Antilocapridae – Pronghorn

Pronghorns are the fastest land mammals after the cheetah but can maintain their speed for much longer

The American Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) is a unique and fascinating species, the only surviving member of the family Antilocapridae. These remarkable creatures, often mistakenly called antelopes, are native to the grasslands of North America.

Pronghorns are distinguished by their distinctive horns, which are unlike those of any other animal. These horns, which can grow on both males and females (though they are more prominent in males), consist of a sheath of keratin that grows over a bony core. The horns are forked or pronged, giving the pronghorn its name. In a unique twist among horned animals, pronghorns shed the outer sheath of their horns annually, a trait that sets them apart from true antelopes, deer, and other ruminants whose horns or antlers have different growth patterns.

Their diet consists primarily of succulent, protein-rich vegetation, which helps sustain their high-energy lifestyle. Pronghorns are selective feeders, browsing a variety of plants to meet their nutritional needs. This diet is crucial for their survival, especially in the harsh, fluctuating climates of their native grasslands.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the pronghorn is its incredible speed and stamina. Pronghorns are the second-fastest land mammal in the world, capable of reaching speeds up to 55 miles per hour (88.5 km/h). This speed and extraordinary endurance allow them to outrun virtually any predator over long distances. It is believed that their incredible speed is an evolutionary response to now-extinct predators that once roamed North America.

Pronghorns also possess exceptional eyesight, which is among the best in the animal kingdom. Their large, wide-set eyes allow them to monitor their surroundings for predators over vast distances, up to 3 miles (5 km) away. This keen eyesight is a critical survival tool on the open plains, where cover is sparse, and predators can be spotted from far off.