The springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) is a medium-sized brown and white antelope-gazelle of southwestern Africa. It is extremely fast and can reach speeds of 100 km/h (62 mph) and can leap 4 m (13 feet) through the air. The common name “springbok” comes from the Afrikaans and Dutch words spring = jump and bok = male antelope or goat.
The specific epithet marsupialis (Latin: marsupium, “pocket”) derives from a pocket-like skin flap which extends along the middle of the back from the tail onwards. When the male springbok is showing off his strength to attract a mate, or to ward off predators, he starts off in a stiff-legged trot, jumping up into the air with an arched back every few paces and lifting the flap along his back. Lifting the flap causes the long white hairs under the tail to stand up in a conspicuous fan shape, which in turn emits a strong scent of sweat. This ritual is known as stotting or pronking from the Afrikaans meaning to boast or show off.
Springboks are slender, long-necked antelopes, with a total length of 150 to 195 cm (59 to 77 in), and horns present in both sexes. Their colouring consists of a pattern of white, reddish/tan and dark brown. Their backs are tan-coloured and they are white beneath, with a dark brown stripe extending along each side from the shoulder to inside the thigh. The face is white in adults, with a dark patch on the forehead, and a stripe running from just above the eyes to the corner of the mouth. The hooves and horns are black, and the tail is white with a black tuft at the tip.
Springbok are mixed feeders, switching between grazing and browsing seasonally. When grasses are fresh, they mostly graze. At other times, they browse on shrubs and succulents. Springbok can meet their water needs from the food they eat, and survive without drinking water through dry season, or even over years. Reportedly, in extreme cases, they do not drink any water over the course of their lives. Springbok may accomplish this by selecting flowers, seeds, and leaves of shrubs before dawn, when these foods are most succulent. Springbok gather together in the wet seasons and spread out during the dry season, an unusual trait among African animals. In places such as Etosha, springbok can and do seek out water bodies when they are available. Examples of food items eaten by springbok are grasses, such as Themeda triandra, and succulent plants, such as Lampranthus.
In South Africa, springbok inhabit the vast grasslands of the Free State and the open shrublands of the greater and smaller Karoo. They inhabit most of Namibia – the grasslands of the south, the Kalahari desert to the east, and the dry riverbeds of the northern bushveld of the Windhoek region, as well as the harsh Namib Desert on the west coast. In Botswana, they mostly live in the Kalahari Desert in the southwestern and central parts of the country.