Kisite Mpunguti
November 20, 2022
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The Sable Antelope

What is a sable?

The sable is a rotund, barrel-chested antelope with a short neck, long face, and dark mane. Both males and females boast impressive ringed horns that rise vertically and curve backward. When they arch their necks and stand with their heads held high and tails outstretched, they resemble horses. This flexed-neck position makes sables appear larger than they really are. The males maintain this position even when they gallop, as the arched neck is an important manifestation of dominance.

As they grow older, sables change color. Calves are born reddish-brown, with virtually no markings. As they age, the white markings appear, and the rest of the coat gets darker — the older the animal, the more striking the contrast.


Group social structures change with the seasons.

Generally, this antelope’s social structure is made up of small female herds shepherded by a territorial male during the rainy season and a merging of groups sharing grazing pastures during the dry season.

Males with the best territories have the best mating success. The herds have home ranges that encompass several male territories. Once a female group wanders into a male’s territory, he tries to keep her there, especially if any females are in heat.

Like many other antelopes, sables hide newly born calves.

In some areas, breeding females give birth during a two-month period, the timing of which changes slightly from year to year. When ready to give birth, the female, often in the company of several other pregnant females, leaves the herd and seeks a secluded place in the bush. After birth, she leaves the calf hidden in the tall grass or bush, returning once or twice a day to suckle the infant. After a couple of weeks, when the calf is strong enough, she takes it back to her herd. As the calves obtain adult coloration, the territorial males and the females push the young males from the natal herd. The young females remain, taking their place at the bottom of the hierarchy.

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