The Giant Sable Antelope (Hippotragus niger variani) is one of the larger antelopes and a rare sub-species of the Sable Antelope.
These magnificent and graceful antelopes are native and endemic to the region between Cuango and Luando Rivers in Angola, South-Central Africa.
The Giant Sable Antelope is a highly respected animal which may be one of the reasons it survived the long civil war in Angola. These antelopes are protected in nature parks where hunting is forbidden as they are critically endangered. Like its close relative, the Roan, the Sable has a conspicuous mane and this, combined with its horse-like build, have earned them the family name of ‘Hippotragini’, which means ‘horse-goat’. It is estimated that only 1000 Giant Sable Antelopes survive today.
Giant Sable Antelope Description
Male and female Giant Sable Antelopes look almost identical, that is until the antelopes reach 3 years of age when the male turns darker, almost black in color and their curved, ringed horns grow to a huge size and can measure over 165 centimetres. A females horns do not grow as large and only grow to around 142 centimetres. Horns are used as a effective defence against natural predators and in dominance fights.
The female antelopes coat and young antelopes are a chestnut brown/rusty red in color. Giant Sable Antelopes have white underparts and white markings on their faces and on their rumps. These antelopes stand around 120 – 140 centimetres at the shoulder and weigh between 200 and 270 kilograms. Males are slightly larger than females. They have a shaggy mane which extends from between their ears down their neck to their shoulder blades. Sables have long pointed ears around 6 – 7 inches long and a tail measuring 15 – 16 inches long ending in a tuft. They have thick, muscular necks and a compact, powerful body structure.
Giant Sable Antelope Habitat
Giant Sable Antelopes live in wooded savanna and tall grass near water sources. Favoured habitats are where tree shoots, juicy plants and leaves are abundant.
Giant Sable Antelope Diet
Giant Sable Antelopes are herbivores and are specialized browsing animals that feed upon foliage, medium length grass, leaves and herbs particularly those that grow on termite mounds. Tree leaves make up 90% of their diet. They are diurnal animals meaning they are most active in the daylight but they are less active during the hottest part of the day. Sable Antelope have a ruminant digestive system.
Giant Sable Antelope Behaviour
Giant Sable Antelopes live in herds of 10 – 30 individuals, usually females and their young and headed by one male. Giant Sable Antelopes are timid animals like most other antelope species, however, they can become aggressive, particularly males who can become dangerous when approached or attacked. Male antelopes will engage on horn fights, clashing their long horns together while kneeling down on their front legs which enables them to avoid serious injuries making fatalities from these fights rare.
Young Giant Sable Antelopes are preyed upon by hyenas and leopards and adults are threatened by lions. They will run for long distances at 35 miles per hour when being pursued.
Giant Sable Antelope Reproduction
The Giant Sable Antelopes breeding season is seasonal and births coincide with the rainy season. After a gestation period of around 9 months, the female gives birth to a single young. A newborn calf is born with a sandy colored coat which helps it to camouflage. The calf will lie hidden away for at least 10 days while being nursed by its mother.
Young antelopes are weaned at around 8 months and will become sexually mature at between 2 and 3 years. As the calf develops, its coat will darken and it will achieve its status within the herd. The life span of a Giant Sable Antelope is around 17 years.
Giant Sable Antelope Conservation Status
The Giant Sable Antelope is classed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.