Western North America


Prairie and desert

One of a kind

The pronghorn is an original native American. It has no close relative on this or any other continent. This interesting animal goes by many names: pronghorn antelope, prongbuck, and American antelope. The pronghorn is often called an antelope, and it does look similar to many antelope species. However, it is different enough to be classified in its own family, Antilocapridae. Read on to learn more about this one-of-a-kind critter!

Horns or antlers?

The horns of the pronghorn help make it unique: they are a cross between horns and antlers, with qualities of both. True antlers are made of bone and are shed each year; true horns are made of compressed keratin that grows from a bony core and are never shed. The horns adorning the pronghorn are neither true horns nor true antlers: the sheath is made of keratin but the horns are shed yearly.

True horns have only one point, not the prongs or forks that antlers have. However, the male (buck) pronghorn's horns can grow to be 10 inches (25 centimeters) long with a forward-facing prong, or fork, giving the animal its name: pronghorn. Female pronghorn (called does) also have horns, but they are much smaller than the males', growing up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) long. Pronghorn are the only animals in the world that have forked horns that shed each year!

The pronghorn is the fastest mammal in the New World, while the cheetah wins that honor in the Old World.
The pronghorn is the only surviving member of the Antilocapridae family.
A pronghorn calf can walk just one hour after birth.
Pronghorn have excellent vision: they can see movement as far as 3 miles (5 kilometers) away.
A herd of pronghorn moves together in an oval-shaped formation.
The song "Home on the Range" really refers to pronghorn in the famous line, "Where the deer and the antelope play."

A pronghorn lives in the San Diego Zoo’s Elephant Odyssey habitat.

Early travelers to America's West told of pronghorn herds dotting the plains as far as the eye could see, more numerous than bison. It was estimated that there were about 100 million pronghorn and 65 million bison, providing settlers with plenty of meat and hides. But as more people arrived in the West, pronghorn habitat and food was reduced.

By 1920, there were only about 13,000 pronghorn left. Part of this major decline was due to hunting. Early settlers would tie handkerchiefs to poles and wave them in the air in a technique called flagging to attract curious pronghorn within gunshot range. Flagging is now illegal, and protection of habitat and restrictions on hunting have allowed the pronghorn to recover a bit. Two pronghorn subspecies—the Sonoran pronghorn Antilocapra americana sonoriensis and peninsular pronghorn Antilocapra americana peninsularis—are endangered due to illegal hunting.

But help is on the way! There are now several measures being taken to help return the Sonoran and peninsular pronghorn to areas of restored natural habitat. The San Diego Zoo is participating as a supporting partner in such a program for the peninsular pronghorn in Baja California, Mexico.

You can help us bring pronghorn and other species back from the brink by supporting the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. Together we can save and protect wildlife around the globe.