Springbok Predators: Exploring This Antelope’s Hunters

Leave a comment / / Updated on: 25th September 2023

A leopard killing a springbok illustration
A leopard killing a springbok illustration / -asi via Istock

The springbok is a type of medium-sized antelope that can be seen in large groups over the African savanna. 

It serves a niche in the ecosystem that is comparable to that of the deer.

The springbok may look like a deer, but it is a member of the bovid family, like sheep and cows.

Numerous southern African reserves and parks feature the springbok as a major draw for visitors.

Gage Beasley's In-Demand Plush Toys
Gage Beasley’s In-Demand Plush Toys

What Is A Springbok?

A jumping springbok
A jumping springbok / DavidPapenfus via Istock

The scientific name for the springbok is Antidorcas marsupialis.

The marsupials of Australia and the Americas have nothing to do with the origins of this name.

It’s derived instead from the Latin term marsupium, meaning “pocket.” It references the skin flap that the springbok wears down its back.

The springbok is the only remaining member of the Antidorcas genus; however, numerous species have been discovered in the fossil evidence.

Three distinct subspecies of springboks are known, each corresponding to a distinct area of the world.

Size and appearance differences between these subspecies allow for easy separation.

The springbok is a tiny, antelope-like animal with a rusty brown color on top and a white underbelly.

A springbok takes a breather
A springbok takes a breather | Cameron Oxley via Unsplash

A dark brown line divides the coloration of their top portion from that of their undersides along each flank.

Their heads are white, and a dark brown band extends out of each eye to the top of their lips. Their ears are long and slender with a pointy tip.

The average size of a springbok is that of a big dog. At the most, they may be 3 feet tall at the shoulders and weigh around 100 pounds.

The head’s overall height is increased by between 14 and 19 inches due to the ringed horns.

Both sexes seem the same; however, males often have bigger horns and bodies.

Fleeing springbok in the Etosha National park in Namibia | CarGe via iStock

Like other antelopes, the springbok has a long, lean body, skinny legs, a V-shaped head, large ears, and massive, ringed horns that curl outward and inwards like a stethoscope.

Unlike deer antlers, which are shed annually, these horns never fall off because they are made of keratin, the same protein that makes up hair and fingernails.

The crease easily identifies springboks in their skin that run from their middle back to their tail.

A crest of white hair is shown when this fold is opened during moments of heightened agitation.

When closed, however, the crest is hidden from sight.

What Do Springboks Eat?

A group of Springboks eating
A group of springboks eating | Leon Pauleikhoff via Unsplash

The springbok is a herbivore that relies solely on plant material like grasses and flowers.

The springbok, as with other bovids, has a multi-chambered gut to help it digest the tough plant matter in its diet.

However, depending on the season, it will either graze or browse for food. Their grass consumption increases during the rainy season.

However, during the dry months, they rely on blooming plants as a source of food and water.

Springboks get so much water from their diet that they may sometimes go their whole lives without ever needing to drink from a spring, river, or any other big source of water.

What Are The Known Predators Of The Springbok?

Some creatures often choose antelopes, like the springbok, as a meal. Here are some of them.


The graceful lion
The graceful lion | jean wimmerlin via UNsplash

Antelopes are a common source of nutrition for lions as they devour them as food.

Despite this, large cats like this are not recognized for their speed.

Springboks can run up to roughly 85 to 90 kilometers per hour, which is far faster than the typical maximal speed of a lion, which is around 80 kilometers per hour.

However, to compensate for this, lions have devised two different hunting strategies: either they trail their target and lay in ambush for them, or they conceal themselves in bushes near water and wait for them there.

In most cases, the lion’s patience makes the difference between a successful kill and an unsuccessful one.

This is compounded by the fact that antelopes tend to repeat the mistakes that caused them to lose members of their herd in the first place.


A hyena on the hunt
A hyena on the hunt | Brendan Greenway via Unsplash

Hyenas are capable of hunting prey either alone or in small groups.

If they are pursuing and want to hunt buffalo or zebra, they may dispatch a force consisting of eleven warriors.

On the other hand, a lone hyena is capable of hunting springbok and other animals of a similar size.

Despite this, they frequently opt to hunt springbok as part of a group. They will do this by charging the herd and scattering the animals within it.

Once the herd is in a state of panic and is rushing in every direction, the hyenas will halt whatever they’re doing and investigate.

After that, it will zero down on a single prey item, typically a sick, elderly, young, or weak straggler.

After that, it pursues them until it can bring them down by giving them a clean bite to the stomach.


A leopard watches on
A leopard watches on | Bob Brewer via Unsplash

One of the reasons why springboks can never relax, not even during the night, is because of leopards.

When hunting prey such as antelope, these fearsome cats like to stay hidden and ambush their victims in the cover of the night, most likely because they only reach top speeds of about 60 kilometers per hour.

They have an excellent sense of hearing and eyesight, which gives them an advantage while hunting, but their sense of smell is not among their strong points.

Once the leopard has focused on a prospective new meal, it will use its retractable claws to swipe and latch at the animal to pull it down to an area where it can successfully and safely deliver a last bite to the throat.


Cheetah ready to zoom | Rodrigo Ardilha via Unsplash

Cheetahs, in contrast to leopards, often hunt during the daytime.

They are capable of reaching top speeds of up to 100 kilometers per hour when they sprint, which allows them to overtake even the quickest springbok easily.

A cheetah will stalk its prey from a distance and look for those unable to run as quickly due to old age, youth, or injury.

The cheetah chases after its prey without showing any fear and almost always succeeds in bringing it down.

However, it cannot prevail against the springbok in a contest of endurance.

If a cheetah fails to pounce on its prey at the first opportunity, it will be beaten back.

How Can A Springbok Defend Itself?

A black-backed Jackal being chased by springbok at Ozonjuitji m'Bari Waterhole in Etosha National Park, Namibia
A black-backed Jackal being chased by springbok at Ozonjuitji m’Bari Waterhole in Etosha National Park, Namibia / Moonstone Images via Istock

Unfortunately, a springbok does not have much to defend itself.

They have their speed, which, as mentioned above, can outrun most of their predators.

They also practice pronking as an additional means of self-protection.

The term “pronking” comes from the Afrikaans tongue and means “to show off.”

The springbok performs this leaping move when they leap up to 11 feet above the ground with its legs tensed, back arched, head down, and flap expanded to expose the crest of hair.

African springbok caught while jumping
African springbok caught while jumping | m.p.imageart via iStock

It is not entirely clear why they participate in this activity; nevertheless, the most widely accepted explanation is that the springbok is either sounding the alarm or trying to divert an approaching predator’s attention.

This gives the other springboks ample time to get away before catching them.

They also have a propensity for traveling in huge herds, which increases the odds of individual survival.

When migrating, springbok used to travel in herds that were more than a million strong at a time.

This phenomenon was referred to as a “trek” or a “trekbokking.”


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