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An Ultimate Ungulate Fact Sheet
Pelea capreolus
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Common name:
Scientific name:
Other names:
Pelea capreolus
Vaal rhebuck, ribbok

Physical Characteristics

Head and body length: 105-125 cm
Shoulder height: 70-80 cm
Tail length: 10-20 cm
Adult weight: 18-30 kg

The dense, woolly coat of the rhebok is gray with whitish underparts, and lacks any distinguishing markings. The legs and head tend to be more fawn in color than the body, and the fronts of the lower legs are often darker. The tail is bushy with a fluffy white underside. The patch of black bare skin at the nose (rhinarium) is extremely enlarged in the rhebok, and contrasts with white hairs on the muzzle. The eyelids are black and the eyes are surrounded by whitish hairs. The ears are extremely long and narrow and stand straight up. Only males have horns; these are straight and slender and rise vertically from the forehead, growing to 20-29 cm in length.

Similar species
  • Mountain reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula) are similarly-sized and are found in the same habitat; their ears are much shorter than those of the rhebok, and the horns have a distinct forwards hook.

Reproduction and Development

Gestation period: 7 months.
Litter size: 1.
Weaning: 6-8 months.
Sexual maturity: Females by 16 months, males at 18-24 months.
Life span: 8-10 years.

Rhebok breed seasonally; most mating activity occurs in the summer or autumn, but this varies by region. Births in western South Africa are usually in August, and in eastern South Africa occur between November and February. Infants lie hidden in grassy cover for their first three weeks, and by six weeks are fully mobile.

Ecology and Behavior

Rhebok are active throughout the day and night, spending about 55-60% of their time foraging or moving. Rest usually occurs in open areas rather than in cover. When traveling, a female will usually lead the herd, with the harem male bringing up the rear. Males are very protective of their herds, and defend an exclusive territory of approximately 0.6 km2 that is marked with dung. Used fully during the winter, only a portion of this territory is used in the summer. Encounters between males involve chasing and stabbing with their sharp horns. While running, the rhebok has a distinct rocking gait.
Family group: Harem groups of up to 12-15 animals, with 1 male, 1-6 females, and their offspring. Other males are solitary.
Diet: Leaves from shrubs and ground-level forbs. Flowers, roots, and seeds may be eaten if present, and small amounts of grass are eaten year-round.
Main Predators: Lion, leopard, hyena, Cape hunting dog, python, jackal.

Habitat and Distribution

Montane grasslands at elevations of 1,400-3,300 m in South Africa. The approximate range is depicted in the map below.

Range Map
(from Kingdon, 1997)

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List: Least Concern (2008)
CITES Listing: Not listed.
Threats: Poaching and feral dogs.

Approximately 10,000-18,000 rhebok are thought to survive in the wild, and these numbers appear stable. Because they live in rugged habitats, they are less susceptible to habitat loss than other ungulates. This is the most common ungulate in Lesotho.

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