Designed to run, the pronghorn is the fastest animal in North America and probably the fastest long-distance runner in the world. They can cruise comfortably at 35 miles (56 km) per hour for several miles without tiring. At full speed, they can hit 55 miles (89 km) per hour and leap 20 feet (6 m). It has an extra large heart, windpipe, and lungs to accommodate such speed. They also have extra large front feet with padding to absorb shock. Even though they sometimes run on rough terrain, they seldom show any sign of lameness.
A very handsome animal with reddish tan hair on the back of its neck and back, the pronghorn has white on its belly and rump and a stripe of white across its neck. Both sexes have black horns, which are not antlers. The horns are made up of keratin hairs similar to a rhinoceros horn, and consist of an outer shell, which is shed yearly. The horns range in size from 13 to 20 inches (33–51 cm).
The pronghorn can adjust its body temperature by raising and lowering its hollow hairs. Lowering the hair keeps cold air out; raising it allows air to circulate and body heat to escape.
Only two barriers dictate the pronghorn’s territory—forests and badlands. Pronghorns favor lower elevations but can be found as high as 8,000 feet (2.4 km).
Pronghorns search with their phenomenal eyes, scan with their ears, and smell for danger. They live in herds numbering as many as several hundred animals. With this many eyes watching, they have few problems with predators. Some predators of the pronghorn are coyotes and bears.
Pronghorns browse on sage, bitter brush, salt brush, and weeds such as dandelion, thistle, clover, and a variety of others. They can go several days without water because the plants in their diet provide it. They do drink freely when water is available but are very cautious about where they drink. They prefer their watering hole to be out in the open with no high brush where predators can hide. During the heat of the day, they rest and chew their cud.
During mating season, bucks become territorial and will duel over does. The doe has a gestation period of about 250 days and usually gives birth to twins. After only a few days, the fawns can run 20 miles (32 km) per hour and join the herd.
The pronghorns aren’t really antelopes, but a separate family made up of just pronghorns, found only on the North American continent. Early explorers called them that because they looked like some of the antelopes found in Africa and other places.
Artiodactyla • Antilopinae • Antilocapra americana
Height: 2.6–3.3 feet (80–100 cm)
Weight: 77–155 pounds (35–70 kg)
Length: 4.6 feet (1.4 m)
Life Span: 15 years
Special Design Feature: The pronghorn is specially designed for running and they are probably the fastest long distance runner in the world.
Did You Know? The pronghorn antelope has very good eyesight and lives in herds of 20 to hundreds of animals.