Roan antelope

Common Name: Roan antelope

Scientific Name: Hippotragus equinus

This species usually lives in herds of between 6 and 20 animals, but they sometimes gather in groups of over 100. The herds are comprised of females and their young.

Roan antelope herds are led by one female who the entire herd will follow.

Males leave their herd at about 2 years of age and join bachelor herds. When they are roughly 6 years old they try to establish their own territory.

Males mark their territories with dung. They may fight other males who challenge them.  These fights involve pushing with their horns and forehead, dropping to their knees, whipping their tails, and flicking their ears.

Roan antelope spend the early morning and later afternoon feeding, and the rest of the day ruminating, resting and socializing.

Fast Facts

  • Status

    Least Concern

  • Size

    Head-body: 200-219 cm; shoulder height: 126-145 cm

  • Weight

    Males: 235-300 kg; females: 215-280 kg

  • Gestation

    276-287 days

  • Young


  • Life span

    Up to 25 years.

In the wild

Roan antelope are both grazers and browsers, meaning that they eat grasses and leaves as well as shoots and young twigs. In some of the areas where they live the vast majority of their diet consists of grasses, but in other areas, during the hot and dry season, about half of their diet is browse and about half consists of grasses. Roan antelope sometimes stand in water to feed on aquatic plants.  They often visit salt or mineral licks.

This species used to occur across large areas of sub-Saharan Africa, but now most of these animals are found in West and Central Africa, with smaller numbers occurring in East and Southern Africa. They usually live in wooded savannah and grassland habitats. Although they may be found in semi-arid habitats they need to drink regularly so will nearly always be found close to permanent water sources.

Females leave the main herd a few days before giving birth. The mother returns to the herd after about five days, leaving the newborn calf hidden in thick vegetation for up to six weeks. The calves are well camouflaged and stay very still. The mother goes back to suckle and clean the calf early in the morning and sometimes also at night. Calves are weaned by about six months of age.

The main predators of roan antelope are lions, spotted hyenas, African wild dogs and Nile crocodiles. Leopards and black-backed jackals prey on calves.

Roan antelope have been lost from many of the areas where they used to be found due to poaching and habitat loss. They are now mainly found in or near protected areas, as well as areas that have few people or livestock.

Meet Marwell's Roan antelope

Meet Marwell's Roan antelope

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