ANTELOPE Vs. PRONGHORN

“Oh, give me a home where the Buffalo roam
Where the Deer and the Antelope play;
Where never is heard a discouraging word,
And the sky is not clouded all day.”

Okay, we’ve all sung it at one time or another, or at the very least heard it sung. It is the official state song of Kansas. Dr. Brewster Higley wrote those words back in 1876, later to be somewhat modified in 1904 by William and Mary Goodwin.

Dr. Higley was born in Rutland, Ohio in 1823, and received his degree from a medical school in LaPorte, Indiana in 1849. He was married five times, so he must have heard a lot of discouraging words. His first three wives died of disease, which doesn’t speak well of his medical training. His fourth wife was reported to have caused the good doctor to take up the bottle and he subsequently fled to Kansas where he had the marriage dissolved in 1875. He immediately discarded his fifth of whisky for a fifth wife and wrote the words to Home on the Range, so I it would seem that he found the right woman.

The whole purpose of this brief bit of history is to point out that, for at least 130 years, and probably much longer, people have been mistakenly calling pronghorns by the wrong name.  There are no antelope in North America, and there never have been unless one escaped from a zoo somewhere.

An encyclopedia article from Encarta says that, “Antelopes have never lived in the Americas, although one North American mammal, the pronghorn, looks very much like an antelope and shares a similar way of life.” (http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761573948/Antelope.html)

According to http://www.jacksonholewy.net/nature_wildlife/jh_antelope.phpAntelope are any of several hoofed, ruminant mammals, belonging to the family Bovidae, order Artiodactyla. This family also includes bison, buffalo, cattle, goats, and sheep. Although antelope resemble deer, they are much more closely related to cattle. Africa is the home of most antelope, although a few species survive in Asia and a close relative, the mountain goat, lives in North America.”

“Although authorities sometimes disagree on what animals to include in the antelope group, it is generally agreed that it comprises about 50 genera and more than 100 species, including the gazelles. Among the largest and best-known antelopes are the oryn, gnus (wildebeests), elands, kudus, hartebeests, sable antelope, and roan antelope of the African plains. The bongi is a large antelope of African forests.”

Encyclopedia Britannica 2004 says that antelope are any of a number of Old World grazing or browsing mammals belonging to the family Bovidae, which also includes sheep, goats, and cattle. The pronghorn of North America is the sole living member of the family of Antilocapridae.

The Jackson Hole web site says that antelope vary greatly in size. The smallest, the royal antelope of Africa's western coastal regions weighs about 15 lb and stands 10 inches tall at the shoulder. The largest, the giant eland of West Africa, may grow to a weight of more than 1,200 lb and a shoulder height of 6 ft.

It goes on to point out that, “the North American pronghorn, often called pronghorn antelope, is not a true antelope. It is, however, North America's fastest mammal able to run at more than 45 miles per hour. For added security, it boasts oversized lungs and windpipe, and the largest eyes vs. body weight of any mammal.”

The pronghorn was once found from Alberta to northern Mexico but is now reduced in both numbers and range; some subspecies are endangered. It has, however, responded well to conservation practices, and controlled hunting occurs through most of its range.

It's time to start calling them pronghorn. If you have a dog, would you like it if people referred to it as a cat? NO! And our pronghorn are not antelope!