Sable- Hippotragus niger

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Damara Dik-dik - Madoqua kirkii | Oribi - Ourebia ourebi | Suni - Neotragus moschatus | Grysbok - Raphicerus melanotis | Sharpe's Grysbok - Raphicerus sharpii | Klipspringer - Oreotragus oreotragus | Blue Duiker - Philancomba monticola | Red Duiker - Cepholophus natalensis | Common Duiker - Sylvicapra grimmia | Steenbok - Raphicerus campestris | Bushbuck - Trogelophus scriptus | Blesbok - Damaliscus dorcas phillipsi | Bontebok- Domaliscus dorcas dorcas | Reedbuck - Redunca arundinum | Mountain Reedbuck - Redunca fulvorufula | Grey Rheebuck- Pelea capreolus | Springbuck - Antidorcas marsupialis | Impala - Aepyceros melampus melampus | Blue Wildebeest - Connochaetes taurinus | Black Wildebeest - Connochaetes gnu | Tsessebe - Domaliscus lunatus | Gemsbuck - Oryx gazella | Red Hartebeest - Alcelaphus buselaphus | Lichtenstein's Hartebeest - Sigmoceros lichtensteinii | Sable- Hippotragus niger | Roan - Hippotragus equinus | Puku - Kobus vardonii | Waterbuck - Kobus ellipsiprymnus | Red Lechwe - Kobus leche | Nyala - Tragelaphus angasii | Sitatunga - Tragelaphus spekei | Kudu - Tragelaphus strepsiceros | Eland - Taurotragus oryx | Buffalo - Syncerus caffer


Afrikaans Swartwitpens Zulu Mpalampale Tswana Kwalata
Shangaan Mhalamhala
Shona Mharapara
R.W. Min 41" Max 60"
S.C.I Min 100" Max 124" Measurement Method 1

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F 14
H 11

Distribution Dung
2 cm
Sometimes clustered
Scrape marks
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 years.

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 horns.

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 buffalo cows.


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.


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