Sable Antelope – Zimbabwe’s National antelope

Sable Antelope – Zimbabwe’s National antelope

A large jet-black male sable antelope with massive, curved horns, sweeping over his shoulders is one of the most striking sights of the Zimbabwean bush.

Big territorial males, their white face markings and belly contrasting starkly with the black coat, are often seen alone, while the smaller females, which are usually a chestnut-brown, live in herds of up to 20, although much larger aggregations have been recorded. Young males also form bachelor herds.

The male’s long horns, some of which exceed 120 cm (4ft 2in) from base to tip, can be used as formidable weapons against lions and other predators. They can weigh up to 270 kg (600lbs) and stand 1.4 m (4ft 7 inches) at the shoulder.

Although smaller with shorter horns the females are also very capable of defending themselves.

The sable, Zimbabwe’s national antelope, are often seen in the Hwange, Kazuma Pan and Zambezi National Parks although they also occur elsewhere in the country.

Sable antelope are generally found in savanna woodlands where they feed primarily on grass, but also browse on leaves and new shoots on trees.

Sable only occur in southern and south-eastern Africa although there is a small and critically endangered population of Giant sable, one of the five subspecies, in central Angola.

References and further reading:
The Complete Book of Southern African mammals – edited by Gus Mills and Les hex.
Mike Cadman

Mike has worked as a journalist for a variety of international and local media organisations as well as environmental NGO’s for the past 38 years and is the author of five books. During his career, he has covered all major news developments in southern Africa and has travelled extensively throughout many parts of the continent. He spends as much time as possible in the bush and has extensive knowledge of broader environmental issues as well as the creatures that live there.