Raphicerus campestris [Thunberg, 1811].
Citation: Mem. Acad. Imp. Sci. St. Petersbourg, 3:313.
Type locality: South Africa, Cape of Good Hope.
The taxonomic record (above) is provided by Wilson and Reeder (1993). Over
24 subspecies of the steenbok have been named, although their validity is
questionable. There are, however, two widely-accepted subspecies groups:
R. c. campestris from southern Africa and R. c. neumanni from
east Africa (Kingdon, 1997). Synonyms for Raphicerus campestris include
acuticornis, bourquii, capensis, capricornis, cunenensis, fulvorubescens,
grayi, hoamibensis, horstockii, ibex, kelleni, natalensis, neumanni, pallida,
pediotragus, rupestris, steinhardti, stigmatus, subulata, tragulus, ugabensis,
zukowskyi, and zuluensis (Wilson and Reeder, 1993).
Steenbok, like all dwarf antelope, are petite animals, weighing 7-16 kg and
measuring 70-95 cm in length. Steenbok carry their heads high and have long
legs (in contrast to the crouched stance of small forest antelope such as
), with a shoulder
height between 45 and 60 cm.
|Reported measurements for steenbok
||Head & Body Length
Steenbok have rather coarse pale brown hair, with regional variation from
fawn to bright reddish-brown or even gray over the upper parts (Nowak, 1991;
Kingdon, 1997). The underside of the body, including the insides of the legs
and underside of the tail is white (Nowak, 1991). The pelage is very uniform
in color, with a crisp interface between the brown upper body and white
underparts. The haunches of the steenbok are rounded, although the back is
relatively flat (Kingdon, 1997). The tail is short and thin, and according
to Kingdon (1997) it is not readily visible in the field. There are no dewclaws
present (Nowak, 1991). The general size, shape, and coloration of the steenbok
is similar to the gray duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia
) and oribi (Ourebia
), and this antelope may be mistaken for either species in the
field (Kingdon, 1997).
Steenbok are renowned for their very large ears, which are covered with white
hair on their inside surface (Kingdon, 1997). A black wedge which extends
from the rhinarium and tapers towards the forehead constitutes the only major
facial marking (Walther, 1990; Kingdon, 1997). The small nose is slightly
upturned and naked at the tip (Walther, 1990; Kingdon, 1997). Small preorbital
glands are present just in front of the large dark eyes (Walther, 1990; Kingdon,
1997). The eyes themselves are rimmed with black skin, and then surrounded
by a ring of white hair (Kingdon, 1997).
Males possess a pair of very upright horns - these are never found in females
(Walther, 1990; Kingdon, 1997). The horns are simple spikes which are entirely
smooth, lacking ridges over their entire length (Nowak, 1991; Kingdon, 1997).
The horns may grow 7-19 cm in length (Walther, 1990).
breeds throughout the year, although Walther (1990)
also mentions a peak in births in the months of November and December. The
gestation period is approximately 170 days, or just over 5.5 months (Walther,
1990; Kingdon, 1997). Although females possess four mammae (teats), there
is typically a single young per birth (Walther, 1990). Infants weigh
approximately 0.9 kg at birth and are precocious, able to walk within five
minutes of being born (Walther, 1990; Kingdon, 1997). Despite this advanced
development, steenbok have adopted a "hider" strategy, with the infant remaining
well hidden for two weeks before it begins to follow its mother while she
forages (Kingdon, 1997).
Infants are weaned at approximately 3 months of age (Walther, 1990; Kingdon,
1997). Sexual maturity is reached at the young age of 6-7 months for females,
and after 9 months for males (Walther, 1990; Kingdon, 1997). This early maturity,
coupled with the fact that some females will breed twice per year, may explain
how this species continues to persist in areas with sustained persecution
(Kingdon, 1997). According to Kingdon (1997), the lifespan of the steenbok
is at least seven years, while Walther (1990) suggests that this species
could live until 10-12 years of age.
Steenbok inhabit savannahs in dry climates, often found in lightly wooded
grassland at altitudes from sea level to 4,750 meters (Nowak, 1991; Kingdon,
1997). In South Africa, R. campestris
is typically found in more open
territory, while East African populations favor stony savannah in
-grassland mosaics (Kingdon, 1997). Kingdon (1997) reports that
steenbok are rarely observed in Miombo (Brachystegia
) woodland, and
tend to favor transitional or unstable conditions created by brush-clearance
(either by agriculture, road construction, or elephants). Riverbeds and belts
of thicket provide important sources of refuge when steenbok inhabit open
habitats (Kingdon, 1997).
Due to their small body size, adult steenbok have many different predators,
including leopard, caracal, and pythons (Walther, 1990). In addition, juveniles
are depredated by smaller predators like jackals, the Libyan wildcat, ratel,
baboons, eagles, and monitor lizards (Walther, 1990).
Steenbok are primarily browsers, feeding at or near ground level. Shoots
of most dominant shrub and tree species within their habitat are eaten, including
Acacia, leafwood (Combretum), buffalo thorn (Ziziphus),
Bridelia, and mopane (Colophospermum) (Kingdon, 1997). Fruits
are occasionally consumed, as are sprouts of some grasses during the stages
of early growth. Steenbok will also use their sharp hooves to scrape up selected
roots and tubers (Kingdon, 1997). Water is not essential; steenbok in the
Kalahari subdesert may be found as far as 80 kilometers from a permanent
water source (Kingdon, 1997).
Steenbok are largely diurnal, although in hot weather the activity pattern
will shift to the cooler hours in the early morning and evening (Walther,
1990; Nowak, 1991). The social system of this small antelope appears to be
an independent or solitary existence within a stable pairbond - a pair of
steenbok inhabit a territory of 4-100 hectares in size, but only come together
for breeding (Walther, 1990; Kingdon, 1997). During the female's estrus period,
her partner often becomes quite aggressive (Kingdon, 1997). Observations
reported by Kingdon (1997) suggest that while the members of a pair do not
interact directly for most of the year, routines and scent marks keep the
animals aware of each others movements and positions (Kingdon, 1997). Territories
are marked with dung-middens connected by trails, which, through use, become
marked with secretions from the pedal glands (Kingdon, 1997). Following
defecation, both sexes scrape at the middens, potentially associating their
pedal gland scent with the dung pile (Kingdon, 1997).
In the presence of danger, steenbok first hide, crouching with the neck pressed
against the ground and ears retracted to avoid detection (Nowak, 1991; Kingdon,
1997). If the threat persists or approaches, the animal will flee, with fast
zig-zagging flight interrupted by attempts at concealment by lying down flat
(Walther, 1990; Kingdon, 1997). Steenbok will also purportedly seek refuge
in aardvark burrows when pressed (Walther, 1990; Nowak, 1991).
Steenbok have a karyotype of 2n = 30 (Wallace & Fairall, 1967).
Africa houses two distinct and disjunct populations of steenbok, the eastern
race being found from southern Kenya to central Tanzania, and the southern
race which inhabits Angola, western Zambia, Zimbabwe, and southern Mozambique
south to South Africa.
Countries: Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa,
Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, regionally extinct in Uganda (IUCN
Antelope Specialist Group, 2008).
(After IUCN Antelope Specialist Group, 2008)
R. campestris is listed as "Least Concern" on the IUCN Red List (IUCN
Antelope Specialist Group, 2008) and is not listed by CITES (2009). The total
population of steenbok in Africa is estimated at approximately 663,000
individuals, of which 25% are found within protected regions and an additional
30% found on private lands (East, 1999). However, the IUCN Antelope Specialist
Group (2008) suggests that even this number may be an underestimate, noting
that populations are stable, with some protected areas experiencing an increase
in numbers. Depredation by domestic/feral dogs and hunting of (particularly)
juveniles may pose a threat to the species in certain areas, but across their
range steenbok have no major threats.
"Steenbok" is actually the Dutch name for ibex
, and despite the lack of resemblance between the
two species, the Dutch settlers (Boers) gave this small grassland antelope
the same name as the mountain goat they were familiar with from back home
(Walther, 1990). Alternatively, it has been suggested that since steen
translates as "stone" or "brick", steenbok may refer to the reddish color
of the animal. Alternate spellings of the name steenbok include steinbok,
steenbuck, and steinbuck. The genus Raphicerus
is derived from the
Greek words raphis
, meaning "needle" and "horn"
respectively - a reference to the sharp, straight horns of this genus.
is Latin for level country or a plain, the habitat this
Isha, Dondor [Swahili] (Kingdon, 1997)
Steenbok (Walther, 1990; Kingdon, 1997)
Raphicère champètre (Walther, 1990)
Steinböckchen (Walther, 1990; Kingdon, 1997)