Hippotragus leucophaeus


Kingdom Animalia

Blue Antelopes. Unknown copyright licence.


Blue Antelope (1801). This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. This applies to the European Union, Canada, the United States and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years.

Phylum Chordata 
Class Mammalia
Order Artiodactyla
Family Bovidae 
Subfamily Hippotraginae
Genus Hippotragus
Species Hippotragus leucophaeus
Authority (Pallas, 1766)
TEW Status Extinct (EX), Year assessed: 2010
IUCN Status Extinct (EX), Year assessed: 2008
English Name Bluebuck, Blue Antelope
Afrikaans Name Bloubok
Danish Name Blĺbuk
Dutch Name Blauwbok
French Name Hippotrague Bleu
German Name Blaubock
Hungarian Name Kék Lóantilop
Italian Name Antilope Azzurra
Russian Name антилопа голубая
Spanish Name Hipotrago Azul, Antílope Azul
Characteristics Eighteenth century travellers provided contradictory descriptions of this species, perhaps because some were embellishing, while others had not actually seen it and were simply repeating hearsay. They did send some skulls and skins back to Europe. In 1967, Erna Mohr reported that the four existing mounted blue antelopes vary from 102 to 116 cm at the shoulder. Adult bluebuck probably rarely exceeded 160 kg. None of the four museum specimens shows any sheen of blue. The dark skin showing through the thinning fur of older animals may have caused the blue colours described by several authors or the mix of black and yellow hears. Like most antelopes, the bluebuck had six teeth along the cheek in each half of the upper and lower jaws. These formed two distinct series three premolars immediately followed by three molars. (Klein 1987)
Range & Habitat When the Europeans settled in the Cape Colony in the 17th and 18th century the bluebuck was probably restricted to the area south of Swellendam, South Africa. The early travellers found the bluebuck only in relatively well-watered grassy country.

Image: the former range of the blue antelope (in red). Created by Peter Maas for The Extinction Website. The copyright holder of this work has released it into the public domain. This applies worldwide.

Food Their habitat was relatively well-watered grassy country, which suggests that it had to drink regularly, like the roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus) and sable antelope (Hippotragus niger). Many other antelopes can obtain the moisture they need from the plants they eat and they can go for long periods without drinking. The bluebuck lived in small herds of up to twenty individuals, and it was primarily a grass-eater or grazer that sometimes fed on the same pastures as sheep. However, like most grazers, it probably also took some broad leaves or browse. (Klein 1987)
History & Population

The extinction of the blue antelope is a unique event in southern Africa, as it represents the only extinction of a large mammal in this subregion in the last 350 years and the first recorded African large mammal extinction in historic times. (Kerley et al. 2006; Klein 1987; Van den Hoek Ostende 1999)

Shortly after the last Ice Age, about 10.000 years ago the bluebuck must have been common in the far south of Africa, which was largely covered with grassy plains. Numerous finds of subfossil bones indicate a former distribution area from the westernmost tip of the present Cape Colony to about 25° E. Bluebuck numbers dropped about 2000 years ago. Why is something of an enigma? Various factors have been indicated: the change of grassland into bush and forest when the climate became warmer, or the introduction of livestock, particularly sheep, by man at about that time. Competition with sheep, diseases or hunting may all have contributed to a decline in bluebuck. (Van den Hoek Ostende 1999)

The German Peter Kolb was the first to write about the existence of a "blue buck" in 1719. The bluebuck was clearly on its way to extinction, when European naturalists and hunters finally discovered it. Its range was already small when Europeans who settled in the Cape Colony in the 17th and 18th century first saw this antelope. The Swedish naturalist Carl Peter Thunberg noted in 1774 that these animals were becoming rare. According to the German zoologist Martin Lichtenstein, the last bluebuck was killed in 1799, elsewhere he wrote 1800. (Van den Hoek Ostende 1999)

Extinction Causes Cultivation of the Cape Colony and hunting with firearms were the main causes of the extinction of the blue antelopes (Van den Hoek Ostende 1999)
Museum Specimens The bluebuck was gone before the early natural history cabinets and museum had a chance to obtain a fair number of specimens. In fact, it is a miracle that any were preserved at all. There are four mounted Bluebuck skins: in the National Museum of Natural History “Naturalis” in Leiden (the Netherlands), and in the natural history museums of Stockholm  (Sweden), Paris (France) and Vienna (Austria). Not counting the many bones excavated throughout the species' former range, there are two skulls, in Amsterdam (the Netherlands) and Glasgow (United Kingdom), and three pairs of horns, in Uppsala (Sweden), London (United Kingdom) and Capetown (South Africa). None of these specimens is properly documented. (Van den Hoek Ostende 1999)

Two close relatives of the Bluebuck are the Roan Antelope Hippotragus equines (right) and the Sable Antelope Hippotragus niger (left).  

Photos: (left) Sable Antelope bull, photographed by Paul Maritz near Kafue River in Zambia, 2004. (right) Young roan bull, photographed by Paul Maritz in Ndevu, Zambia, 2003. These two photos are released under the GNU Free Documentation License.

There were a lot of speculations that the Giant or Angolan Sable Antelope (Hippotragus niger variani) had gone extinct. There had been unconfirmed sightings in recent years, but no confirmed sightings for 20 years. This subspecies of the Sable Antelope did only occur in Angola, and there are none in zoos anywhere. An expedition headed to Angola on 14 August 2002 to search for the giant sable antelope. Scientists and others hope that this majestic antelope has survived the southwest African nation's decades-long civil war. The expedition had tried hunting for the antelope by helicopter, but the animals avoid sound at all costs. Interviews with tribal chiefs revealed that locals often sighted the animals in the Luando reserve so the expedition changed tactics and carried out ground surveys on foot. They recorded five separate sightings but were not able to take any photographs. These five animals, whose spectacular scimitar horns sweep back more than five feet over their heads, were spotted in Cangandala National Park in Malanje province in north-central Angola by a team led by Professor Wouter van Hoven of the University of Pretoria. 

BBC NEWS | World | Africa | Search on for giant antelope.

BBC NEWS | World | Africa | Rare African antelope 'rediscovered'.

Planet Ark : Scientists say rare sable antelope is not extinct.


Blue Antelope Correspondences.

South African Museum - The Extinct Blue Antelope.

300 Pearls – Museum highlights of natural diversity.

Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle Paris, France.

Nationaal Natuurhistorisch Museum Naturalis Leiden, The Netherlands.

Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet Stockholm, Sweden.

Naturhistorisches Museum Wien Vienna, Austria.

Extinxtion: Blaaubok UWSP GEOG358 [Heywood].


Antelope Specialist Group 1996. Hippotragus leucophaeus. In: IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 28 May 2006.

Kerley, G., R. Sims-Castley, A. Boshoff, and R. Cowling. 2006. Insights into the circumstances leading to the extinction of the blue antelope, derived from modelling of historical mammal distribution and abundance. Department of Zoology (GK, RS, AB) and Department of Botany (RC), Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. 

Klein, R.G. 1987. The extinct blue antelope. Sagittarius, Volume 2, Number 3.

Robinson, T. J., Bastos, A. D., Halanych, K. M., and Herzig, B. (1996b). Mitochondrial DNA sequence relationships of the extinct blue antelope Hippotragus leucophaeus. Naturwissenschaften 83: 178–182.

Van den Hoek Ostende, L.W. 1999. Blaauwbok - One of the first to become extinct. 300 Pearls - Museum highlights of natural diversity. Downloaded on 28 May 2006.

Wikipedia contributors. Bluebuck [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2006 Mar 18, 21:24 UTC [cited 2006 May 28]. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Bluebuck&oldid=44407618.

Last updated: 3th March 2010.

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