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Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi


Blesbok are a species of antelope which are indigenous to the open grasslands of South Africa. This species was first discovered by settlers in the 17th century and their numbers were said to be so huge that they filled the horizon.

However, blesbok were hunted for their skin and for meat and by the 19th century they were on the verge of extinction. Protective measures have since been put in place and the population has sufficiently increased to the point that the species has been removed from the endangered list.

These antelope get their name from the word ‘bles’ which in African means ‘blaze’ and refers to the very broad white stripe down the face. Both males and females have horns which can be up to 38 centimetres long.

Belfast Zoo was the first zoo in Ireland to breed blesbok. We are home to five blesboks after our latest arrival, Betty Bantu, in 2018. 

Animal class

Grasslands and savannah

Diet - Herbivore
The main element of the blesbok’s diet is grass.

The average blesbok can measure up to 1.6 metres and can weigh up to 70 kilograms.

Blesbok are found in the open grasslands of South Africa.

Conservation status
The IUCN does not regard the blesbok as being threatened.

Habitat change is a major threat to the blesbok due to the expansion of agriculture. Hunting of the blesbok is also a threat.

Current population
Blesbok are abundant in South Africa yet there are still hunted for their meat.

Zoo population
There are 220 blesbok living in zoos around the world.