Dik diks are tiny antelopes of dainty appearance that are slightly larger than a hare. Even so, they are not the smallest antelopes in Africa, a distinction that goes to the dwarf royal antelope of West Africa. The other very small antelope in Africa is the suni, somewhat smaller than the dikdik.
The five species of dikdik, with the exception of Kirk’s dik dik, are only found in eastern and northeastern Africa. Kirk’s dik dik, which is described here, is one of the most common. It is also found in southwestern Africa.
Females are slightly larger than the males. Only the males have horns, which are small, spikelike and incline backwards.
The head sometimes does not seem to be in proportion to the dainty body. A shaggy crest of hair on the crown, which at times almost obscures the horns, is raised when the animal is alarmed. Dik diks have elongated snouts that look like a little proboscis, or trunk. The nose is mobile with the upper end slightly forked, an interesting adaptation to living in hot, dry climates.
It is enlarged, and the inside passage functions as a blood-cooling mechanism when the bellows like muscles increase the airflow into the nose. The blood is pumped to the nose where airflow and subsequent evaporation cools the blood before it is recirculated to the body. This is just one of several mechanisms the dikdik uses to reduce water loss.
Kirk’s dik dik comes in various shades, ranging from grizzled gray to rusty brown, with lighter underparts of the body. Coloration depends on habitat the drier semi desert areas usually have the paler individuals.
Dik diks have large dark eyes, each surrounded by a white ring. A black spot below the inside corner of each eye contains a preorbital gland that produces a dark sticky secretion. Dik diks insert grass stems and twigs into the gland to mark them with secretions.
Dik diks live in various habitats with good cover and plentiful browse, but without tall herbage. They are known to move to different ranges when grasses grow too high and obstruct their view.
Dik diks live in pairs in fixed territories covering up to 12 acres each. They mark their territory at strategic places along the borders that meet or overlap with other dikdik territories and drop their dung on dung left in their territory by other animals, even elephants. Both males and females help defend the territory and prevent the entry of other females.
The territories are often located in low, shrubby bush along dry, rocky stream beds where there are plenty of hiding places. Dik diks maintain a series of runways through and around the borders of their territories.
Sight, scent and hearing are well-developed, and dik diks are very alert. They know their territories intimately and respond to the alarm calls of other animals. When in danger they tend to hide instead of flee from a predator.
Dik diks live as monogamous pairs in their territories and are almost always accompanied by the latest young. After a fawn is born, the female can become pregnant again within 10 days. Their high-quality browse diet is probably what allows a female to be pregnant and lactate at the same time.
At birth a fawn weighs about 11/2 pounds and spends its first weeks lying out. The mother hides her fawn and comes back to suckle it several times a day, changing the hiding place every few days. At 3 weeks the fawn is feeding on vegetation and is usually weaned between 8 and 10 weeks.
The young dikdik reaches sexual maturity between 6 and 8 months. At this time, or soon after the birth of another fawn, the parents chase it out of the territory. It may pair up with a dik dik that has lost its mate in an established territory, or it may find a young mate and establish a new territory.
Dik diks eat foliage, shoots, fruit and berries. They are nocturnal, therefore feeding mostly at night. They do not need to drink.