Blesbok (Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi
Physically, rams and ewes are remarkably similar. Their mass can be as much as 85 kg. A characteristic of the Blesbok is the prominent white blaze on the face and a horizontal brown strip which divides this blaze above the eyes. Body colour is brown with a lighter coloured saddle on the back, and the rump an even lighter shade. The legs are brown with a white patch behind the top part of the front legs. Lower legs whitish. Both sexes carry horns, ringed almost to the tip. Female horns are slightly more slender.
The Blesbok is a grazing species, showing preference for short grass, and particularly favours fresh green grass appearing after a veld burn.
The Blesbok is a seasonal breeder. Rutting occurs during March to May. Births peak during November and December after a gestation period of about 240 days. Females give birth to single calves.
The Blesbok is closely related to the Bontebok. Historically, the distributions of these two species did not overlap. Interbreeding on lands where both subspecies are now located has been recorded. Prefered habitat is open grasslands with water.
Where they are found
The Blesbok's distribution is restricted to the Republic of South Africa. Its historic range includes the Eastern Cape, Free State, southern parts of the former Transvaal, marginally in KwaZulu-Natal along the upper reaches of the Tugela River and into Lesotho, west of the Maluti Mountains. It was once one of the most abundant antelope species of the African plains, but Blesbok have become scarce since 1893 due to relentless hunting for their skins and meat.
Recently, population numbers have recovered dramatically due to vigorous conservation in game reserves and farms. Unfortunately, Blesbok have been introduced to areas far beyond their original range. Today they are commonly found on enclosed land in smaller herds, and numbers are estimated at 120 000.
Being closely related to the Bontebok there has been a great deal of interbreeding between the species to such an extent that the exact numbers of the pure strain of each species are debatable. The name comes from the Dutch term for blaze, which refers to the white forehead.