Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi
The blesbok (Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi) is an African antelope species natively found only in South Africa. Historically their range occupied the central part of South Africa including the Eastern Cape, Free State, southern regions of the former Transvaal Province, and KwaZulu-Natal. They were also found in eastern Lesotho, west of the Maluti Mountain range.
Blesboks have a very distinctive feature, their unmistakable white face, and forehead, usually with a horizontal brown strip dividing it just above the eyes. It's this feature which inspires their common name since "bles" in Afrikaans refers to the blaze found on the horse's forehead.
Although male and female blesbok are very similar physically, males are a bit more robust and heavier than females. Blesboks have a reddish-brown body coloration which becomes darker down on the flanks and buttocks. On the other hand, their belly, the area around the tail, the lower parts of legs and inner part of buttocks are white.
Males weigh about 66 to 80 kg while blesbok females reach only 58 to 64 kg. Their body length ranges from 140 to 160 cm with a shoulder height of about 85 to 100 cm. They have a fairly long tail measuring from 30 to 45 cm.
Even though both males and females have horns, in males the horns are usually longer and thicker than those found on females. Their horns have rings from the base almost to the tip of the horn.
These antelopes are preyed upon by many of the great African predators. Adults fall prey to lions, spotted hyenas, leopards, African wild dogs and even large snakes such as the African rock python.
While younger blesboks may be killed by smaller animals like eagles or while jackals.Their average lifespan in the wild is around 17 years.
The blesbok lives in small herds consisting of 10 to 25 animals, with mature males protecting the females and young within the group. These herds usually occupy a territory of 2 or 3 acres but it can be as large as 6 acres.
Blesbock males mark their territory using piles of dung. Bachelor herds, consisting of younger males live on undefended territory. Blesboks are usually shy and alert creatures relying on their speed and endurance to escape most predators.
But they will normally return to the place of the attack very quickly sometimes after just a few minutes. They aren't very good jumpers or crawlers but they can sustain speeds of 70 km/h (43 mph) if chased.
Like all antelopes, the Blesbok is a herbivore animal or plant-eater. They are grazers with a diet that includes various types of grass, although they show a preference for shorter grass.
The blesbok is diurnal and spends most of the morning and afternoon grazing, resting during the hotter parts of the and evening. Unlike other African antelopes such as the steenbok, they need a source of water to drink.
The blesbok mating season or rut occurs from March to May. The Blesbok females will give birth to a single calf in each breeding season. After a gestation period of about 8 months, the calves are born. Females don't leave the herd to give birth, unlike other antelope species found in Africa.
Most births occurring during November and December in the beginning of the summer rainy season when food more is abundant. The calves are usually born in a high grass area and must accompany their mothers from birth, they can run just 30 minutes after birth.
They are not hidden for the first weeks of their life like other African antelope species do like the common waterbuck. This adaptation where the young must follow the herd almost immediately is only found in wildebeest species like the blue wildebeest.
The young have pale beige to cream coloration, and young males will leave their mother after the next offspring is born within a year. While young females remain with the female as a member of the herd leaving only at about 2 years old.
They reach sexual maturity at an age of about 2.5 years. The blesbok and bontebok (Damaliscus pygargus dorcas) are very close relatives and on occasion they interbreed, with the resulting offspring known as baster blesbok or bontebles.
Blesbok Conservation status and major threats
The blesbok was hunted nearly to extinction in the late 19th century, but since it was protected it proliferated. Today the blesbok is listed as "Least Concern" species by the IUCN.
They are reasonably abundant in both conservation areas and on private lands and the population is considered stable or even increasing. There aren't any apparent major threats to the blesbok long-term survival. The blesbok subspecies is not listed in CITES.
Species: D. pygargus
Subspecies: D. p. phillipsi