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An Ultimate Ungulate Fact Sheet
Neotragus pygmaeus
Royal antelope
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Common name:
Scientific name:
Other names:
Royal antelope
Neotragus pygmaeus
Adowa, Sagbene, Antilope royale, Kleinstböckchen

Physical Characteristics

Head and body length: 40-50 cm
Shoulder height: 25 cm
Tail length: 5-8 cm
Adult weight: 1.5-3 kg

The royal antelope is tiny - it is one of the smallest living ungulates, being about the size of a rabbit. The legs are long and slender; the hind legs are much longer than the front legs, which give the body a crouched appearance. The soft coat is a reddish-brown in color. The underparts, including the chin and inside of the legs, are white, but there is a brown band which crosses the chest and breaks up the white underside. A white tuft is at the end of the thin tail. Male royal antelope grow a very small pair of black-colored horns: these are smooth and cone-like, growing to a maximum of 3.5 cm in length.

Similar species
  • Bates's pygmy antelope (Neotragus batesi) is very similar to the royal antelope, but is found only in central Africa. Bates's pygmy antelope has small black-and-white markings on the ears, and tends to be slightly larger and darker in color than the royal antelope.
  • Mouse deer (Tragulus) from Asia are similar in size and form. Unlike royal antelope, mouse deer have very conspicuous white stripes on the throat.

Reproduction and Development

Gestation period: Unknown.
Litter size: 1.
Weaning: Around 2 months of age.
Sexual maturity: After one year.
Life span: Probably around 6 years, up to 10 in captivity.

In the wild, royal antelope are thought to give birth in November and December. Babies are extremely fragile and weigh less than 300 grams. They are born with the same coloration as adults.

Ecology and Behavior

The royal antelope is a very shy species that is difficult to study. This species is most active around dawn and dusk, and may also be active at night. They inhabit very small territories (about 100 square meters) which are marked with piles of dung. When a threat approaches, royal antelope will first crouch and slink into cover in the hope of going undetected. They will take flight only when the threat is very close, zipping through the undergrowth or using strong leaps to clear obstacles.
Family group: Likely solitary or in monogamous pairs.
Diet: Leaves and shoots, as well as flowers, fruit, and fungi.
Main Predators: Most predators found within its range, including birds of prey and large snakes.

Habitat and Distribution

Royal antelope inhabit forest areas with dense undergrowth, and can be found in pockets of forest along roads and in farmland. The species is only found in the rainforests of the Guinea forest block in west Africa. The approximate range is depicted in the map below.

Range Map
(Redrawn from IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group, 2016)

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List: Least concern (2016)
CITES Listing: Not listed (2009)
Threats: Extensive hunting for meat.

In 1999, the global population was estimated to be around 62,000 animals, but the species is difficult to assess and this may be an underestimate.

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