Wild Profile: Meet the pronghorn antelope

A pronghorn antelope facing the camera By NaturesMomentsuk/Shutterstock

Here are a few things that you should know about the pronghorn antelope. One: it’s the second-fastest land animal on earth. Two: thanks to very bulbous eyes set far back on its head, it has better vision than any other ungulate—a pronghorn’s field of vision covers 300 degrees. Three: it’s not actually an antelope. Wait, what?

Pronghorn antelope vs. antelope 

The species’ scientific name (Antolocapra americana) means “American antelope goat.” But it’s not closely related to either of those animals—it’s not part of the antelope family at all. A pronghorn’s closest living relatives appear to be the giraffe and the okapi (a species that looks like a cross between a deer and a zebra, native to the Democratic Republic of Congo). True antelopes live mostly in Africa, with smaller pockets in Asia and portions of the Middle East. In Canada, pronghorn populations are largely restricted to parts of Saskatchewan and Alberta.

How fast can a pronghorn run? 

This non-antelope can sprint as fast as 92 km/h—only the cheetah is faster. Why are these skinny, deer-like animals so speedy? They’re built for it, with long legs and can take big strides, plus large hearts and lungs in relation to their size. Some experts believe pronghorns evolved to be so fast because they once lived in grassland habitats alongside now-extinct cheetah-like predators. This could also be the reason they developed such great eyesight. A pronghorn can spot a predator from up to six kilometres away. That’s a real advantage to survival in a flat, plains environment. Oddly, for an animal that’s so leggy, pronghorn antelopes aren’t good jumpers. Unlike deer, they’re more likely to crawl under an obstacle—a fence, for example–rather than attempt to leap over it.

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