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Rarely seen creatures of Africa – The Tsessebe antelope

Tsessebe antelopes.

The name for tsessebe antelopes comes from the Tswana name for the species – tshesebe. These antelopes are also known as topi’s. 

Being darkish red brown in colour with a slight purple sheen over its coat, along with a distinctive hump on their back and a long narrow face, the tsessebe antelope is rather peculiar looking.

This large buck is the fastest of all antelope found in Africa being able to run up to speeds over 80km/h. The females weigh in at 126kg with their male counterparts at 140kg. These antelope’s horns usually grow 37 to 40 cm’s, with a record length measured of 47cm.

They are found to be living on the plains of African countries from Angola, Zambia and Namibia to Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa. In the rainbow nation of South Africa, they are restricted to the northern parts of the country within the Kruger National Park as well as provincial and private game reserves. 

Tsessebe’s enjoy a life in a lightly wooded area or grassland and take up home in territories within 5km away from a water source such as floodplains or lakes. 
Bull tsessebe checking the surroundings. 

These antelopes are social animals living in breeding groups of six to ten cows with their young or larger herds of up to 30 territorial bulls. When a young males turns one they are banished from the herd and go onto form bachelor herds with other young bulls.

Males show their territorial dominance by scraping the ground with their hooves using their inter-digital glands on their front hoof or rubbing the sides of their faces on the ground. Both males and females mark their territories with their pre-orbital glands.

Territorial males stand on higher ground such as termite mounds to investigate their surroundings. When danger is upon them they hurry away with their herd members stopping to look back at how far away their hunter is.

These antelopes doze in small groups standing up with their heads bobbing up and down. However when they are fully exhausted they lie down on their chests resting their mouths on the ground.
A female tsessebe with her calve.


Tsessebe antelopes are considered to be fussy eating herbivores grazing on a variety of only the freshest of grass or browsing on leaves and not eating the stems. They love burnt areas because of the fresh growth of new plants coming to life to eat.


They mate during the late summer months of February through to March, and the females give birth to one calve, seven months later. When the bulls are interested in a female they put on an extravagant show by parading in front of them, high stepping and pointing their noses in the air.
Did you know?

Their numbers are declining in the wild.

They defecate regularly as a territorial marking.

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