Roan antelope occur from south Sahara to Botswana. Two subspecies, H. equinus kobc and H. equinus bokeri, occupy the northern savannah of Africa from Chad to Ethiopia. The other two subspecies, H. equinus equinus and H. equinus cottoni, are located in the southern savannah of Africa in south and central Africa. (Knowles 2000)
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
Roan antelope are the second largest antelope species. Their pelage is grayish-brown with a hint of red. The legs are darker than the rest of the body. Young roan antelope are much lighter and reddish-brown. The head is dark brown or black, with white around the mouth and nose, large white patches in front of the eyes and pale patches behind them. The ears are long and narrow, with dark brown hair at the tips. Roan antelope have a mane consisting of short stiff hair that is black at the tips. The tail has a brush of black hair at the tip. Horns in both sexes rise from the top of the head and sweep backwards in an even curve, ridged almost to the tips and are often described as scimitar-shaped. Females have two pairs of teats between their hind legs. Males are larger and built more sturdily than females, with longer, thicker horns. The penis sheath is clearly visible. Males weigh from 260-300 kg. Females weigh from 225-275 kg. Males are from 150-160 cm high at the shoulder and females range from 140-160 cm in shoulder height. (African Hunting Adventures 2001, Grzimek 1960)
Range mass: 225 to 300 kg.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Roan antelope are found in lightly wooded savanna with medium to tall grass and must have access to water (Wildlife Africa CC 2001).
Habitat Regions: tropical
Habitat and Ecology
Roan antelope are grazers that prefer leaves over stems. They will browse if grazing forage is poor. The preferred feeding height is 15-150 cm and green shoots are often grazed down to a height of 2 cm. Roan antelope feed grasses and other foliage in the morning and evening hours and retreat to more densely wooded areas during the middle of the day. (Schuette 1998)
Plant Foods: leaves
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )
Roan antelope are important in nutrient cycling in the savannah ecosystems in which they live. They also serve as important prey species for their predators.
Roan antelope live in small herds and will fight aggressively when threatened. Healthy adults are likely to be relatively invulnerable to predation but young, ill, and elderly individuals will be taken by large predators such as lions, hyenas, and African hunting dogs.
- lions (Panthera leo)
- leopards (Panthera pardus)
- spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta)
- African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus)
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Roan antelope may live up to 17 years in the wild.
Status: wild: 17 (high) years.
Status: captivity: 17.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Dominant males mate with the females in their herd and actively defend access to those females. Males fight among themselves for positions as dominant males with a herd of females. These fights can be ferocious but rarely result in death. Males fight with their scimitar-shaped horns.
Mating System: polygynous
Roan antelope do not seem to have a distinct breeding season. Females go into estrus 2 to 3 weeks after giving birth and seem to be capable of having young every 10 to 10.5 months. A single calf is born after a gestation period of 260 to 281 days. Female roan antelope become reproductively active after they reach 32 to 34 months of age (African Hunting Adventures 2001). They leave the herd for about one or two weeks before giving birth. After giving birth they return to the herd during the day and leaves the newborn in hiding for the day. They returns to the calf at dusk and spends the night with it. Calves stay hidden for about four or five weeks after birth and join the herd after they are strong enough to outrun danger (Wildlife Africa CC 2001). 2001).
Breeding season: Breeding and births can occur throughout the year.
Range number of offspring: 1 (low) .
Average number of offspring: 1.
Range gestation period: 8.67 to 9.37 months.
Average gestation period: 9.13 months.
Average weaning age: 6 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2-6 years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2-6 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous
Average birth mass: 15167 g.
Average number of offspring: 1.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
Sex: male: 814 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 730 days.
Female roan antelope nurse and care for their young in a protected area until the young are strong enough to join the herd.
Parental Investment: altricial ; precocial ; female parental care ; post-independence association with parents
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Hippotragus equinus
Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.
Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Hippotragus equinus
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
Listed by IUCN as lower risk, conservation dependent and is on CITES Appendix III in Ghana. Roan antelope have declined drastically in recent years as a result of habitat deterioration, hunting and poaching, agricultural encroachment, and have been slaughtered deliberately in tsetse fly control efforts.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix iii; no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Density estimates are summarized by East (1999) and Chardonnet and Crosmary (in press). Overall population trend is generally stable or decreasing in protected areas and decreasing elsewhere, apart from the small numbers on private land in southern Africa which are increasing.
Different explanations have been provided for the decline of Roan and its lack of subsequent recovery in the Kruger N.P. in South Africa (450 animals in 1986 to around 30 in 2001; Harrington et al. 1999; Grant et al. 2002). The most likely reason is increased predation pressure following the influx of grazers from artificial waterpoints (Knoop and Owen-Smith 2006).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
There are no negative affects of roan antelope on humans.
Roan antelope were hunted in the past for their meat and for sport. They are declining in numbers and hunting is now illegal. They attract ecotourism activities as well (Benedetti 2001).
Positive Impacts: food ; ecotourism
The roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus) is a savanna antelope found in West, Central, East and Southern Africa. It is the namesake of the Chevaline project, whose name was taken from the French Antelope Chevaline.
Roan antelope are one of the largest species of antelope. They measure 190–240 cm (75–94 in) from the head to the base of tail and the tail measures 37–48 cm (15–19 in). The body mass of males is 242–300 kg (534–661 lb) and of females is 223–280 kg (492–617 lb). The shoulder of this species is typically around 130–140 cm (51–55 in). Named for their roan colour (a reddish brown), they have lighter underbellies, white eyebrows and cheeks and black faces, lighter in females. They have short, erect manes, very light beards and prominent red nostrils. The horns are ringed and can reach a metre long in males, slightly shorter in females. They arch backwards slightly.
They are similar in appearance to sable antelope and can be confused where their ranges overlap. Sable antelope males are darker, being black rather than dark brown.
Roan antelope are found in woodland and grassland savanna, mainly in the tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome, which range in tree density from forest with a grassy understorey (such as central Zambezian Miombo woodlands) to grasslands dotted with few trees, where they eat midlength grasses. They form harem groups of five to 15 animals with a dominant male. Roan antelope commonly fight among themselves for dominance of their herd, brandishing their horns while both animals are on their knees.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hippotragus equinus.|
- IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2008). Hippotragus equinus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved November 2008.Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of Least concern.
- "Roan Antelope". World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Retrieved 2014-04-14.
- ANIMAL BYTES – Roan Antelope. Seaworld.org. Retrieved on 2013-10-10.
- Burnie D and Wilson DE (Eds.), Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife. DK Adult (2005), ISBN 0789477645
- Roan antelope videos, photos and facts – Hippotragus equinus. ARKive (2011-06-28). Retrieved on 2013-10-10.