Blesbok Blesbok


Scientific Classification

Common Name
Artiodactyla; more recently Cetartiodactyla
Genus Species
Damaliscus (heifer, young cow) dorcas (antelope) phillipsi(scientific explorer)
Two well-differentiated subspecies are recognized: the Blesbok D. p. phillipsi and the Bontebok D. p. pygargus. The two have been considered as separate species by some authorities.

Fast Facts

The blesbok is a medium-sized antelope with a prominent white blaze on the face. There is a horizontal brown stripe dividing that blaze above the eyes. Their body is brown with a lighter colored saddle and rump. The legs are brown with a white patch behind the top part of the front legs. The lower legs are white in color.
85 to 100 cm (34 to 40 in.)
Male:  65 to 80 kg (143 to 176 lbs.)
Female: 55 to 70 kg (121 to 154 lbs.)
Almost exclusively grazers, with a preference for short grass; water is an essential habitat requirement
240 days; births peak during November and December. Females give birth to single calves.
Sexual Maturity
2.5 years; The blesbok is a seasonal breeder. The rams and ewes look very similar. Rutting occurs from March to May
Life Span
Up to 17 years
Historically confined to the coastal plain of the Western Cape in South Africa. The blesbok has been introduced widely to privately owned game farms outside its natural range in Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe
This species is highly characteristic of the open plateau grasslands of the southern African highveld up to 2,000 m (6,500 ft.).
Global: reasonably abundant in both formal conservation areas and on private land. The population is stable and possibly increasing, and there does not appear to be any major threats to its long-term survival.

In 1999, a blesbok population assessment estimated that there were at least 235,000 to 240,000 individuals. Of those, 97% occurred on private farms and 3% in protected areas, (East 1999).
Current estimates put the numbers of bontebok subspecies at around 3,500.
IUCN: Least concern
CITES: Appendix II for bontebok subspecies only
USFWS: Subspecies, bontebok is Endangered

Fun Facts

  1. The common name is a derivative of the Afrikaans words for blazed antelope, which is in reference to the white blaze found on their face.
  2. Smaller relatives of the wildebeest, blesbok populations have rebounded after being hunted to near extinction during the European colonization of southern Africa.
  3. They graze on medium to tall grasses and migrate to follow the rains. Females give birth to usually a single calf early in the summer.
  4. Blesbok calves differ from most other small or medium antelope species by staying with their mothers instead of hiding.
  5. Males and females both have horns, ringed almost to the tip. Female horns are slightly more slender.

Ecology and Conservation

By eating grasses, Blesbok keep the grasslands trim, spawning new growth. They are food for larger predators. Their numbers suffer due to habitat loss and pelt trade. In addition, encroachment and competition with domestic livestock are a constant threat.

The blesbok is closely related to the bontebok. Historically, the distributions of these two species did not overlap. Interbreeding has been documented.

The blesbok was once one of the most abundant antelope species of the African plains, but they have become scarce since the 19th century due to relentless hunting for their skins and meat.


Estes, R.D. The Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals. Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing Co. 1993.

Gotch, A.F. Mammals-Their Latin Names Explained. Poole, U.K.: Blandford Press Btd. 1979.

Nowak, Ronald M. Walker's Mammals of the World Fifth Ed.. Vol. II. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1991.

Parker, Sybil P. ed. Grzimeks Encyclopedia: Mammals. Vol. 5. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Co. 1990.

Lloyd, P. & David, J. 2008. Damaliscus pygargus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T30208A9530977. Downloaded on 05 October 2018.

Kruger National Park – Blesbok Species Profile Page. Downloaded on 05 October 2018.