Sable Antelope Sable Antelope
Sable Antelope

Scientific Classification

Common Name
sable antelope
Genus Species
Hippotragus (goat-like horse) niger (dark colored)

Fast Facts

Male: Male sable antelopes are glossy black except for white markings on their face and belly. They have a tufted tail and a slight mane and long horns that strongly curve backwards.
Female: Females are reddish brown with smaller and less heavily ridged horns than males.
Male:  Shoulder height about 1.5 m (4.95 ft.)
Female: Shoulder height about 1.3 m (4.29 ft.)
Male: Approximately 235 kg (517 lbs.)
Female: Approximately 220 kg (484 lbs.)
Grazers – diet includes grasses, herbs, and foliage
Gestation lasts approximately 9 months
Sexual Maturity
About 2.5 years
Life Span
Up to 18 years
Southern Kenya, eastern Tanzania, and Mozambique to Angola and Southern Zaire (Miombo Woodland Zone)
Inhabits savanna woodlands and grasslands during the dry season
Global: Unknown
IUCN: Lower Risk/Conservation Dependent
CITES: Species not listed; subspecies H. n. variani is listed as Appendix I
USFWS: Species not listed; subspecies H .n. variani is listed as Endangered

Fun Facts

  1. Sable congregate in herds of 15 to 20 individuals with matriarchal social structure. Within the group, the more dominant female is the leader. There is only one adult male (called a bull) in each herd. The juvenile males are exiled from the herd at about 3 years old.
  2. All the female calves remain. When the herd gets too large, it divides into smaller groups of cows and their young. These groups will form new herds, once again with only one adult bull.
  3. The young males, which have been separated from the herd, associate in "bachelor groups" of up to 12 individuals. Among the bachelors, the most dominant will be the first individual to join a new group of females when the position is open. Very seldom, during their fights for supremacy, are they able to inflict bodily harm to the contender.
  4. If threatened by a predator, including lions, they will confront it, using their scimitar-shaped horns. Many of these big cats have died during such fights.
  5. In Ernest Hemingway's book, The Green Hills of Africa, he describes the habits of sable antelope, which he used to hunt.

Ecology and Conservation

Despite their effectiveness, the sable's horns have contributed to the sharp decline of the animal, being a highly prized hunting trophy. In addition to heavy hunting, numbers have been reduced severely as part of regional Tse-tse fly control programs.

Their grassland habitat is being reduced due to habitat destruction for agricultural development. Antelope are important to their habitats as grazers and browsers. They are also important as prey for carnivores.


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

Parker, Sybil P. Grzimek's Encyclopedia: Mammals. Vol. 5, New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, 1990.

Spinage, C.A. The Natural History of Antelope. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1986