Pronghorn

Pronghorn, male, California

Pronghorn, male, California

The fastest mammal in North America, the pronghorn is able to run more than 40 mph.  Their safety depends on the ability to outrun predators.

 

They can be found in many western U.S. states, and southern Saskatchewan and Alberta.  Living and breeding in open terrain, pronghorn feed on grasses, shrubs, and other plants.

 

Pronghorn, California

Pronghorn, California

Although they are often called an antelope, and look and behave like one, they are not an antelope.  Their closest relative, in fact, is the giraffe.

 

Named for a short prong on the male’s horns, the horn is a slender blade of bone that grows from the skull.  Skin covers the bone, just like in a giraffe, and the pronghorn sheds the horn sheath annually.

 

Pronghorn, Nevada

Nevada

Antilocapra americana are the only surviving member of the Antilocaptra family.   In the early 1900s this mammal was heading toward extinction due to over-hunting.

 

At that juncture, the Boone and Crockett Club brought forward protection procedures to prevent this special mammal from disappearing.  Then there were problems with enclosing the pronghorn in fenced areas, and they continued to die off until there were only 13,000 individuals remaining.

 

Legislation and continued preservation did eventually save this species.  Today, due to their full recovery, it is legal to hunt pronghorn in the western states, limits and permits are required.  Estimated population is 500,000-1,000,000.

 

PronghornRange.png

Pronghorn range. Courtesy Wikipedia.

More about pronghorn here.

 

The first wild one I ever saw was while driving a back road in southern California.  He was alone, grazing, and shot out of sight pretty quickly.

 

After that I craved more moments with the pronghorn, and had the chance over the next five years to spot them in five different states:  California, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming.

 

Montana

Montana

On vacation in Montana, we came across about a dozen pronghorn.  Knowing they were quick to bolt, we stayed in the car and drove very slowly down the isolated gravel road.  I drove while Athena snapped photos out the moon roof.

 

Colorado

Colorado

In Africa there are dozens and dozens of different antelope species, and thousands dotted across the savanna as far as you can see.

 

In America we have one species, and it’s not technically even an antelope.

 

That we still have vast expanses here is a wonderful thing.  That we have a home where the buffalo roam, and the deer and the antelope play, is outstanding.

 

Colorado

Colorado

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

 

 

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76 thoughts on “Pronghorn

  1. They used to scare me as a child…I think it was because when they look at you straight on their faces and horns are look a bit menacing. Beautiful now though 🙂

    • I love this story, Morgan. I have only seen them as an adult, but I can imagine they would be intimidating to a child. Those horns, yes, and they do look you straight on. And they’re so quick, this could be frightening too, to a small person. Thanks so much!

  2. As a kid, we drove four hours and made camp along the Nevada Idaho border. This was the only place in the state that had antelope. We saw them and it was magical. Now they’re everywhere, a real success story. I’ve read somewhere that at one point in time, a buck pronghorn was clocked as running faster than a cheetah. Maybe he was the gold medalist of pronghorns, but it puts him into perspective.

    I’ve also read that the Mountain goat is actually a true antelope and not an actual goat. Do you suppose there’s any truth to either of these things?

    • The pronghorn success story is wonderful. I’m thinking like you, if there was a buck pronghorn clocked faster than a cheetah, it was a mighty unique individual. Cheetahs, at 70 mph runs, far out-pace most pronghorns. I’ve watched both run in the wild, and cheetahs are unmistakably the faster mammal. Re the mtn goat, I looked that up. They are in the Bovidae family, which includes antelope; and their subfamily is “goat-antelope.” Enjoyed your visit today, as always, Craig — thanks so much.

      • You never know if you can believe some of the stuff put out there as fact. What I find amazing is how long the pronghorn can keep it up. It may not be full speed, but they can cover a small county where a predator would give up in a block or two.

  3. What a wonderful creature – and wonderful that it has been allowed / helped to survive. On looking at the first photo I just thought Africa . . . but then I read!

  4. I didn’t know they are the fastest mammal in North America. Athena took great captures.
    Thank you for sharing,Jet! Enjoyed the reading.

  5. Thanks for the information on the Pronghorns. I knew they were fast runners but not the fact they are the fastest in N.America; easy to believe since their bodies are very firm, slim and streamline. I don’t think there is another animal in N. America that size and as agile except for coyotes and wolfs but can they endure the long runs to be able to trap the Pronghorns?
    We have seen the animal grazing on the rolling hills in the distance while driving the freeway in Montana. Montana has a large Buffalo preserve near Missoula where the wild animals can safely graze and roam. I am sure we saw the Pronghorns at a distance within that area. They are lovely animals standing proudly and quietly still if movement or noise startles them.

  6. Another beautiful post….and thank goodness these beauties were saved from extinction…..I love reading your blogs about different species and where you travel….just wonderful. Janet:)

    • And I really like having you for an attentive audience, Janet. I always learn so much when I research and write the posts, and what a pleasure it is to share the creatures of the world. I hope your week goes swimmingly.

  7. This is another beautiful animal that roams great part of the western USA. I’m glad that they never reached the point of extinction. Thank you my friend for this great post. 🙂

    • I’m glad too, HJ, that the pronghorns never reached extinction. We can thank the Boone and Crockett Club for that, a conservation club founded by Teddy Roosevelt and other hunters who witnessed the problems with over-harvesting. Thanks so much, my friend, for your avid interest.

  8. I have to agree with Janet. A beautiful post and such a pleasure to read of your travels and the various critters you meet. Of course Athena’s captures are wonderful, too. I’ve been lucky enough to encounter quite a few pronghorns in my travels, too. I was told that pronghorns won’t jump a fence. Maybe shimmy under one (losing some hair to the barbed wire in the process), but more likely to keep running along one side. Don’t know if that’s true, or not.

    • I’ve read that pronghorns in yesteryear did not jump fences very often, and now they jump them more. Still, they do not like to do it, but will if they have to. I am happy to hear you’ve had a few pronghorn encounters, Gunta. With all your travels to deserts and open spaces, this makes sense. How lucky for you. Thank you for your kind words, I really appreciate them, and your frequent visits and interest as well.

    • I would imagine you and Mrs. pc will come across them in your summer travels; you two like those open spaces, just like the pronghorns. I guess school is out soon? They blend in really well to the landscape, and if they are far away there are often heat waves to compete with in finding them too. Keep the binoculars handy, that may help. My best wises~~

  9. So beautiful and such a lovable creature,Jet!It’s almost as fast as the cheetah who is the fastest land animal.Athena’s photos are gorgeous.The first image in California is a striking close up,one can admire his innocent stare,his rich fawn coat with the white patches and its horns.Thank God it sheds the horn sheath annually … The last but one image in Colorado is best large,she shows live on the screen!I think I have to make a list and write down all that animal species who came into my life since I met you on WP.My best wishes for a splendid & productive week ahead,dear friend 🙂 ☀ ※

    • What a thrill it is to share the many creatures of the world with you, dear Doda. I really appreciate your thorough observations of the photos, and your enjoyment in my posts. When Athena and I are on the back roads, I always drive, I’m the safari driver. I scan and drive, while she sits attentively, her camera and long lens in her lap, also scanning. Like on safari, the mammals are much more docile if the humans stay in the vehicle. Often before the mammal runs there is a minute or two when she can snap-snap-snap. Great fun. And really fun to share it with you, my friend. *+* ♥

    • I am always delighted with your warm and perceptive comments, David. It is a great activity to spend energy on, chasing the wild animals, and a pleasure to share them with you. 🙂

  10. A lovely write-up and some beautiful photos of this wonderful creature! Your posts are so informative and gives me so much insight into wildlife… etc. Thanks, Jet, for all this and to Athena for some great photos. 🙂

  11. Oh, the wonderful things we learn from you, Jet! Imagine, they’re related to the giraffe! And, I’ve heard that in those wide open spaces the skies are not cloudy all day! 😉

    • I found that interesting too, Jan, glad you did. Their coloring is indeed lovely, and in those wide open landscapes they blend right in. Thanks so much Jan.

  12. These guys (and gals) look familiar… I visited the LA Zoo a couple of weeks ago and was very impressed with the family living there. Not sure if I’ve ever seen any in the wild… but at least now, if I do see one I’ll know what it is. Nice to know this is one more animal that didn’t go extinct.

    • I’m very glad to know, Roslyn, if you see a pronghorn in the wild, you’ll know what it is. They’re easy to mistake as deer, because they’re a similar size. Thanks so much for your comment~~

    • I think it’s great, Brian, that you have spent a lot of time in pronghorn country, and you’re always still excited to see them. Wonderful comment, thank you.

  13. I had no idea. I think I may have seen pronghorns but mis-identified them — thanks so much
    great pictures as always

    • I would imagine you have seen them, Bill, with all those trips you’ve made to the wild west. Now you will know what they are. I find this thrilling. Thanks so much.

  14. Jet we have never seen them. Although we do see a lot of deer so perhaps we are just not noticing the differences? Since we can’t recall seeing a single bird in Peru perhaps that says something about our wildlife observational skills.

    • The pronghorn are wily and fast, and they blend into the landscape, not easy to spot. But you two are always zooming on daring and dangerous adventures, so it’s possible you’re just faster than the pronghorn. 😉 Always a delight to visit with you Sue.

  15. Jet, this is a beautiful animal! Athena’s photographs are awesome. I didn’t know that they are the fastest mammal. always an informative post, Jet. thanks for sharing 🙂

  16. Pronghorns are one of my favorites. I had no idea their numbers had dwindled so. I’m currently in the Tetons and managed to snap a few nice shots of these guys.

    • Hi Ingrid! How fun that you are in the Tetons at the moment, and snapping away at these beautiful creatures. I love the Tetons, I hope you and your husband are having a grand time.

  17. I have probably seen these beautiful creatures in the wilds of the west without even knowing it. Who would have guessed they were closely related to a giraffe?? I continue to learn about the wonders of God’s creatures…thank you for sharing!!

  18. How surprising this “antelope” is related to giraffe! The evolution’s way are indeed mysterious. Thank you for the introduction, Jet.

  19. We observed these guys in Yellowstone. I believe it was getting close to mating season and the male had quite the job trying to keep all his females gathered. One of them kept escaping and he had to run after her and chase her back again:)

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