What do Springboks and Kangaroos have in common?

Antidorcas marsupialis is a medium-sized brown and white antelope. It is roughly 80cm high and can run up to 90 km/hour. It is also able to leap 3.5 m high and stot, pronk or jump 15 m.

Hell, I wish I could do that.

But I am not a Springbok.

The second half of the Springbok’s latin name ‘marsupialis’ refers to the blind fold or pocket-like contraption on its back that stretches from its tail to the middle of its back. So why, you may well ask, is there this need for a Kangaroo-like pouch on an antelope in Africa? And what on earth is it doing on its back?

We found the answer to this question on a particularly good game drive from Nossob on our last trip to the Kgalagadi. Melissa (ranger/game driver) was at the helm. She shared so many amazing stories and through this, managed to turn the usually mundane into the extraordinary. This is a real art – and distinguishes the wheat from the chaff when it comes to rangers on night drives.

The story is thus:

When the male Springbok is doing what male Springboks do best (strutting their stuff and trying to show off their infinite strength and prowess before a gaggle of fascinated females) they do a wonderful stiff-legged trot and jump into the air with their backs arched. Every few paces or so, they lift this hidden crest/pouch affair and this causes the white hairs to stand up in a classic fan shape.

At the same time, a strong scent of rank sweat is emitted.

This, of course, is guaranteed to coax even the shiest of Springbok females out from behind the camel thorn tree.

I mean really, wouldn’t you?

The whole performance is dubbed ‘pronking’ and it stems from the Afrikaans word – to boast or show off.

Another theory is that pronking is a way for these animals to show that they know they have been spotted by a predator and that they are now showing off their supreme fitness and strength.

In this way (they reckon) the predator should thus be encouraged to rather go off and find someone else who cannot jump as high/far/elegantly with the same degree of stinky, sweaty white bum fluff as they can.

All very complex.

Whatever the reason, they always make it look as though they’re having a whale of a time. And one hopes that they are!

(With huge thanks to superstock.com for the shamelessly searched for and found photo…we didn’t manage to get a beautiful backlit shot of a pronking male on this last trip. Maybe next time.)