Steenbok

© Roger de la Harpe

Name

Steenbok [Raphicerus campestris]

Order

Artiodactyla

Family

Bovidae

Appearance

The steenbok measures about 520 mm at the shoulders, rams with a mass of 9-13 kg and ewes 11-13 kg. Both sexes measure 900 mm in length. They vary from a reddish- to a yellowish-brown in colour and have long, wide ears. Their big brown eyes are met by prominent black preorbital glands, noticeable in both sexes. Rams have slim, upright horns pointing forward.

Steenbok Diet

The steenbok is a browser with a preference for forbs, and is very selective of greens such as flowers, fruits, shoot tips, new leaves and various plants. Its selective feeding habits enable the steenbok to not be dependent on open water sources. During dry months, it rakes and digs (at times digging shoulder-deep) for tubers, roots and bulbs that contain moisture and are high in nutrients.

Steenbok Breeding

After a gestation period of about seven months, a single lamb weighing 1 kg is born. The mother hides her lamb for the first three or four months after birth, only making contact with her young in the early morning and evening for feeding and grooming. During her visits, she eats her young’s dung and drinks its urine to eliminate odours that make it detectable to predators. The breeding period of the steenbok in South Africa has not been clearly defined.

Steenbok Behaviour

Rams and ewes share and defend territory, but are predominantly solitary animals. Rams have been reported to use telephone lines and roads as their territorial lines, marking their boundaries using their dung, urine and secretions from a gland under their chin. The steenbok has excellent hearing abilities. During times of drastic food shortages, they have been known to kill and eat the young of ground birds and feed on carrion.

Steenbok Habitat

The steenbok prefers open savanna with taller grass and thicket to take cover in as its habitat. They also take shelter in aardvark holes, using them to bear their young. This animal will rarely be seen in the rocky areas, mountains, woodlands and forests of South Africa.

Where they are found

The steenbok is widely distributed throughout South Africa and is a rather common species.

Predators

They are preyed upon by the leopard, caracal, cheetah, wild dog, python, martial eagle and hyena.

Spoor Description

The steenbok’s spoor looks similar to that of the oribi’s, but is slightly straighter, wider and bigger.