Visible Male/Female Differences
Males are larger and more strongly built than females. Male horns are longer
and much heavier.
The penis sheath is prominent and has a dark tip.
Habitat and Distribution
Sables prefer savanna woodland and avoid dense woodland and short grass. They
are dependent on water and rarely
found more than 3 km away from it. Very widely translocated.
They are selective grazers (preferring the greener parts of the plant) and
the preferred feeding height is 4-1 4 cm. Browses in late winter if the
grass is very poor. They eat soil and chews bones to obtain minerals.
Seasonal breeders. Calves weighing 1 3-1 8 kg are born after a gestation of 8-9 months
and they are weaned at 6-8 months. Females leave the herd to give birth, and stay away for about a week. Calves lie hidden
for three weeks and do not try to run even when approached closely. Mothers visit twice
a day to suckle and clean them. When they join the herd, calves form groups with other
calves and go to their mothers only to suckle. Females are
sexually mature at two years and have first calf at three years. They have a lifespan
of at least 10
Behavior and Habits
Sable are most active in the morning, late afternoon and again from 2-3 hours after dark to
midnight and rest in shade during the middle of the day. They wade into the
water and drink at least once a day.
Females and young males of up to 3-4 years old form herds of 15-30, sometimes joining up into
loose groups at the end of the dry season. Herds have home
ranges which overlap the territories of bulls where food is available throughout
the year. Herds move from territory to territory. Older animals are higher
ranking in the herd and young
males are driven out of herds by territorial bulls at 3-4 years old when they join bachelor
herds until they are 5-6 years old. They establish their
own territories. Like gemsbuck, sable defend
themselves against predators by backing into a bush and slashing sideways with their
Mature bulls patrol their territories. They scent-mark with dung, scratching the ground, thrashing bushes with their horns
and breaking off leaves and branches. Status is advertised by a sideways display with neck proudly arched, chin tucked
in, and tail lifted. While a female herd is in his territory a bull follows them
around and herds them enthusiastically.
Bulls viciously fight over territory
and fatalities are not
uncommon. Fights begin when sable have to leave their territories to reach water. At waterholes, sable are very aggressive to other
species (gemsbuck display similar behavior) and
are able to displace other antelope, zebra and even
Bellows when fighting, roars.
Dung and Field sign
Pellets 2 cm long, tapered at one end, hollow at the other, with scratch marks in the
soil produced by territorial bulls. Thrashed bushes.