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The Blesbok or Blesbuck (Damaliscus pygarus phillipsi) is a purplish antelope  with a distinctive white face and forehead. Its white face is the origin of its name, because bles is the Afrikaans  word for blaze. Although they are close relatives of the Bontebok  (Damaliscus pygargus dorcas) and they can interbreed creating an animal known as the Bontebles, they do not share habitat. The Blesbok is indigenous to South Africa and are found in large numbers in all national parks with open grasslands.

They are found in large numbers from as far south as Eastern Cape, the plains of the Free State, and the Transvaal Highveld. They are a plains species and dislike wooded areas. They were first discovered in the 17th-century, in numbers so numerous that herds reached from horizon to horizon.

According to the Smithsonian Institution, the Linnaean taxonomic name should be Damaliscus pygargus for both the Blesbok and Bontebok.Physical Characteristics
Juvenile Blesboks

The neck and the top of the back of the Blesbok is brown. Lower down on the flanks and buttocks, the coloring becomes darker. The belly, the inside of the buttocks and the area up to the base of the tail is white. Blesbok can be easily differentiated from other antelopes because they have a distinct white face and forehead. The legs are brown with a white patch behind the top part of the front legs. Lower legs whitish. Both sexes have horns, female horns are slightly more slender. The Blesbok differ from the Bontebok by having less white on the coat and the blaze on the face, which is usually divided, their coats are also a lighter brown than that of the Bontebok. The length of their horns averages at around 38 cm. Male adult Blesbok average around 70 kg, females average lower, at around 61 kg.

Habitat

Blesbok can be found in open velds and open plains of South Africa. Preferred habitat is open grasslands with water.

Reproduction

The Blesbok is a seasonal breeder. Rutting occurs during March to May. Births peak during November and December after a gestation period of about 240 days(8months). Females give birth to single calves.

Status

The Blesbok was nearly hunted to extinction due to their perceived large numbers, but being protected since the late 19th-century their numbers have increased and today their numbers have recovered sufficiently as to not be considered pressured, or endangered. This is largely due to the commercial value that these antelope hold for private land owners, and also the fact that they are one of the few medium sized antelope that can be contained by normal stock fencing.

Paleontology

Fossil remains of a prehistoric relative named Damaliscus niro were found in deposits in Sterkfontein. With a weight of approximately 120 kilograms it was heavier than the modern Blesbok and it had slightly different horns. Damaliscus niro became extinct at the end of the Pleistocene 12 000 years ago.