The roan antelope (hippotragus equinus) is a powerfully built Bovidae with long, sturdy limbs, a thick neck, an upstanding mane, and a beard. Its head is long and narrow with a wide gape, framed by long, tasselled ears.
Named for its colour, roan antelope is reddish grey to reddish brown, with a striking black-and-white facial mask. The sexes look much alike, standing 126–150 cm (50–59 inches) tall, but males are heavier—280 kg (620 pounds) versus 260 kg (570 pounds) for females—and have thicker, sickle-shaped horns 55–99 cm (22–39 inches) long, 10–20 per cent longer than those of females.
The Roan Antelope formerly occurred widely in sub-Saharan Africa’s savannahs, woodlands, and grasslands but has been eliminated from large parts of its former range. The species remains locally common in West and Central Africa, while in East and southern Africa, the traditional antelope strongholds, the species is now rarer.
The antelope species is now locally extinct in Burundi, Eritrea and possibly the Gambia. It was also eliminated from Swaziland and reintroduced to the privately owned Mkhaya Nature Reserve.
Roan antelope are mainly active during the cooler parts of the day, in the morning and evening. They are not typically cautious animals unless persecuted. They can run as fast as 57 km/hour but usually run short distances when disturbed and then look back to investigate the disturbance.
Roan antelope socialise in herds of up to 35 individuals, though herd sizes of 6 to 15 are more common. Typical packs are composed of a single, dominant male and a group of females and their young ones.
A hierarchy exists among the herd’s females, with one dominant female as the leader of the females. Juvenile males are expelled from the herd at about three years, and adolescent females remain with the herd until the herd becomes too large.
If the herd becomes too large, some cows and calves will leave to form a new herd. Expelled juvenile males commonly join to form bachelor herds of 3 to 5 individuals and sometimes as many as 12.
At about 5 to 6 years of age, bachelor herds break up, and those males try to take over a herd of females. The most dominant male of the bachelor group is the first to obtain a herd of females.
Fights break out between males for dominance, but these rarely harm either individual physically (Wildlife Africa CC 2001). Males defend an area of about 300 to 500 meters outward from their herd.
Roan antelope are grazers that prefer leaves over stems and will browse if grazing forage is poor. The preferred feeding height is 15-150 cm, and green shoots are often grazed down to 2 cm.
Roan antelope feed on grasses and other foliage in the morning and evening and retreat to more densely wooded areas during the middle of the day.