|Male, Etosha National Park|
|Female, Etosha National Park|
The springbok (Afrikaans and Dutch: spring = jump; bok = antelope or goat) (Antidorcas marsupialis) is a medium-sized brown and white antelope-gazelle of southwestern Africa. It is extremely fast and can reach speeds of 100 km/h (62 mph) and can leap 4 m (13 feet) into the air and jump a horizontal distance of up to 15 m (50 feet).
The specific epithet marsupialis (Latin: marsupium, "pocket") derives from a pocket-like skin flap which extends along the middle of the back from the tail onwards. When the male springbok is showing off his strength to attract a mate, or to ward off predators, he starts off in a stiff-legged trot, jumping up into the air with an arched back every few paces and lifting the flap along his back. Lifting the flap causes the long white hairs under the tail to stand up in a conspicuous fan shape, which in turn emits a strong scent of sweat. This ritual is known as stotting or pronking from the Afrikaans meaning to boast or show off.
Springbok adults are between 70 and 90 cm (28 and 35 in) tall at the shoulder, depending on weight and gender; they weigh between 25 and 35 kg (55 and 77 lb) for the females and 32 and 48 kg (71 and 110 lb) for the males. Their colouring consists of white, reddish/tan and dark brown. Their backs are tan-coloured and they are white beneath, with a dark brown stripe extending along each side from the shoulder to inside the thigh.
Rams are slightly larger than ewes, and have thick horns; the ewes tend to have skinnier legs and longer, more frail horns. Average horn length for both genders is 35 cm (14 in), with the record being a female with horns measuring 49.21 centimetres (19.37 in). Springbok footprints are narrow and sharp, and are 5.5 cm (2.2 in) long.
There are three variations in the color of springbok pelage. In addition to the normal springbok there are black springboks and white springboks. Black springboks primarily have two shades of chocolate-brown and a white marking on the face. White springboks are predominantly white with a very light brown coloured side stripe.
Springbok inhabit the dry inland areas of south and southwestern Africa. Their range extends from the northwestern part of South Africa through the Kalahari desert into Namibia and Botswana. Springbok occur in numbers of up to 2,500,000 in South Africa; it is the most plentiful antelope. They used to be very common, forming some of the largest herds of mammals ever documented, but their numbers have diminished significantly since the 19th century due to hunting and fences from farms blocking their migratory routes.
In South Africa, springbok inhabit the vast grasslands of the Free State and the open shrublands of the greater and smaller Karoo. They inhabit most of Namibia – the grasslands of the south, the Kalahari desert to the east, and the dry riverbeds of the northern bushveld of the Windhoek region, as well as the harsh Namib Desert on the west coast. In Botswana, they mostly live in the Kalahari Desert in the southwestern and central parts of the country.
Springbok are mixed feeders, switching between grazing and browsing seasonally. When grasses are fresh, they mostly graze. At other times, they browse on shrubs and succulents. Springbok can meet their water needs from the food they eat, and survive without drinking water through dry season, or even over years. Reportedly, in extreme cases, they do not drink any water over the course of their lives. Springbok may accomplish this by selecting flowers, seeds, and leaves of shrubs before dawn, when these foods are most succulent. Springbok gather together in the wet seasons and spread out during the dry season, an unusual trait among African animals. In places such as Etosha, springbok can and do seek out water bodies when they are available. Examples of food items eaten by springbok are grasses, such as Themeda triandra, and succulent plants, such as Lampranthus.
The social structure of the springbok is similar to the Thomson's gazelle. Bachelor males and females form separate herds. These groups are normally kept separate by territorial males, which round up female herds that enter their territories and keep out the bachelors. Females may leave the herds solitarily or in groups to give birth. Mothers and fawns may gather in nursery herds separate from harem and bachelor herds. After weaning, female offspring stay with their mothers until a new young is born, while males join bachelor groups.
Springbok often go into bouts of repeated high leaps of up to 4.0 metres (13 ft) into the air in a practice known as "pronking" (Afrikaans and Dutch: pronk, to show off) or "stotting". While pronking, the Springbok repeatedly leaps into the air in a particular stiff-legged posture, with its back bowed and the white fan lifted. While the exact cause of this behaviour is unknown, springbok exhibit this activity when they are nervous or otherwise excited. One theory is pronking is meant to indicate to predators that they have been spotted. Another is the springbok show off their individual strength and fitness so the predator will go for another (presumably weaker) member of the group. Another opinion is springbok and other similar antelopes do this to spray scent secreted from a gland near the heel.
The Dutch/Afrikaans term trekbokken refers to the large-scale migration of herds of springbok seen roaming the country during the early pioneer days of South Africa before farm fences were erected. Millions of migrating springbok formed herds hundreds of kilometres long that could take several days to pass a town. These are the largest herds of mammals ever witnessed.
Relationship with other species 
Leopards, cheetahs and lions are the springbok's primary predators. A study in the Etosha National Park found that springboks are the most common prey species for lions, accounting for nearly seventy percent of the hunts. Pythons occasionally take springboks; black-backed jackals, caracals and hyenas often take springbok lambs.
Other herbivores 
It shares its range with many other herbivores, such as the gemsbok, African bush elephant, blue wildebeest, plains zebra, and blesbok. It is sympatric with the impala only in certain corners of its range, such as Etosha National Park and the Pilanesberg area.
Relationship with humans 
Since prehistory, the springbok was hunted by primitive man using stone tools. Up to the present, springbok are hunted as game throughout Namibia, Botswana and South Africa because of their beautiful coats, and because they are very common and easy to support on farms with very low rainfall, which means they are cheap to hunt, as well. The export of springbok skins, mainly from Namibia and South Africa, is also a booming industry. The meat is a prized fare.
Springbok are one of the few antelope species considered to have an expanding population.
National symbol 
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (June 2012)|
The springbok was a national symbol of South Africa under white minority rule (including a significant period prior to the establishment of apartheid). It was adopted as a nickname or mascot by a number of South African sports teams, most famously by the national rugby union team. It appeared on the emblems of the South African Air Force, the logo of South African Airways (for which it remains their radio callsign), the reverse of the Krugerrand, and the coat of arms of South Africa. It also featured as the logo of 'South Africa's Own Car', the Ranger, in the early 1970s.
The former South African prime minister and architect of apartheid, Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, had a dream to change the then-current flag of South Africa, remove the three small flags in its center (he objected especially to the British Union Flag being there) and replace them with a leaping springbok antelope over a wreath of six proteas. This proposal aroused too much controversy to be implemented.
The springbok is currently the national animal of South Africa.
After the demise of apartheid, the African National Congress government decreed that South African sporting teams were to be known as the Proteas after the national flower of South Africa. The national rugby team still maintains the name Springboks, and are affectionately known by their supporters as the Boks. The emblem issue occasionally resurfaces and leads to some political controversy. It is recognised and supported by most South Africans, however.
During the Second Boer War, a Boer force attempting to sneak up on the Royal Canadian Dragoons was defeated after their movements startled the nearby springbok, thus alerting the Canadian sentries, which is why the Dragoons have the springbok as their cap badge and as their mascot.
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