is smaller but both have incredibly long horns which can be three feet in length Elands are light brown in color with white stripes (vertical). As they age, they get more bluish-gray in color, and the very oldest elands are so dark that they look black. One of the most easily recognizable features on an eland male is its black dewlap. The dewlap is a little flap of skin right above the chest. Males also have a tangled mass of hair on their foreheads.
The eland is in the Bovidae family, the same family as cows. They are quite cow-like and even chew a cud. Elands are the slowest of all antelopes. Still, they can go far at the pace of a trot and they can jump a fence as tall as eight feet from a standing-still position. Eland habitat is not in or near forests or swamps but in grasslands and mountains.
These large antelope eat leaves off of bushes and shrubs, and they will eat some kinds of fruit, roots and bulbs. They are able to use their very long horns to get food that may be out of the reach of other animals. They can easily lift all types of branches and twigs from the ground where they may have fallen.
Reproduction among elands is not limited to any one season. They can mate and reproduce year-round. The female eland will wean her calves when they reach three months old and then rejoin a female herd. Females and males both tend to form herds. Once weaned, all of the young stay in one group. When a female is ready to give birth, she will rejoin the group of growing calves until her new calf is weaned.
While in this special group of young elands, calves develop tremendous bonds with one another. Trust and affection is shown by licking and grooming one another. A group of calves will stay together as a family and individuals will not leave until they are two years old. Whenever a female is back within the group of calves to give birth, she will take on the responsibility protecting the entire group, not just her own calves. There are always females in these juvenile groups because there is no set mating season and the females can give birth year-round.
Large antelope are hunted for both their meat and their hide, even though it is against the law in many places. Some of these elands have been semi-tamed and many people have a desire to raise domesticated antelope on ranches, in the same manner as beef cattle. The area of land would have to be very large to accommodate the grazing needs of the herd.
But for now, the large antelope is solely a wild animal, immense in size, and seeking nothing but to care for its own. If you are lucky enough to be able to see one in its natural environment, you will be awed by its beauty as well as its size.