The bambis, part 6: a selection of the most revealing photos of klipspringers

...continued from

For many large mammals, the photographic record is just sufficient to give an idea of what the species looks like. However, some species - such as klipspringers - are so attractive and photogenic that there are now enough photos to reveal subtleties and details.

I have scoured the Web, looking for photos that happen to reveal more than the photographers focussed on. In no particular order, here are my current choices for little-known aspects of klipspringers.


Everyone knows that klipspringers are the ungulates most specialised for rocky terrain, but how many realise that their walking gait (even on flat ground) is correspondingly extreme? And that they can climb trees?

Whereas antilopins - like most ruminants of open vegetation - amble, klipspringers follow a different sequence of movements of the limbs. Klipspringers are both the most extreme cross-walkers among ruminants and the only 'hyper-unguligrade' mammals on Earth. Like most ungulates, they walk on their claws, but unlike all other ungulates they walk on the tips of their claws (

Compare the steenbok (Raphicerus campestris, and Kirk's dikdik (Madoqua kirki, with the following of klipspringers: and and and and

If you find yourself cross-eyed at the positions of the walking limbs, try again with the mountain gazelle (Gazella gazella), which - like the bambis above but unlike klipspringers - ambles:

The order in which klipspringers move their limbs is awkward in the sense that the hind foot risks bumping against the fore foot. However, what these rupicolous antelopes are specialised for is a combination of 'tiptoe' and stability. Cross-walking is the most stable of walking gaits, helping to explain why monkeys and the koala, adapted to walk along the limbs of in trees, cross-walk even on flat ground...

...which brings us to klipspringers in trees: and and and and .


Everyone knows that the migrations of large ungulates in the Serengeti attract the world's best photographers of wildlife. However, how many realise that the local subspecies (schillingsi) of klipspringer has been excellently portrayed as a result? and and


The following seems to illustrate the fact that some females, as well as all males, grow horns in subspecies schillingsi of the Serengeti:


The auricular flag in klipspringers is precocial ( The conspicuous pattern is already present in juveniles, and the ear pinnae are already fully grown when the horns are still short: and

In the Cape klipspringer, the ear pinnae are similarly precocial in size, but there is no auricular flag in either adults or juveniles: This would be one of the main reasons to reclassify the Cape klipspringer as a separate species, not just a subspecies.


Everyone knows that klipspringers are more-or-less monogamous, and some may know that they 'kiss' with their preorbital glands. But how many realise that the married partners do not groom each other?

Instead, klipspringers have an odd relationship with starlings (belonging to the same family as oxpeckers), which remove ticks from the head: and and and and[Augrabies%20Falls%20National%20Park]/2/.

Animals as small-bodied as klipspringers are not attractive to oxpeckers, and it is surprising that klipspringers are attractive to Onychognathus spp. ( Perhaps this reflects the peculiar nature of the fur (see below) in some way (

Even a bird as different from oxpeckers as the familiar chat ( participates in the de-ticking of klipspringers:


Everyone knows that the tail is hardly noticeable in klipspringers, but how many realise that it is proportionately longer than in most ruminants adapted to the cold parts of the Northern Hemisphere (e.g. chamois, ibex, wild sheep, moose, wapiti, caribou, roe deer, pronghorn)?

In klipspringers, the tail is not rudimentary, it just lacks a tassel ( And its colouration is inconspicuous - which is consistent with a shift of function from the caudal flagging so common among ruminants to the auricular flagging seen in the saltatrixoides-group of Oreotragus.


Everyone knows that the fur of klipspringers is oddly stiff and brittle, but how many realise that the colour of the hairs is restricted to the tips?

The following individual of subspecies schillingsi, in the Serengeti, was photographed consecutively as it walked among plant stems too flimsy to be visible but stiff enough to ruffle the fur in passing: and

When klipspringers have had a 'close shave' with a predator, and the brittle fur has been partly sheared in the scramble to escape, this is how it looks: and


In antilopin bovids of similar body size to klipspringers, such as the steenbok ( and oribis (, the juvenile suckles by splaying the fore legs. By contrast, in klipspringers a kneeling position seems to be adopted:

to be continued in

Posted on October 05, 2021 12:28 AM by milewski milewski


Posted by milewski almost 3 years ago

pale on posterior surface of fore but not hind leg

Posted by milewski almost 3 years ago
Posted by milewski almost 3 years ago

These are the youngest photographed specimens of any klipspringer in the wild: and

Posted by milewski almost 3 years ago

Add a Comment

Sign In or Sign Up to add comments