Antelopes are one of the most diverse taxons containing mammals.
If you think “antelope”, you might think of animals like gazelles, bushbucks, or dik-diks. Yet, officially, the term “antelope” includes 91 species spread across 30 genera.
Some of the animals classified as antelopes might also surprise you.
For example, most people aren’t aware that wildebeests, which look more like bison than the classical picture of an “antelope”, are actually antelopes. So are oryx and sitatunga, which most people think of as looking like goats.
For that reason, if you’re looking for a list of different types of animals, you can easily find examples that are different kinds of antelopes.
Antelopes like the Eland stand up to 5’10” at the shoulder and weigh over 2,000 lbs. On the other hand, the Roya Antelope averages 10” and weighs under 6.5 lbs. on average. And some, like the ditabag, stand up on their hind legs to eat.
Still, there are plenty of animals that are similar to antelopes but they actually aren’t. However, all of them are in the same order, Bovidae.
Scientific name (family): Cervidae
Description: Many deer can look remarkably similar to antelope, sharing characteristics of slender legs and relatively small heads, coloration, and even eating habits.
Deer consist of 27 species spread across the Americas, Europe, and Asia. All of them are in the Cervidae family but are divided into two sub-families.
In addition, deer are often very visually similar to many antelopes. In fact, in some cases, the only differentiator is how deer grow horns.
Here, antelopes grow permanent horns. Male deer grow and shed horns every year – allowing them to grow and maintain larger horns than would be practical year-round.
Of course, there are exceptions. Female reindeer also grow and shed horns. Water deer don’t have horns at all; instead, they have tusks.
Like antelopes, deer vary significantly in size. The moose, one of the largest land mammals in the United States, can stand as high as 6’11” at the shoulder and can weigh over 1,500 lbs.
On the other hand, the pudu, which is native to South America, is normally smaller than 17 inches tall at the shoulder and can weigh as little as 7 lbs. as an adult.
2. Sheep and Goats
Scientific name (subfamily): Caprinae
Description: Goats are so similar to some antelopes that the subfamily is sometimes referred to as the “goat-antelope” group.
Goats and sheep are Bovidae and a tribe within the antilpinae. They consist of 45 species of sheep and goats – which include species so diverse as the domestic goat, the muskox, and the Tibetan antelope (although this is disputed).
Of these, the Chiru and the Serow are almost impossible to differentiate from antelopes. In fact, the Serow, which is native to Asia, resembles a fluffy antelope with short horns.
Most goat-antelopes are also specially adapted to specific mountainous regions or islands.
However, some, like domestic sheep and goats, have a near-global reach thanks to human intervention. Others, like the goral, are native to very specific stretches of India and China.
In addition, some species, like Takin, are visually very similar to large antelopes like the wildebeest. However, with different coloration and different horns, you’d be very unlikely to confuse these two mammals.
Scientific Name: Antilocapra americana
Description: Pronghorns are so much like antelope that they’re sometimes called the “American Antelope”, although they feature a unique horn shape.
Pronghorns are the sole surviving member of the family Antilocapridae, a family of antelope-like mammals indigenous to North America.
Today, the pronghorn is diverse and spread across the southern and western United States and Canada.
Unlike true antelopes, pronghorns grow and shed horns every year. In addition, they have a prong or forked horn, leading many people to think they’re a type of deer.
However, pronghorns are most closely related to giraffes and okapi.
Pronghorns are normally about 3’ at the shoulder and weigh 75-140 lbs. as adults. That makes them about the same size as a medium antelope – or slightly smaller than an average deer in the United States.
4. Musk Deer
Scientific Name: Moschus (Genus)
Description: Musk deer are tiny herbivores resembling antelopes, but with tusks instead of horns.
Musk deer are called “deer” but they aren’t. Instead, they’re a unique group of Bovidae that look similar to small deer or antelopes.
However, with all of the 7 species of musk deer standing at under 28 inches at the shoulder and weighing 15-37 lbs. as adults, musk deer are all small.
Theusk deer also stand out for other reasons. For example, like the Chinese water deer, they have no antlers and instead have tusks. These tusks are simply enlarged canines, which protrude well out of the animals’ mouths.
All musk deer are native to Asia and the Middle East, primarily China, Bhutan, and the Himalayas.
They’re also almost all endangered, because of a combination of small native habitat, pressure from climate change, and poaching. Here, males are poached for their scent or “musk” glands, which are used to make perfume.
5. Mouse Deer
Scientific Name: Tragulidae (Family)
Description: Mouse deer or chevrotains look like a cross between a small antelope and a pig.
While called deer, mouse deer aren’t even related. Instead, they’re in a completely different family. These tiny herbivores include 10 species in three genera and all but one are native to South and Southeast Asia.
Like musk deer and Chinese water deer, mouse deer and chevrotains don’t have antlers. Instead, they have tusks, leading many to compare them to pigs.
The Water Chevrotain is the only animal in this family native to the African continent. It also stands out for its diet, which includes fish, scavenged carrion, and insects.
While other ruminants (Deer, cows, horses) are known to occasionally eat carrion – but no other Chevrotain does.
In addition, mouse deer have stockier bodies than most antelope. However, you might still mistake them for a small antelope.
Scientific Name: Bison (Genus)
Description: Bison sometimes so closely resemble antelope like buffalo and wildebeest that the bison was called a buffalo for much of history.
Almost no one thinks of a bison when they think antelope, but when you compare these burly bovines to water buffalo and wildebeest, there are marked similarities.
Often, the North American and European bison are shaggier and stockier than antelope like buffalo. However, other than that, there are a few differences.
The bison includes two species, the American Bison and the European bison.
Here, differences appear superficial, such as the American bison being stockier and closer to the ground. However, the European bison also has 14 instead of 15 ribs.
Scientific Name: Bubalus depressicornis (Family)
Description: Anoa are small buffalos with long, straight horns and look like goats or stocky antelopes.
The lowland anoa is a 35-inch-high bovid that looks like a goat or antelope. While most closely related to water buffalo, these herbivores are small, normally weigh less than 660 lbs., and have grazing habits similar to those of deer and antelope.
The anoa are endangered because of a small natural habitat in Sulawesi and the significant demand for their meat and horns.
Otherwise, looking at an anoa, you’d be hard-pressed to say it wasn’t a goat or a species of antelope.
Antelopes include a very diverse range of animals, some of which you might not think of as antelopes. Therefore, it’s relatively easy to find animals that look like them – depending on the build and size of the antelope in question. In most cases, deer, pronghorns, musk, and mouse deer are the most similar in appearance to what you might think of as an antelope. However, if you look at the wildebeest, you need a bison to get close in appearance.