Geographic Range

Roan antelope occur from south Sahara to Botswana. Two subspecies, H. equinus kobc and H. equinus bokeri, occupy the northern savannah of Africa from Chad to Ethiopia. The other two subspecies, H. equinus equinus and H. equinus cottoni, are located in the southern savannah of Africa in south and central Africa. (Knowles 2000)

  • Biogeographic Regions
  • ethiopian
    • native



Roan antelope are found in lightly wooded savanna with medium to tall grass and must have access to water (Wildlife Africa CC 2001).

  • Habitat Regions
  • tropical


Physical Description

Roan antelope are the second largest antelope species. Their pelage is grayish-brown with a hint of red. The legs are darker than the rest of the body. Young roan antelope are much lighter and reddish-brown. The head is dark brown or black, with white around the mouth and nose, large white patches in front of the eyes and pale patches behind them. The ears are long and narrow, with dark brown hair at the tips. Roan antelope have a mane consisting of short stiff hair that is black at the tips. The tail has a brush of black hair at the tip. Horns in both sexes rise from the top of the head and sweep backwards in an even curve, ridged almost to the tips and are often described as scimitar-shaped. Females have two pairs of teats between their hind legs. Males are larger and built more sturdily than females, with longer, thicker horns. The penis sheath is clearly visible. Males weigh from 260-300 kg. Females weigh from 225-275 kg. Males are from 150-160 cm high at the shoulder and females range from 140-160 cm in shoulder height. (African Hunting Adventures 2001, Grzimek 1960)

  • Other Physical Features
  • endothermic
  • bilateral symmetry
  • Range mass

225 to 300 kg

495.59 to 660.79 lb



Dominant males mate with the females in their herd and actively defend access to those females. Males fight among themselves for positions as dominant males with a herd of females. These fights can be ferocious but rarely result in death. Males fight with their scimitar-shaped horns.

  • Mating System
  • polygynous

Roan antelope do not seem to have a distinct breeding season. Females go into estrus 2 to 3 weeks after giving birth and seem to be capable of having young every 10 to 10.5 months. A single calf is born after a gestation period of 260 to 281 days. Female roan antelope become reproductively active after they reach 32 to 34 months of age (African Hunting Adventures 2001). They leave the herd for about one or two weeks before giving birth. After giving birth they return to the herd during the day and leaves the newborn in hiding for the day. They returns to the calf at dusk and spends the night with it. Calves stay hidden for about four or five weeks after birth and join the herd after they are strong enough to outrun danger (Wildlife Africa CC 2001). 2001).

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • iteroparous
  • year-round breeding
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • fertilization
    • internal
  • viviparous
  • Breeding season

Breeding and births can occur throughout the year.

  • Range number of offspring

1 (low)

  • Average number of offspring


  • Average number of offspring


  • Range gestation period

8.67 to 9.37 months

  • Average gestation period

9.13 months

  • Average weaning age

6 months

  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

2-6 years

  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female

730 days

  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)

2-6 years

  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male

814 days

Female roan antelope nurse and care for their young in a protected area until the young are strong enough to join the herd.

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • precocial
  • female parental care
  • post-independence association with parents



Roan antelope may live up to 17 years in the wild.

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild

17 (high) years

  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity

17.0 years




Roan antelope are mainly active during the cooler parts of the day, in the morning and evening. They are not typically wary animals, unless they have been persecuted. They usually run short distances when disturbed, then look back to investigate the disturbance. They can run as fast as 57 km/hour.

Roan antelope associate in herds of up to 35 individuals, though herd sizes of 6 to 15 are more common. These herds are composed of a single, dominant male and a group of females and their young. A hierarchy exists among the females of the herd with one dominant female as the leader of the females. Juvenile males are forced to disperse at about 3 years of age. Juvenile females remain with the herd until the herd becomes too large. If the herd becomes too large, some of the cows and calves will leave to form a new herd. Juvenile males that are driven out of the herd join together to form bachelor herds of usually 3 to 5 individuals, though as many as 12 individuals have been observed. At about 5 to 6 years of age bachelor herds break up and those males try to take over a herd of females. The most dominant male of the bachelor group is the first to obtain a herd of females. Fights break out between males for dominance but these rarely result in physical harm to either individual (Wildlife Africa CC 2001). Males defend an area of about 300 to 500 meters outward from their herd.

One study found that herds generally range across 6,400 to 10,400 hectares per year, with the average area used at any one time being 200 to 400 hectares. Herd ranges do not often overlap.

  • Key Behaviors
  • crepuscular
  • motile
  • nomadic
  • territorial
  • social
  • dominance hierarchies


Communication and Perception

  • Perception Channels
  • tactile
  • chemical


Food Habits

Roan antelope are grazers that prefer leaves over stems. They will browse if grazing forage is poor. The preferred feeding height is 15-150 cm and green shoots are often grazed down to a height of 2 cm. Roan antelope feed grasses and other foliage in the morning and evening hours and retreat to more densely wooded areas during the middle of the day. (Schuette 1998)

  • Primary Diet
  • herbivore
    • folivore
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves



Roan antelope live in small herds and will fight aggressively when threatened. Healthy adults are likely to be relatively invulnerable to predation but young, ill, and elderly individuals will be taken by large predators such as lions, hyenas, and African hunting dogs.




Ecosystem Roles

Roan antelope are important in nutrient cycling in the savannah ecosystems in which they live. They also serve as important prey species for their predators.


Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Roan antelope were hunted in the past for their meat and for sport. They are declining in numbers and hunting is now illegal. They attract ecotourism activities as well (Benedetti 2001).

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • ecotourism


Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no negative affects of roan antelope on humans.


Conservation Status

Listed by IUCN as lower risk, conservation dependent and is on CITES Appendix III in Ghana. Roan antelope have declined drastically in recent years as a result of habitat deterioration, hunting and poaching, agricultural encroachment, and have been slaughtered deliberately in tsetse fly control efforts.