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The Difference Between Giraffes And Antelopes

Updated on August 12, 2014

How Many Kinds Of Antelopes Are There?

There are over ninety-one different types of antelopes (most of which are native to Africa), however, what many people don't realize is that the giraffe, okapi, and prong-horned antelope -- are all not related to true antelopes.

The Giraffe, while at one time thought to be related to the antelopes is now believed to be closer to the deer, and with the Okapi is placed in a separate animal family.

The horns of the Giraffe and Okapi are short, covered with skin, and are never shed.

The giraffe, because of its long neck, can never be mistaken for any other animal. It is the tallest of any existing mammal. Specimens up to eighteen feet in height have been recorded.

Although the neck is so long, the number of neck bones is only seven, the same number that is found in the cow or the mouse, but the giraffe's seven neck bones are very long.

The Giraffe is a browser, not a grazer. That is, it does not rip grass off the ground but feeds on the leaves of trees. It is especially fond of the leaves of the Acacia tree, and in many sections its food appears to be made up entirely of these small leaves.

The tongue is long, sometimes as much as a foot and a half in length. The upper lip is long and flexible, and it is a fascinating thing to watch a Giraffe grasping a tiny leafy morsel of food from a tree with its tongue and upper lip.

The Giraffe is an animal of the African plains and thorn bush country. Its flesh is good for food, and over much of the bast territory which it once inhabited, especially in South Africa, it was because of this that Giraffes were nearly exterminated. However, in East Africa, where there were laws to protect the Giraffe, the animal is fortunately still common.

Giraffes go about in small herds and depend upon their keen eyesight to warn them of their enemies. Although they occasionally visit water holes, they are capable of going without water for a long time. some of the extinct ancestors of the Giraffe were quite deer-like in form, and their fossil remains have been found in Europe and Asia.


The Okapi

The Okapi, inhabiting the deep forests of some of the eastern parts of Africa (Congo), is the only existing close relative of the Giraffe. It was not until 1901 that this interesting animal became known to the outside world in its true form.

As far back as 1890 Stanley brought out the first proof of the existence of a strange animal which he referred to as a donkey. In 1901 Sir Harry Johnston forwarded to the British Museum portions of the striped skin, and on account of the markings the animal was thought to be a forest zebra. A few months later, the true character of the animal became known.

A large Okapi stands about five feet at the shoulder. It is dark brown in general color with numerous white stripes on the flanks and legs. The male alone carries horns.

Prong Horn Antelope
Prong Horn Antelope
Prong Horn Antelope
Prong Horn Antelope
Prong Horn Antelope
Prong Horn Antelope

The Prong-Horned Antelope

The prong-horned antelope of the plains of North America is not a true antelope, but has characteristics of the goats, the antelopes, and the deer.

On account of its strange make-up it is placed in a family by itself, the Antelocapridae (antelope-like goats). Although it carries true horns that grow over a bony core, similar to those of the goat and the cow, it sheds them every year.

However, the process of shedding is very different from that of the deer.

In the fall or early winter the outside horn sheath falls off, but underneath, over the bony ore, the new horn is already well formed.

The new horn develops from the tip of the bony core and grows slowly downward to the base.

When the new horn is fully grown, the old horn loosens and drops off, leaving the new horn to take its place. This new horn is covered with skin and hair, but these soon dry and disappear.

The horn of the prong-horned antelope has a single prong. Horns have been recorded up to twenty inches in length. Both the male and the female may carry horns, but those of the female are much smaller or may be absent.

A male prong-horned antelope stands about three feet at the shoulder and weighs a little over one hundred pounds. In color it is light reddish brown with a darker mane.

The nose and a patch under the ear are dark brown. The underparts are creamy white. One the rear there is a large white patch in which the hairs are longer than the remaining hairs on the back.

The prong-horned antelope has the power to raise and lower these hairs. When the animals are startled these hairs are raised and flash as a warning.

In older days, the prong-horned antelope rivaled the buffalo in numbers on our western plains. Constant hunting and loss of habitat in the destruction of their ranges reduced their numbers. Even as far back as 1908 there was a noticeable decreased in them, leaving less than twenty thousand north of Mexico. Thanks to new game laws, parks and refuges, that number has thankfully been now increased.

Giraffe at Acacia Tree
Giraffe at Acacia Tree
Acacia Tree (Umbrella tree)
Acacia Tree (Umbrella tree)

The Acacia Tree

It's worthy of mention that the Acacia Tree that giraffes love so much have their own role in the lives of many mammals besides the giraffe. Additionally, they are a food source for ants, beetles, grasshoppers, butterflies and moths. Acacia trees are commonly known as "thorn trees" and occasionally you'll hear them called "umbrella trees."

Once you've seen one you'll not likely forget the beauty of their gnarled branches, their odd and jagged thorns. Additionally, seeing one in bloom is a magnificent sight -- the abundant blooms can be seen in white or yellow, as a rule.

Interestingly there are about seven hundred different species of these trees that are found all over Africa, South America, India and even Australia.

They are a hardy lot. Their seeds have been recorded as having sprouted after being fifty years dormant. In fact, in some areas they are considered an invasive species of tree.

One problem with the Acacia tree is that it is hugely popular with natives people because of it's great use as a fuel for cooking and heating. In some areas, local authorities have a struggle trying to protect the trees from extinction because of this. Other uses for the tree are as a "Gum Arabic" (glue, cosmetics, medicines, fast foods, and paint).


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    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      7 years ago from United States

      Thanks Hello, hello. Until I started researching I didn't know much of this either.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      7 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you, Jerilee, for bringing all these various animals to our attention. I never knew they existed apart from four or five.

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      7 years ago from United States

      Thanks Christopher Price! LOL It wasn't my intention, I just write about whatever comes to mind on a particular day.

    • Christopher Price profile image

      Christopher Price 

      7 years ago from Vermont, USA

      You are becoming the modern version of Marlin Perkins! I always loved "Wild Kingdom".

      This was nicely informative and, as usual, well done.

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      7 years ago from United States

      Thanks diogenes! Great minds must think alike because that's actually what I am working on today. It was that or famous men of ancient rome.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love giraffes, especially the youngsters. When you run out of Antelopes, etc., you might consider a hub on wild sheep and goats, they are little known and there are quite a few species...Bob


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