1902 Encyclopedia > Antelope

Antelope




ANTELOPE. The term antelope is applied to denote a genus of Mammalia, included in the Ungulate or Hoofed order of that large class. Of the ungulate or hoofed, mammals, the Ruminants, or those that " chew the cud," form a chief subdivision; and the antelopes, sheep, oxen, and goats, are included and classified together in this division as the family Cavicornia, or " hollow-horned" ruminants. The chief character by which the Cavicornia are distinguished from other families of the Ruminants consists in the peculiar and characteristic type of structure of the horns. These appendages are essentially processes of the frontal or forehead bone of the skull, and so far from being deciduous,—that is, being shed at stated periods, —as in the deer, the horns in the Cavicornia are permanent and persistent throughout life. The process arising from the frontal bone constitutes the inner shaft, or " core " of the horn ; and this bony core is covered by a horny sheath. The horny sheath is purely epidermic in its origin and nature; that is, it consists of a special development of the outer skin or epidermal tissue. When these structures are contrasted with the horns of the deer,-—with which group, it may be remarked, the antelopes are frequently confused, but from which they are essentially distinct,—they are at once seen to be different in every particular. The horns or " antlers " of the deer are solid, and consist entirely of bony tissue; and they are, furthermore, shed annually.

The antelopes, with the other Cavicornia, participate in the following characters, in addition to those furnished by the structure of the horns. Both sexes are generally pro-vided with horns. The dental formula or arrangement of the teeth exhibits a want of incisor teeth in the upper, and six incisors in the lower jaw; canines totally wanting in the upper jaw, and two in the lower jaw; and twelve molars in each jaw. The dental formula, therefore, runs thus:—

The feet are cleft; and accessory or supplemental hoofs exist on the back aspect of the feet.
The antelope family (Antilopidce), including a great number of different species, is generally distinguished from the allied families of the sheep, oxen, and goats, by the light, graceful, and deer-like form of its members. The horns are chiefly cylindrical in shape, but may be twisted in an annular or spiral manner. The beard, or " dew-lap," characteristic of the deer tribe, is generally absent in the antelopes; and of all the Cavicornia, they constitute the only family in which the curious " tear-pits " or " lachrymal sinuses " of the eyes are found. These latter organs are small sacs situated below the eyes, and devoted to the secretion of a yellow substance of a sebaceous or waxy nature.

As regards their distribution, the antelopes are chiefly found in the eastern hemisphere, and Africa appears to be the great centre of distribution of the group. South Africa is especially rich in antelopes, and they may be regarded as representing in that continent the deer of other regions of the world. In habits they are, for the most part, gregarious, and are frequently found in immense herds inhabiting the grassy plateaus and plains; whilst some species are exclusively mountainous in their distribution.





The particular form to which the name of " antelope " has been generally assigned is the Antílope cervicapra (Plate I. fig. 5), found in the East, and distinguished by the triple curve of its annulated horns. The gazelle or Barbary ante-lope (Gazella Dorcas) has long been famed in the poetic imagery of Eastern writers. It has two small black horns. The algazel (Gazella Leucoryx) (Plate I. fig. 2), found in Persia and Arabia, has slender limbs, and the horns of the male are horizontal, bent backwards, obliquely annulated, with smooth tips, and nearly three feet long. Several nearly allied species inhabit the northern portions of Africa, the Gazella Corinna (Plate I. fig. 3) exemplifying one of these latter forms. The springbok (Gazella Euchore) of the Dutch settlers, or " springer " antelope, is a well-known form inhabiting the southern districts of Africa. The horns are simple and annulate, and are curved, so as to form a lyrate or lyre-shaped figure. This animal's activity and powers of leaping have procured for it its familiar names; and travellers have long noted the immense numbers of these forms which congregate in vast herds in the plains of Southern and Central Africa. The bontebok (Gazella Pygarga), and the blesbok (Gazella albifrons), are allied to the springbok, and inhabit the same regions as that form. The other species found in Southern Africa include the rarer blue antelope (Gazella leucophcea), and the roan ante-lope (Gazella equina), a large species described by Burchell.

The water bok (Kobus ellipsiprymnw) (Plate L fig. 4), a well-known African form, is of considerable size. Its familiar name has been derived from its habit of frequent-ing rivers, and from its powers of swimming. The horns are large, curved, and spreading. The klippspringer (Oreo-tragus saltatrix) of South Africa has a close resem-blance in size and habits to the European chamois. The koodoo (Strepsiceros Koodoo) (Plate I. fig. 1), inhabiting South and West Africa, and otherwise widely distributed over the continent, is provided with very long spiral horns, which, however, exist only in the male animals. These latter antelopes represent " solitary " species, that is, they are generally found living in detached pairs, or as solitary individuals. A related species to the koodoo has been described under the name of Antilope Doria.

The pigmy antelopes present examples of singular mem-bers of the family, in that they are of exceedingly diminutive size. The Guevei (Antilope [or Cephalolophus] pygmcea) presents two well-marked varieties, and one female speci-men of the smaller variety scarcely exceeded the dimensions of a large rat. The gueveis occur on the Guinea Coast, but are also occasionally found at the Cape of Good Hope. The bush antelope (Cephalolophus sylvicultrix), inhabiting the districts around Sierra Leone, is also of a smaller size than the more typical antelopes, and is nearly related to the preceding forms. The harnessed antelope (Antilope scripta) (Plate II. fig. 1), so named from the white stripes with which its body is encircled, has been described as occurring in Senegal.

The eland or impophoo (Boselaphus Oreas) is one ot the largest of the antelopes, and is ox-like in its general pro-portions and appearance. The horns are straight and erect, and the breast possesses a " dew-lap " or tuft. It inhabits the flat lands of Southern Africa. Allied to the elands, but of smaller size, we find the addax (Oryx naso-maculata). Of this species there are several varieties; but the typical form is found in Northern Africa, and is distinguished by the elongated spiral horns.

The gnus of South Africa form connecting links between the antelope and ox families, presenting characters in external aspect which separate them out as singular and somewhat abnormal forms. The gnu proper or wildebeest (Catoblepas Gnu) (Plate IL fig. 5), and the bastard wildebeest (Catoblepas Gorgon), are the two forms included in this genus. The head is bovine in its appear-ance, and to' the ox-like head are added the mane of the horse, the limbs of the stag, and the horns of the buffalo. The horns are possessed by both sexes, and are curved from their broad bases, at first downwards and for-wards, their terminal portions being directed upwards and ' backwards. These animals resemble a small horse in size, and occur in large herds on the flat steppes of Southern Africa, although they appear to be migratory in habits, and to have a wide range in distribution over the southern half of the continent.





Having thus indicated the more familiar of the antelopes inhabiting the great African or central tract of distri-bution of the family, we may next glance at the species found in the other continents. The Chinese antelope (Antilope gutiurosa), or dzerin of the Mongolian Tartars, possesses short, thick horns, directed backwards, divergent, with their points turned inwards. It occurs in the deserts lying between China and Thibet. The chiru (Pantholops Bodgsonii), inhabiting Thibet and the mountainous slopes of the Himalayas, possesses elongated horns of an annulated character, and is besides distinguished by a soft glandular swelling above each nostril. It has an abundant woolly coating; and from the fact of it sometimes appearing with a single horn,—the second horn being rudimentary or un-developed,—the mythical tales of " unicorns " are supposed to have arisen.

The chicara (Tetracerus quadricornis) (Plate II. fig. 4), or four-horned antelope, found in the forests of India generally, and plentifully in Bengal, is of small size, and distinguished by the presence, in the males only, of four horns, the larger pair of which are situated on the upper aspect of the forehead, and are smooth, erect, inclined slightly forwards, divergent, and about three inches long. The smaller horns are situated in front of the first pair, and average in length an inch or more. The nyl ghau (Portax picta) (Plate II. fig. 3), found in Northern India, like its African representative, the gnu, appears to unite in itself the characters of the antelopes and oxen. The native name of the creature, nyl ghau, signifies blue ox, and by the inhabitants of India it is regarded as being an ox, although its true place is undoubtedly among the antelopes. In size the nyl ghau resembles a stag; the tail is tufted; and the horns, occurring in the males only, are curved upwards, and diverge at their extremities. The nyl ghau is susceptible of being partly domesticated, and it has been ascertained to breed freely in a tame state.

The European species of antelope include the chamois (Rupicapra Tragus) (Plate II. fig. 2), and the saiga (Coins or Antiloeapra Saiga). The former is essentially European in its distribution, but the latter extends from Poland and Bussia into Asia. The chamois inhabits the Alps and mountains of Southern Europe, and occurs in small herds. The horns are present in both males and females, and are of small size, and recurved at their extremities. The chamois may be regarded as tending to link the ante-lope type to that of the sheep. The saiga is distinguished by the large size of the horns, and by the peculiar con-formation of the nose, the opening of which is large, and bounded by a soft cartilaginous margin.

The American continent possesses but two representa-tives of the antelope family. These are the so-called Rocky Mountain sheep or goat—a true antelope—and the prong-buck or cabrit of North American regions. The Rocky Mountain sheep or goat (Haplocerus laniger), possessing a coat of long woolly hair, is closely related to the chamois of Europe; and in this form, a3 well as in the prongbuck, the connection between the antelopes and goats may be traced. 1

The prongbuck (Antiloeaprafurcifera oramericana) (Plate I. fig. 6) presents a singular exception to the other members of the antelope family, in the deciduous nature of the sheaths of the horns, which are annually shed and developed. Accessory hoofs are wanting in the prongbuck, and the lachrymal sinuses of other antelopes are undeveloped; as also are the "inguinal pores," or groin-sacs, found in most members of the family, and which secrete a viscid substance, the function of which is undetermined. The females are devoid of horns, and those of the males are branched in front, or are " furcate,"—a conformation of these structures not found in any other member of the antelope family. The chief habitat of the prongbuck appears to be the prairie lands of Central America, and its northern limit would appear to be about the fifty-third degree of north latitude. (A. W.)




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