Africa, below the Sahara Desert


Wetlands, thickets, grasslands, and forests

Built-in corkscrews

If an animal is called a spiral-horned antelope, you better believe it’s going to have a set of spiraling horns on its head! All of the bulls (males) have these impressive hood ornaments, and in the bongo and eland species, the cows (females) have them, too.
It is important to note that horns are different from antlers in many ways: horns do not branch and are not shed each year as antlers are.

Horns are there to stay for the animal’s lifetime and are actually part of the skeleton. They are made of hollow bone covered with an outer layer of keratin. So how do they grow in a spiral? Well, the twisting is a result of a growth pulse where the horn material grows faster and thinner at certain times, and then thicker and slower at other times. An animal’s genes control growth pulses.

Adaptable antelope

The nine spiral-horned antelope species have managed to make use of many major African habitats below the Sahara Desert. They are often found in areas between different types of vegetation. One reason for this could be that they are able to eat a variety of food, depending on what's available, unlike an animal with a more specialized diet.

As browsers, their muzzle is more slender and narrow than their grass-eating relatives, and they can pick out high-quality foods such as fruits, seedpods, flowers, leaves, and bark. Spiral-horned antelope have small, low-crowned teeth, and their digestive systems don't process highly fibrous food, such as grass, as well as their cattle relatives.

Sitatungas may submerge themselves for a period of time with just their nostrils above the water to avoid predators.
The dark reddish color on a bongo’s coat rubs off quite easily. There have been reports that rain running off a bongo turned red.
Bushbucks are slow and clumsy runners, but they are good swimmers and can jump up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) high.
Eland can survive up to a month without fresh water.

The San Diego Zoo obtained its first greater kudu in 1946. Today, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has herds of several spiral-horned antelope species in its large field exhibits. They can be viewed from the popular Africa Tram Safari or more closely on a Caravan Safari.

Although the mountain nyala Tragelaphus buxtoni is the only spiral-horned antelope species listed as endangered, the other species are also being hunted in an unsustainable manner for their meat, and some hunters kill the animals simply to take their spiral horns as trophies.

You can help us bring mountain nyala 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.