Antelope and deer are both herbivore animals that bear striking significance. But they are entirely different animals with major differences in evolution and genetics. The scientific name of the deer family is Cervidae and many different species come under this category with being vastly different from the general idea of a deer that we have. The word antelope is sometimes called a wastebasket taxon because no proper family has been assigned to antelopes. There are names like “true antelopes” but all antelopes are not classified in this family for the significant differences. Read on to find out more about the differences between antelopes and deers and also learn some cool facts about them.
Antelopes Vs Deers
1. Physical Characteristics
Antelopes include the animals like eland, kudus, gazelles, oryxes, etc. The physical characteristics of each of these animals vary significantly. Some of them like the zebra duiker have black stripes on the back of a brown coat. The eland stands tall at 175 cm or 5 feet 10in, about as tall as an adult human while the royal antelope from west Africa reach only 25 cm or 9 and a half inches as adults, looking more like big hares.
Horns are the main noticeable features that catch your eye if you see one on a safari or a zoo. The horns vary by species, having spiral, short horns to long horns like those of oryxes. It is one of the most important things you know about the antelopes vs deers in the world.
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Deer in comparison is larger than antelopes, in that both the largest and shortest member of the deer family are larger than their corresponding antelope counterparts. The largest deer, the moose stands about 2.6m tall or 8ft 6in. The elks may also grow to 6 ft 7, in height.
The fur-like antelope varies from species to species, but generally follows a combination of red and brown. Many also have plain white underparts. The main difference that arises between them is that deer have antlers, while antelopes have horns. A deer antler is shed regularly and grown anew, while an antelope’s horns are permanent and that is why they have more impressive horns.
Both deer and antelopes are ruminants i.e., cud chewers. One odd fact is that not all antelopes are herbivores. There are some known species that may choose to eat small amounts of meat also. Strange right? Duikers that are found in Africa and live in bushes also sometimes eat insects and small mammals.
But generally, antelopes feed on tree leaves and grass. Some antelopes change their diet when the season changes and their main diet plants are not available while others also engage in long migrations. Some antelopes like dibatags are able to stand upright on their hindlegs like dogs to reach tree branches.
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Deer are browsers and feed by grazing and browsing. In colder latitudes, they are also able to digest lichens. However, unlike other ruminants like cattle and sheep, deer have a more sophisticated diet. To maintain their slim and fast bodies they only eat what they can easily digest. There have been some cases where deer have been seen eating meat also when found already available.
3. Life span
Animals like deer do not have clarity on life span. The life span does not represent the age up to which an animal lives as it differs a lot when in captivity or in wild. In the wild the life span is significantly shorter, reaching 10 to 15 years only. This is because deer are one of the most common prey for all sorts of predators and are also hunted by humans. In captivity, some deer have been recorded to exceed the number of twenty as they are properly cared for, and fed. Females tend to have a longer lifespan generally.
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The same applies to the lifespan of antelopes too. In the wild, the average age of an antelope is only near 6 years, but it improves to about 10 years in captivity. This is only a general idea, as antelopes cover a wide range of species. Bigger antelopes like Wildebeest and the eland reach ages like 17 to 20 years commonly. However, if cared for properly wildebeest can live to be more than 40 years of age.
4. Distribution and Habitat
Antelopes can be found in all of the old world continents i.e., Asia, Europe, and Africa. Africa has the most diversity and number with most species native to the savannahs of Africa. The pronghorn which is not classified as an antelope scientifically but is commonly called an antelope is the only related animal found in North America. Australia and Antarctica have no such animal.
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Image Source: Kandukuru Nagarjun
Deer however are found indigenously in all continents of the world except Australia and Antarctica. Unlike antelopes, in Africa, there are only one native deer species called the Barbary stag which is endemic to the Atlas mountain region in North Africa. Most deer species are found in the tropical regions of Asia. India and Southeast Asia in particular boast a diverse number of deer species.
Deer have also been introduced to Australia and New Zealand and they have established wild populations. It is only due to human activities as deer are common animals for sport hunting.
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Image Source: Wikimedia
Deer and antelopes have somewhat similar reproduction behaviors. The males form herds with females. Young males leave the herd when they reach a certain age. The horns or antlers are mainly used to establish dominance over other males to impress mating partners. The young fawn is only cared for by the mother.
Deer and Antelopes face threats from many fronts. Climate change has been reducing the habitat steadily and changing the vegetation on which they feed. Many species are in the endangered category, and many have already gone extinct. The main reason for extinction in recent times is human hunting.
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The antlers and horns of these animals are highly prized and the illegal trade of hiding and horns is a big money market. Apart from this, these animals are also hunted for sports, and their horns and heads are used as trophies. Because the antlers or horns grow only in male populations, the sex ratio is severely imbalanced in these animals, and in certain cases, there is only 1 male for 800 females.
These are the facts you need to about antelopes vs deers in the world. Conservation efforts have led to the establishment of many nature reserves and sanctuaries but the population is still endangered.