Giant Sable Antelope

Giant Sable Antelope

name = Giant Sable Antelope
status = CR
status_system = iucn2.3
trend = down

image_width = 250px
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Mammalia
ordo = Artiodactyla
familia = Bovidae
subfamilia = Hippotraginae
genus = "Hippotragus"
species = "H. niger"
subspecies = "H. n. variani"
trinomial = "Hippotragus niger variani"
trinomial_authority = (Varian, 1916)
The Giant Sable Antelope, "Hippotragus niger variani", also known in Portuguese as the Palanca Negra, is a large, rare subspecies of Sable Antelope native and endemic to the region between Cuango and Luando Rivers in Angola.

There was a great degree of uncertainty regarding the number of animals that survived during the Angolan civil war. In January 2004, a group from the Centro de Estudos e Investigação Científica (CEIC) of the Catholic University of Angola (UCAN), lead by Dr. Pedro vaz Pinto, was able to obtain photographic evidence of one of the remaining herds from a series of trap cameras installed in the National Park of Cangandala, south of Malanje.

The Giant Sable Antelope is held in a great deal of respect by the country and people of Angola. This may be one of the reasons they survived the long civil war. In African mythology, just like other antelopes, they symbolize the vivacity, the velocity, the beauty and the visual sharpness.

The Giant Sable Antelope is evaluated as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.


Both sexes have horns, which can reach 1.5 meters. Males and females are strikingly similar in appearance until they reach three years of age when the males become darker and develop majestic horns. The male antelope weighs an average of 238 kg with a height of 116-142 cm. Females weigh 220 kg and are slightly shorter than males. The horns are massive and more curved in males reaching lengths of 81-165 cm, while females' horns are only 61-102 cm in length. Coloration in bulls is black while females and young are chestnut, except in southern populations where females turn brown-black. Most sable antelopes have white "eyebrows", a rostrum sectioned into cheek stripes, white belly and rump patch. Young under two months typically are light brown and have slight markings.


Like all antelopes they are shy by nature, but they can also be very aggressive. The males can be especially dangerous when hurt, attacked, or approached. In the fights, males avoid some serious injuries by kneeling down on their front legs, and engage in horn wrestling fights. Fatalities from these fights are rare.


They live in forests near the water, where leaves and tree sprouts are always juicy and abundant. It is an endangered species, so it is protected in natural parks, and hunting it is, therefore, forbidden. Typically, sable antelopes are specialized grazers feeding on foliage and herbs, especially those growing on termite mounds. One of the reasons for the declining in antelope numbers could be their very specific feeding pattern. Typically they will feed on tree leaves, which make up to 90 percent of their diet, at heights of 40-140 mm from the ground, taking only the leaf.

Ecology and Behavior

Juvenile Giant Sables are hunted by leopards and hyenas, while adults are only threatened by lions.cite book| last = Ellis| first = Richard| authorlink = Richard Ellis (biologist) | title = No Turning Back: The Life and Death of Animal Species| publisher = Harper Perennial | date = 2004| location = New York| pages = 139| isbn =0-06-055804-0 ] When startled, the antelope normally run for only a short distance before slowing and looking back; however, when they are pursued, they can run at speeds of up to 35 mph for a considerable distance.

Relationship with humans

The Giant Sable is a national symbol of Angola and is portrayed on numerous stamps, banknotes, and even passports of the nation. The Angolan National Football Team is fondly known as the "Palancas Negras" in honor of the antelope.


* Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is critically endangered and the criteria used
* Walker, John Frederick. "A Certain Curve of Horn: The Hundred-Year Quest for the Giant Sable Antelope of Angola". Atlantic Monthly Press. 2002.

External links

* [ ANGOLA: Rare sable antelope survives the war]
* [ Kissama National Park: The Giant Sable of Angola]
* [ BBC News: Search on for Giant Antelope]
* [ Angola Press: Government Partners Sign Memorandum on Sable Antelope Protection]

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