Did you know?
Territorial tsessebe males seldom fight each other, preferring to cavort and touch horns.
Looking at a tsessebe (sometimes called topi), you’d be astonished to discover it is generally considered the fastest antelope in the African bushveld.
It looks somewhat clumsy, with high, humped shoulders sloping down to unexceptional hindquarters.
When danger threatens, it speeds away with the herd, but has a peculiar habit of then stopping to see how far away its pursuer is.
A red-brown coat with a slight purplish sheen over its shoulders and rump only adds to its somewhat eccentric look.
Territorial males are fond of standing on termite mounds or higher ground and surveying their territory. They also parade like sergeant-majors in front of their females, high-stepping and pointing their noses in the air.
You’ll often see tsessebe with their faces and horns covered in mud. They have a special relationship with the stuff, loving nothing better after rains than to rub their faces in it, and then to indulge in a bit of ‘horn-ploughing’.
The resultant mud-pack makes their horns look much more impressive. You might think that it’s a male-boasting thing, but the females do it, too – although less often.
Another rather odd thing about tsessebe is that they sleep or doze in little groups, standing with their heads nodding. But if they’re really tired, they lie down on their chests and rest their mouths on the ground – vaguely resembling hammers at rest.
Tsessebe are generally found in small herds in medium-length grass. Their favourite food is fresh, green grass stalks, which is why they’re often found in recently burnt areas where new grass is springing up.
They also enjoy other areas with green grass, beside lakes, within wetlands and along floodplains beside meandering rivers.
In South Africa, their very exacting habitat and diet requirements have resulted in their numbers decreasing dramatically.