Also known as the Northern grysbok, these antelopes are one of the rare mammals you will be treated to when you visit most African countries during safaris. They are scientifically referred as Raphicerus sharpei and are categorized under the Raphicerus genus as well as Bovidae family.
Sharpe’s grysbok are shy, solitary and small antelopes (slightly smaller than the Cape grysbok) that inhabit the tropical area of Southern to eastern Africa. You will definitely encounter them within the western and southern parts of Tanzania, Zambia (especially east of River Zambezi), Caprivi Strip (Namibia), Limpopo Province, eastern Swaziland, Transvaal, eastern Mpumalanga of South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, south-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and much of Zimbabwe.
For tourists planning for Congo safaris can encounter them within Upemba National Park. Their habitat is mainly rocky hill country although are sometimes spotted within the fertile zones on the lower slopes of the hills.
They resemble to gray duikers although have sturdier bodies and elongated hairs over their hindquarters but have a shoulder height of 45 to 60 centimeters and weigh between seven to twelve kilograms. Just like most antelope species, it’s only the males that have horns that measure from 60 to 100 millimeters in length.
Their coat color is reddish-brown streaked with white while their eye-rings, areas around their mouth, throat and underparts are off-white.
Male Sharpe grysbok males have stubby bodies that are widely spaced and have short deep muzzles with large mouths and heavy molar teeth. Their short necks and faces on their long-legged bodies always result in high-rump postures when browsing.
They feed on buds, fruits, shoots of shrubs and bushes, leaves and herbs in the dry season and because their food is generally tough, their jaws and teeth are adapted for that. Interestingly, grazed grass comprises around 30% of their diet. All in all, Sharpe’s Grysbok are nocturnal browsers that spend most of their day within protective covers of tall grass or shrubs. Not only that, Sharpe’s Grysbok also take up cultivated crops at night.
These animals have large territorial range but it is surprising that they are rarely seen during safaris. Both males and females always form brief associations although they prefer living solitary lives. However, territories are marked using dung middens.
They are extremely timid and usually run away at the first sight of anything or anyone unusual much as flight is usually followed by short stamping hops and move well away from where the distraction or disturbance happened before stopping, which is quite different from the steenbok that will first stop and look back before proceeding to run.
Since they rarely dig their own burrows, they usually take shelter in the aardvark burrows just like the steenboks. Sharpe’s Grysbok are listed under IUCN’s Red List of Least Concern species (2008).
Their gestation period is seven months whereby a single offspring (lamb) is born and due to their shy and secretive nature, little is known or recorded of their behavior especially when it comes to caring for their offsprings.