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The term antelope is used to refer to a number of species of ruminant artiodactyls—i.e., multiple-stomached, cud-chewing, even-toed hoofed mammals—that are indigenous to most of Africa, India, the Middle East, Central Asia, and a small area of Eastern Europe.

Quick facts: Antelope, Scientific classification, Groups i...
Blackbuck antelope of India
Blackbuck antelope of India
Scientific classificationEdit this classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Infraorder: Pecora
Family: Bovidae
Groups included
Cladistically included but traditionally excluded taxa
A bull sable antelope among the trees in the African savanna

The term "antelope" is a wastebasket taxon and is defined as comprising any of numerous Old World grazing and browsing hoofed mammals belonging to the family Bovidae of the order Artiodactyla.[1]

A stricter definition, also known as the "true antelopes," includes only the genera Gazella, Nanger, Eudorcas, and Antilope.[2] One North American mammal, the pronghorn or “pronghorn antelope”, is colloquially referred to as the "American antelope", despite the fact that it belongs to a completely different family (Antilocapridae) than the true Old-World antelopes; pronghorn are the sole extant member of an extinct prehistoric lineage that once included many unique species, some with elaborately spiraling horns, and some with shorter ossicones—hence their true connection to the giraffe and okapi.

Although antelope are sometimes referred to, and easily misidentified as, “deer” (cervids), true deer are only distantly related to antelope. While antelope are found in abundance in Africa, only one deer species is found on the continent—the Barbary red deer of Northern Africa. By comparison, numerous deer species are usually found in regions of the world with fewer or no antelope species present, such as throughout Southeast Asia, Europe and all of The Americas. This is likely due to competition over shared resources, as deer and antelope fill a virtually identical ecological niche in their respective habitats. Countries like India, however, have large populations of endemic deer and antelope, with the different species generally keeping to their own “niches” with minimal overlap.

Unlike deer, in which the males sport elaborate head antlers that are shed and regrown annually, antelope horns are bone and grow steadily, never falling off. If a horn is broken, it will either remain broken or take years to partially regenerate, depending on the species.[3] Regarding antelope with single (or missing or damaged) horns, these animals have spawned theories surrounding the legend of the unicorn—a purportedly magical equid with a single horn growing from its forehead—with written accounts found in several literary traditions, ranging from East Asia to Western Europe. Some scholars and scientists have speculated that the legend began with an ancient group of humans, who were witnessing what was actually a species of oryx that was missing a horn, thus giving the impression of a one-horned “horse”; the theory is not so far fetched, as when an antelope such as a gemsbok or scimitar-horned oryx is viewed from the side, the two horns appear as one single horn, possibly giving rise to unicorn legends throughout history.