The blackbuck, or Indian antelope, Antilope cervicapra, has long been one of the most commonplace herbivores on the Indian peninsula. It has disappeared from Pakistan, Bangladesh and only survives in India in places where it is protected.
Mammalia, Cetartiodactyla, Bovidae
12 to 16 years
60 to 80 cm at the shoulder, 50 kg at the most
6 months, one baby
grassy plains, thinly forested areas
grasses, leaves, fruit, flowers
NT, near threatened
Way of life
Blackbucks are gregarious animals. After fierce fights with other males, the winner goes on to reign over a group of up to fifty females and young, defending them by marking out their territory which they do by depositing excrement and secretions produced from drip glands located under the eyes. Single males stay away.
At the first sign of danger, the herd flee at a fast gallop of close to 80 km/h, interspersed with jumps of up to 2 m high and 6 m long!
Blackbucks tend to feed early in the morning or in the late afternoon, spending the rest of the day lying in the shade.
In adulthood, only the males have an almost black coat on their backs and long spiralling horns that can measure up to 70 cm long. Females are smaller and have a light coat.
The blackbuck is no longer considered to be a sacred animal in Hindu mythology, except amongst the Bishnoi community, a small Indian group who doesn’t kill any animals as a matter of principle: they are said to be the reincarnations of ancestors, and it is not unheard of for women to nurse orphan fawns.
Hunted for its horns or because of the damage it causes to cereal crops and a victim of the destruction of its habitat, the blackbuck has virtually disappeared from some regions. It is now protected in a number of Indian reserves. In the United States and Argentina, it has been introduced as game in major hunting areas.