The Common Eland (Taurotragus oryx), also known as the Southern Eland or Eland antelope, is a savannah and plains antelope found in East and Southern Africa.
The Common Eland is considered, alongside the ironically similarly-dimensioned Giant Eland, the largest species of "antelope", though in many respects the Elands are quite bovine. Females weigh 300-600 kg (661-1323 lb), measure 200-280 cm (79-110 in) from the snout to the base of the tail and stand 125-153 cm (49-60 in) at the shoulder. Bulls weigh 400-1000 kg (882-2205 lb), are 240-345 cm (94-136 in) from the snout to the base of the tail and stand 150-183 cm (59-72 in) at the shoulder. The tail adds a further 50-90 cm (20-35 in). Females have a tan coat, while males have a darker tan coat with a blueish-grey tinge; there may also be a series of white stripes vertically on the sides of bulls (mainly in parts of the Karoo in South Africa). Males have dense fur on their foreheads and a large dewlap. Both sexes have horns, about 65 cm (26 in) long and with a steady spiral ridge (resembling that of the bushbuck). The female's horns are wider set and thinner than the male's.
Ecology and behavior
Common Eland live on the open plains of southern Africa and along the foothills of the great South African plateau. They eat grass, branches and leaves and are diurnal but tend to be inactive during the heat of day. Herds usually have 30 to 80 individuals, but are known to exceed 400. The Common Eland has an unusual social life, leaving or joining herds as necessary without forming close ties.
The size and power of the bull Eland generally (but not always) discourages predators, but females are thought to be more vulnerable to attack. Known Eland predators include lions, Spotted Hyenas, African Wild Dogs and, rarely, leopards.
Common Eland are sometimes considered part of the genus Tragelaphus, but are usually categorized as Taurotragus, along with the Giant Eland.
Common Eland are sometimes farmed and/or hunted for their meat, and in some cases can be better utilized than cattle due to their being more suited to their natural habitat. This has led to some Southern African farmers switching from cattle to eland.
The name "Eland" is derived from the Dutch word for moose. When Dutch settlers came to the Cape Province they named the largest wild ruminant herbivore they met with the name of the huge northern herbivore.
In Dutch the animal is called "Eland antelope" to distinguish it from the Moose, which is found in the northern boreal forests.1
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