AskDefine | Define pronghorn

Dictionary Definition

pronghorn n : fleet antelope-like ruminant of western North American plains with small branched horns [syn: prongbuck, pronghorn antelope, American antelope, Antilocapra americana]

User Contributed Dictionary



From prong + horn.


  1. A North American mammal, Antilocapra americana, resembling an antelope, also called pronghorn antelope.


North American mammal

See also

Extensive Definition

The pronghorn (Antilocapra americana), also pronghorn antelope or prong buck, is a species of ungulate mammal native to interior western North America. It is the only surviving member of the family Antilocapridae.


Adult males are 1.3–1.5 m (4 1/4-5 ft) long from nose to tail and stand 81–104 cm (2 5/8-3 3/8 ft) high at the shoulder, and weigh 40–60 kg (88-132 lb). The females are as long, but average slightly less heavy, 40–50 kg (88-110 lb). The main color of adults is brown or tan, with a white rump and belly and two white stripes on the throat. A short dark mane grows along the neck, and males also sport a black mask and black patches on the sides of the neck. The tail is short, 7.5–17.8 cm (average 13.5 cm) long. The feet have just two hooves, with no dewclaws. The body temperature is 38.0 °C.
Both sexes bear a pair of horns on the top of the head, which are made up of an outer sheath of hairlike substance that grows around a bony core; the outer sheath is shed annually. Males have a horn sheath about 12.5–43 cm (mean 25 cm) long with a prong. Females have smaller horns, ranging from 2.5–15 cm (average 12 cm), and sometimes barely visible; they are straight and very rarely pronged. It can however sustain high speeds longer than cheetahs. The pronghorn probably evolved its running ability to escape from the recently extinct American cheetah, since its speed greatly exceeds that of extant North American predators. It has a very large heart and lungs, and their hair is hollow. Although built for speed, it is a very poor jumper. Their ranges are often affected by sheep ranchers' fences. However, they can be seen going under fences, sometimes at high speed. For this reason the Arizona Antelope Foundation and others are in the process of removing the bottom barbed wire from the fences, and/or installing a barbless bottom wire.
Gaits used by the pronghorn include the highly distinctive pronk, a leaping gait.


Pronghorns were brought to scientific notice by the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which found them in what is now South Dakota, USA. The range extends from southern Saskatchewan and Alberta in Canada south through the United States (southwestern Minnesota and central Texas west to northeastern California), to Sonora and San Luis Potosí in northern Mexico, with a small disjunct population in northern Baja California Sur. The subspecies known as the Sonoran pronghorn (Antilocapra americana sonoriensis) occurs in Arizona and Mexico. Bands of pronghorns live in open grasslands, forming small single-sex groups in spring and summer, and gathering into large mixed herds, sometimes up to 1,000 strong, in the fall and winter; they may migrate up to 160 km to avoid deep winter snow.


Pronghorns live primarily in grasslands but also in brushland and deserts. They eat a wide variety of plant foods, often including plants that are unpalatable or toxic to domestic livestock (sheep and cattle) though they also compete with these for food. In one study forbs comprised 62% of the diet, shrubs 23%, and grasses 15%, while in another, cacti comprised 40%, grass 22%, forbs 20%, and shrubs 18%.

Reproductive ecology

Pronghorns have a gestation period of 235 days, longer than is typical for North American ungulates. They breed in mid-September, and the doe carries her fawn until late May. This is around six weeks longer than the white-tailed deer. Newborn pronghorns weigh 2–4 kg, most commonly 3 kg. Sexual maturity is reached at 15 to 16 months, though males rarely breed until 3 years old. The longevity is typically up to 10 years, rarely 15 years.

Population and conservation

By 1908, hunting pressure had reduced the pronghorn population to about 20,000. Protection of habitat and hunting restrictions have allowed their numbers to recover to 500,000. There has been some recent decline, possibly due to overgrazing by sheep; pronghorn populations cannot maintain themselves successfully where sheep numbers are kept high.
Wolves, coyotes and bobcats are the major predators. Golden eagles have been reported to prey on fawns.
Pronghorns are now numerous enough that they exceed the human population in all of Wyoming and parts of northern Colorado. It is widely hunted in western states for purposes of population control and food, as the meat is rich and lean.
Three subspecies are considered endangered in all (A. a. sonoriensis, A. a. peninsularis), or part of their ranges (A. a. mexicana).

Other species

During the Pleistocene period, 12 antilocaprid species existed in North America; all but A. americana are now extinct.

See also


pronghorn in Bulgarian: Вилорога антилопа
pronghorn in Czech: Vidloroh americký
pronghorn in Danish: Gaffelbuk (dyr)
pronghorn in German: Gabelbock
pronghorn in Spanish: Antilocapra americana
pronghorn in Esperanto: Antilokapro
pronghorn in French: Pronghorn
pronghorn in Italian: Antilocapra americana
pronghorn in Hebrew: אנטילוקפרה אמריקנית
pronghorn in Lithuanian: Šakiaragis
pronghorn in Hungarian: Villásszarvú antilop
pronghorn in Dutch: Gaffelbok
pronghorn in Japanese: プロングホーン
pronghorn in Norwegian: Prærieantilope
pronghorn in Polish: Widłoróg
pronghorn in Portuguese: Antilocapra
pronghorn in Russian: Вилорог
pronghorn in Simple English: Pronghorn
pronghorn in Finnish: Hanka-antilooppi
pronghorn in Swedish: Gaffelantilop
pronghorn in Turkish: Amerika antilobu
pronghorn in Ukrainian: Вилоріг
pronghorn in Chinese: 叉角羚
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