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  The Mammals of Texas - Online Edition

Blackbuck*
Order Artiodactyla : Family Bovidae : Antilope cervicapra (Linnaeus)

Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra).  Photo by John L. Tveten.Description. A medium-sized antelope with ringed, unbranched, "corkscrew" horns that rise above the head of males in a tall, V-shaped pattern. Measured from base to tip, horns reach up to 79 cm in length, although Texas blackbuck rarely have horns exceeding 58 cm. Normally, females are hornless.

Coloration in mature males is black dorsally, while females and young males are tan. All blackbuck have white eye rings, chin patch, chest, belly, and inner legs. In the nonbreeding season, after the spring molt, adult males may lighten considerably and retain their darkest coloration only on the face and legs.

In Texas, adult males average 38 kg in weight, with a range of 20-57 kg. Females weigh 20-33 kg, averaging 27 kg.

Distribution in Texas. Blackbuck antelope were originally released in Texas in the Edwards Plateau (Kerr County) in 1932. In 1988, only eight Texas counties had free-ranging blackbuck, but these antelope were confined on ranches in 86 counties. Of the total number of exotics confined on Texas ranches in 1988, only the axis deer outnumbered blackbuck antelope.

Habits. Blackbuck are native to India and Pakistan where they were widespread in plains and open woodlands; wet coastal areas, western deserts, and northern mountains limited their distribution. Today, extensive hunting and habitat destruction have restricted blackbuck to only small, isolated populations in their former native habitat.

More than 80% of the blackbuck in Texas inhabit the Edwards Plateau region, where the patchwork of open grassland and brush provides both excellent forage and cover. Their range is restricted to the north and west by cold winters, to the south by coyote predation, and to the east by parasitism.

Blackbuck prefer to graze on short to mid-length grasses but also browse on common brush species. Forage selection is primarily determined by availability with sedges, fall witchgrass, mesquite, and live oak commonly eaten. Forb use by blackbuck is low.

Adult males are highly territorial and defend areas ranging from 1.2 to 12 ha in size against trespass by other males. Female groups may graze through male territories, and breeding activity may take place at such times, but other males are excluded. Young males, and bucks without territories, form their own all male groups. At physical maturity (2 - 2 years of age) young bucks may split from the all-male group to establish or win their own territory.

Breeding may take place at any time of the year; however, bucks are more active in spring and fall. Fawns are born at all seasons, but fewest births occur in winter. The length of gestation is about 5 months and within a month of parturition the female may breed again. A single fawn is the rule.

Females reach sexual maturity by 8 months of age, but usually do not breed until nearly 2 years of age. Physical maturity is reached at 1 year. Males mature later than females, and are able to breed at 18 month of age. The lifespan is up to 15 years.

* nonnative species

Photo credit: John L. Tveten.