Sable antelopes are scientifically known as Hippotragus niger and occupy wooded savannah areas of East Africa, especially Southern Kenya and Southern Africa. They are said to share the same genus (Hippotragus) with the roan antelopes (H.equinus) and the already extinct bluebucks (H.leucophaeus) and belong to the Bovidae family.
Sable antelopes are sub-divided into four sub-sSavpecies that include the eastern sable (H.n.roosevelti), said to the smallest of these antelopes and inhabit the coastal hinterlands of southern Kenya, in mainly the Shimba Hills National Reserve and areas eastern regions of Tanzania (the eastern escarpment and northern Mozambique, the southern sable/black sable (H.n.niger) also believed to be the typical sable and were first discovered and named in 1838. They are sometimes referred as the black sables because they normally have the darkest coats. Are found within areas that are south of the Zambezi River, especially Northern Botswana and in large numbers within the Matsetsi valley of Zimbabwe much as you will also find them in South Africa. The third sub-species are the Zambian sable or the west-Tanzanian sable (H.n.kirkii) are vulnerable and are found in Malawi, Central Angola and western Zambia and so far have the largest geographical range that stretches North of the Zambezi River through Zambia, Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo to the south-western area of Tanzania and finally the giant sable antelopes or the royal sables that derived their name from the long horns found in both sexes. These ones are critically endangered and occupy few areas of Central Angola.
These antelopes inhabit savannah woodlands and grasslands during the dry season and feed on mid-length leaves and grasses and go to salt licks although also chew bones to get some minerals, especially calcium.
Sable antelopes are characterized by their compact and robust-built bodies with thick necks and strong skins as well as well developed and always upright manes on their necks and shorter manes on their throats. Not only that, they are chestnut to black in color while the females are usually chestnut to dark brown whereas the males start darkening and change black after three years old. Nonetheless, the females of the southern sable antelopes have brown to black coat colors.
The average lifespan of the sable antelopes is 19 years in the wild while can reach up to 22 years in captivity.
Sable antelopes are diurnal much as are active during the heat of the day. They always make herds ranging from 10 to 30 females as well as calves and controlled by one male-bull. The males fight among themselves and put their knees down and use their horns.
Their average body and head length is usually between 190 and 255 centimeters (75 to 100 inches) long. Just like most antelopes, the Sable antelopes are sexually dimorphic in a way that the males are twice heavier and at least one-fifth taller than their female counterparts. The former have a shoulder height of 117 to 140 centimeters (46 to 55 inches) while their female counterparts are slightly shorter.
When threatened by their enemies that include leopards and lions, they confront them with their spiral-shaped horns and surprisingly, most of these big cats have died during such attacks. Their habitats have been reduced by agricultural development and habitat destruction/loss.
Males usually weigh about 235 kilograms (518 pounds) while the females weigh about 220 kilograms (490 pounds). Generally, their tails measure from 40 to 75 centimeters (16 to 30 inches) long with s tuft at their end. .
Both sexes have ringed horns which usually turn backwards and in the females, it extends from 61 to 102 centimeters (24 to 40 inches) whereas the males are from 81 to 165 centimeters (32 to 65 inches) long.