The name 'antelope' is given to a large group of hoofed mammals with hollow horns, the same group as cattle, goats and sheep. Antelopes come in a variety of shapes and sizes and colours. Some are very small, such as the dik-dik or the royal antelope in Africa, which is about 25 cm high at the shoulder. The largest is the eland (say ee-land), also found in Africa, standing at about 1.8 m high at the shoulder and weighing over 650 kg. Habitat and Distribution (where they are found) About 100 different species, or kinds, of antelope are found in Africa, and a few kinds are found in Asia and North America. No antelopes are native to Australia or New Zealand. Antelopes live in a variety of habitats. Most live on grasslands, such as eland and kudu. Others live: *on mountains, such as the klipspringer; *in wetlands, such as the waterbuck; *in deserts, such as the addax and oryx. Horns All the different kinds of antelope have horns. In some kinds of antelope, only the males have horns. In some kinds of antelope both the males and females have horns. Antelope horns come in a huge variety of sizes and shapes. They can be spiralled, twisted, curved or straight. The largest belong to the male Greater kudu (say koo doo), which has horns that can grow to almost 2 m in length. Whatever the size and shape, the horns grow around two bony stumps on the antelope's skull. The horns are hard and hollow.They are made mostly of keratin, which is what human hair and nails are made of. The horns grow all through the antelope's life, and do not fall off. If an antelope horn breaks, generally through fighting, it does not grow back. Antelopes use their horns for defence against predators. Males also use them when they fight other males to become important in the herd or to court a female antelope. Antelope horns are different from a deer's antlers, which are solid bone and which males shed and re-grow each year. Hooves Antelopes' feet are hooves. Each is split in the middle so they are like two toes. The size of the feet generally depend on habitat. Sitatungas live in swamps and have very wide hooves so they don't slip in the mud. Some, like the Oryx, have wide hooves to stop them sinking in the sand of the deserts where they live. Some antelopes have tiny rounded hooves to help them move in rocky areas. Diet Antelopes are herbivores, or plant eaters. Those sharing a habitat generally eat different plants or different parts of plants so they do not compete with each other for food. Because of the way they digest plants they eat, antelopes are ruminants. Social Behaviour Most kinds of antelope live in herds for safety. Some herds are huge. Some kinds do not live in herds because where they live food is hard to find, so it is easier to find enough food if they are alone or in small groups. Antelopes have excellent senses and are alert in order to look out for predators. Most kinds of antelope are fast runners, and escape predators with great leaps. The fastest can reach speeds of about 95 km per hour. However, antelope species living in arid, or desert, areas do not run as fast as others because they have wide feet for easier movement on the desert sand. The addax and oryx antelopes live in arid deserts. They travel many kilometres in their search for food. They have special features to help them survive in this harsh habitat. They drink very little, but eat at night when it is cooler and the plants are wet with dew. They pass little moisture out of their bodies. To cope with extreme heat, their bodies have a system of cooling the blood before it goes to the brain. Their fur is generally paler on their underside to reflect ground heat away from the stomach.
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