Pelea capreoluscommon rhebok

Geographic Range

Pelea capreolus lives throughout South Africa, mainly in upland areas but descending onto sand dunes in the Cape. They are most numerous in strongly seasonal pastures above 1,000m, staying on the heights during rain but descending to lower slopes when during dry weather (Kingdon, 1997).


P. capreolus lives among rocks and tangled growth on mountain sides and plateaus, but where protected, it will venture to grassy valleys. It probably frequented such valleys regularly before being driven out by human activity (Nowak, 2001). Young tend to lie concealed away from mother, hidden in rocks, caves, or bushes (Grzimek, 1990).

Physical Description

P. capreolus is 1.15 to 1.25 m in length and weighs about 20 to 30 kilograms. The body is covered by hair that is woollier and curlier than that of all other antelopes, which may be a reason P. capreolus is often mistaken as a mountain goat. The upper parts are brownish gray, the face and legs are yellowish, and the underparts of the body and the tail are white (Grzimek, 1990). P. capreolus can be easily distinguished by its extremely long, pointed erect ears and by the absence of a bare patch below the ear. The animal's long narrow muzzle ends with a small mouth. P. capreolus has a swollen forehead and black-lidded eyes that are very prominent against a white surround (Kingdon, 1997). The horns, only found in males, are straight or slightly bent forward, upright, and 200-250mm in length. A naked area around the nostrils extends to the top of the nose and is swollen. It becomes studded with moisture when the animal is excited. Females have four mammae (Nowak, 2001).

  • Range mass
    20 to 30 kg
    44.05 to 66.08 lb
  • Range length
    1150 to 1250 mm
    45.28 to 49.21 in


Generally one male travels with a group of females and defends the group from other intruding males. Harem defense includes postural displays, snorting and stamping, and serious fighting (Kingdon, 1997). Males that are unable to win or maintain a territory are frequently solitary. Generally one member of each group acts as a sentinel while others feed or rest. If danger appears, the sentinel gives a warning grunt and leads the herd to more rugged country. Males are extraordinarily aggresive, often killing others of their sex during the rutting season and even killing and attacking sheep and goats.

Mating takes place for P. capreolus in April, when males fight over females. Births occur in November and December, early in the warm, wet season (Nowak, 2001). The single calf which is born generally is hidden away from the mother for the first few months of its life. Males become mature in about 18-21 months and then leave their group and begin to try to establish their own territory (Nowak, 2001).

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Breeding season
  • Range number of offspring
    1 (low)
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    8.7 months
  • Average gestation period
    261 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    18 to 21 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    18 to 21 months


In the wild, P. capreolus has been reported to live 8-10 years. In captivity P. capreolus does not thrive and is rarely found in captivity (Nowak, 2001).


P. capreolus is active during the day in sporadic bouts of grazing and resting, tending to rest in shade during noon hours. The antelope forms two types of social groups. The first consists of many females and one dominant male, which is normally a collection of around 8 animals but can reach as high as 30. The other social group is made up of solitary males looking to invade a group with females (Nowak, 2001). During mating times, fights between dominant and solitary males are frequent, and it is not uncommon for one of the contestants to be killed (Pelea, 2001).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

This species is predominantly a browser. Faecal analysis showed that dicotyledons comprised of 88 percent of its diet, with over 90 percent dicotyledons in winter and dicotyledon consumption declining by 10 percent in summer (Mills, 1997). The Vaal Rhebuck's diet consists of grasses and leaves (Nowak, 2001).


An appointed sentinel of the group watches for signs of danger, and when a threat is discovered, makes a cough-like grunt to alert the rest of the group. It then leads the group to less accessible ground (Nowak, 2001). The rhebuck has a jerky, rocking gait, which makes it hard for predators to capture. It is an agile climber and a good jumper. Also, males are extremely aggressive and are good defenders of their group (Palmer, 1988).

Ecosystem Roles

P. capreolus is prey for large predators of the African savannah. P. capreolus is also a host for many parasites, including lice, fleas and ticks (Horak, 1983). P. capreolus also is a consumer of grass and leaves of the African savannah and low mountains.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Conservation Status

Other Comments

Also known as the Gray Rhebuck or Grey Rhebok


Stephen Dewey (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ondrej Podlaha (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

dominance hierarchies

ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


having more than one female as a mate at one time

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


"Vaal Rhebuck, Gray Rhebok" (On-line). Accessed October 26th, 2001 at

Beukes, P. 1987. Responses of grey rhebuck and bontebuck to controlled fires in coastal renosterveld. South African Journal of Wildlife Reserve, vol. 17 (3): 103-108.

Grzimek, B. 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. pp.460: McGraw-Hill.

Horak, I. 1983. The Long Term Abundance of Parasites of Grey Rhebok, *Pelea capreolus*, Bontebok, *Damaliscus dorcas dorcas*, Scrub Hares, *Lepus saxatilis*, and Rodents in the Bontebok National Park. Onderstepoort, February 1983.

Kingdon, J. 1997. The Kingdom Field Guide to African Mammals. p. 398: Academic Press Limited.

Mills, G., L. Hes. 1997. The Complete Book of Southern African Mammals. p. 274: Struik Publishers.

Nowak, R. 2001. "Rhebok" (On-line). Accessed November 18th, 2001 at

Palmer, R., N. Fairall. 1988. Caracal and African wild cat diet in the Karoo National Park and the implications therof for hyrax. South African Journal of Wildlife Reserve, 18(1): 30-34.