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the web of life in southern Africa

Oreotragus oreotragus (Klipspringer)

klipspringer, klipbokkie [Afrikaans]; Klippspringer [German]; oréotrague [French]; ngurunguru, mbuzi mawe [Swahili]; igogo [isiNdebele] [isiZulu]; kololo, kome [Sepedi]; kome, sekome [Sesotho]; kololo, mokabaowane, mokabaeyane [Setswana]; ngururu [Shona]; ligoka, inyamatane, ligoga [siSwati]; ngululu, xemi [Xitsonga]; || Khaises [Nama] [Damara]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Synapsida (mammal-like reptiles) > Therapsida > Theriodontia >  Cynodontia > Mammalia (mammals) > Placentalia (placental mammals) > Laurasiatheria > Ferungulata > Cetartiodactyla (even-toed ungulates and cetaceans) > Ruminantia (ruminants) > Family: Bovidae (antelopes and buffalo) > Subfamily: Antilopinae

Oreotragus oreotragus (Klipspringer)

Klipspringer, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Peet van Schalkwyk ©, see also scienceanimations.com]

Oreotragus oreotragus (Klipspringer) Oreotragus oreotragus (Klipspringer)

Klipspringer browsing, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Arno Meintjes ©]

Klipspringer with Pale-winged starlings. [photo Callie de Wet ©]


The common name is derived from Afrikaans and means “rock jumper”, as the klipspringer is extremely agile at moving across rocky outcrops and steep rocky slopes. A member of the dwarf antelopes this small stocky antelope has a distinctive coat coarse, hollow, spiny hair. The black tips of the hairs give the coat a grizzled appearance with the basic colour yellow-brown to grey-brown. The underparts, the chin and the muzzle surrounding the lips are almost white. The stocky appearance is the result of the hair that stands almost erect rather than lying flat as in a typical coat. The ears are large and rounded with black hair bordering the inner edge. Only the ram carries short, vertical horns, which are spiraled at the base. There is a black ring around the top of the hooves. The females are slightly larger than the males and hornless. Klipspringers have a characteristic stilted gait with a bouncing motion and walk on the very tips of their peg-like hooves. The hooves have a long sole and are blunt at the tips.


Shoulder height 60 cm; weight 10 kg (ram), 13 kg (ewe); average horn length 8 cm.

Dental Formula

 I C P M = 32

Distribution and habitat

Wide but patchy distribution throughout the southern African subregion; always associated with rocky habitats with thick scrub-bush.

General behaviour

Klipspringer are only found in rocky habitats, the inaccessible nature of the habitat and the sheltering crevices provide protection from predators. They are active in the early morning and the late afternoon, and throughout the day on cool days. They occur in pairs or small family groups. Rams are territorial and territories are marked using communal dung piles and secretions from the well-developed preorbital gland in front of the eye.

For a long time it was thought that the hollow bristly hair had a cushioning effect if the klipspringer should fall and knock itself against rocks, but it is now accepted that it has a function in regulating the temperature of the antelope. It insulates them against extreme cold and heat, and reflects the heat from their surroundings during the hotter times of the day. Years ago their hair was prized for stuffing saddles.


Predominantly a browser but will graze on grass occasionally.


After a gestation period of about 210 days, a single lamb is born, at anytime of the year. The lamb remains hidden for the first 2 – 3 months after birth. The young are weaned at 3-4 months. Life span: 14 years – maximum age.

Predators, parasites and commensals

Predators include leopard, caracal and large birds of prey.


The conservation of the klipspringer is rated as “lower risk”, but is dependant on their protection within conservation areas.

Text by Denise Hamerton