It has a rough, reddish sandy coat flecked in white. The head, neck and legs are less flecked and somewhat yellowish, while the inside of the ears, eye-rings, mouth area, throat and underside are white. There is a black "bridge" to the nose and a dark scent gland in front of the eye. It stands only 21" (45–55 cm) at the shoulder and weighs slightly more than 20 pounds (8–12 kg). The short tail of the Cape grysbok measures 4 to 8 cm and is almost invisible. Males have short, sharp and straight horns about 8 cm long, which are smooth. The Cape grysbok can fluff out the fur at its rear end to make itself look bigger.
The Cape grysbok's native habitat is the "Fynbos biome" (Cape Floristic Region), and it inhabits thick shrubland. It can sometimes be found browsing orchards and vineyards. In the Cape Peninsula the grysbok can be found in urban edges close to human activity. It may also be found in reed beds and along the riverbed of the southern Karoo.
The Cape grysbok is probably territorial as sightings are mostly of individual animals. It is a browser. It can apparently go without drinking water for long periods, gaining most of its requirements from its food. It is primarily nocturnal, though it may be seen during early morning and late evening during the southern winter. Like Sharpe's grysbok they use a communal latrine and mark plants in its vicinity with secretions from their pre-orbital glands.
Lambs are born in the southern summer after a gestation period of about 6 months. They stay hidden and grow fast.
The similar Sharpe's grysbok (Raphicerus sharpei) can be found in south-eastern Africa. The primary physical difference between the two grysboks is that Sharpe's has a pair of "false hooves" above the fetlocks.
Cape grysboks, Raphicerus melaotis, are endemic to South Africa. They inhabit a small range from Zululand to Cape Province.
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
Closely resembling Raphicerus campestris, or steenboks, cape grysboks are small antelopes. These animals are rather stocky, measuring 45 to 55 cm at the shoulder, and weighing between 8 and 23 kg. Straight, needle-like horns of 6.5 to 13 cm are found only on males, which are also darker in color than are females. The pelt is comprized of stiff, wiry hairs. Both adults and young have reddish-brown pelage dorsally, with a red underside and a reddish-yellow throat. White hairs sprinkled along the back, from the nape to the tops of the legs, give these antelopes a grizzled appearance. A dark Y-shaped marking can be found running from the forehead down to the nape of the neck. The ears are large with white radial stripes on the inside. The lateral hooves are very small and sometimes absent and small false hooves are present. Foot glands and pre-orbital glands are present and well developed.
Range mass: 8 to 23 kg.
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger; male more colorful; ornamentation
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Cape grysboks prefer open grassy plains for foraging and thick areas of bush for hiding during the day. They range from arid savannahs to moist reed belts.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; scrub forest
Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural
Grapevine shoots are the preferred diet of Cape grysboks. They also ingest grasses, fruits, and bush and tree foliage. These antelope are reportedly able to survive long periods without water, and some home ranges have no free water in them.
Plant Foods: leaves; roots and tubers; fruit
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )
Cape grysboks are a prey item for a number of large carnivores. They probably have some influence on plant growth through their browsing behaviors.
Because of their small size, grysboks fall prey to many animals. They are hunted by leopards, jackals, crowned eagles, and pythons, as well as humans.
The antipredator behavior of these animals is larely based on their small size. These animals try to hide from predators in vegetation, perhaps in the hopes of going unnoticed. If pursued, they will try to go down a hole, such as those made by aardvarks.
Scent marking is the main form of communication among grysboks. They have very well developed preorbital glands that secrete a sticky, black substance with a distinct odor. However, as mammals, it is likely that there are some other forms of communication. Tactile communication occurs between mates, parents and offspring, and between rivals when fighting. Visual signals, based on body posture, probably are important as well.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Grysboks have lifespans similar to Raphicerus campestris.
No specific breeding season is recorded for grysboks. However, males are reported to be completely intollerant of one another. They fight feircely, and cannot be housed together in captivity. In addition, males are territorial, and mark their territories with dung heaps, scent marks, and urine. Pairs may associate and defend territories together. This indicates that mating is probably polygynous or monogamous.
Young are seen year round, however there is a peak from September through December. One young is born after a six-month gestation. Other details of reproduction and rearing have not been observed but are presumed similar to those of steenboks.
Breeding interval: These animals are probably capable of producing one young per year.
Breeding season: There is no breeding season, but births peak from September through December.
Range number of offspring: 1 (low) .
Average number of offspring: 1.
Average gestation period: 6 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous
Parental care is reported to be similar to that of steenboks. Studies have not been further conducted with grysboks. it is likely that the female nurses, protects, and grooms her offspring. The role of the father in parental care has not been reported.
Parental Investment: no parental involvement; altricial ; pre-fertilization (Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Protecting: Female)
IUCN Red List Threatened Animals 1996 - Conservation dependent
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
There are claims it that grysboks damage crops, however this is not seen as a substantial issue.
Negative Impacts: crop pest
Cape grysbok are a common game animal, with trophy prices ranging from $300 to $900 US dollars. They are hunted with dogs. Although these animals may sometimes be eaten, the meat is reported to be dry and is not highly desired.
Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material
Cape grysboks have very sharp hearing, which helps them remain elusive. They seem to adapt well to the presence of humans, but prefer to inhabit areas with little human development.