Antelopes are some of the few animals who do not only survive the open, rather dried plains of this state of the Thar Desert, but rather lead a thriving existence there. Evidently, most of the antelopes prefer open plains and grasslands over lush green forests, despite being entirely herbivores. Nevertheless, it is fascinating to catch a sight of these extremely shy animals grazing on the broken plains of Rajasthan.
These elegant animals of deer/gazelle family have quite a preserved habitat in Rajasthan. Indeed, when from around the world efforts are being made to protect this ‘Vulnerable’ specie, Rajasthan boasts of having over 80,000 Chinkaras living within the state boundaries, with a stable population trend.
Also known as Indian Gazelle, Chinkara is one of the smallest antelope specie residing in Asian continent. Their build is short, yet gracefully muscular. Their coat of light chestnut color gets easily blend in the sandy terrain of the state. The most recognizable physical features of Chinkaras are their horns (ringed and slightly curved near the end) and their short flickering tail.
In Rajasthan, chinkaras feed on grass, and other fruits, locally available ber being their favorite. They are quite adapt to the arid region of the state, and can live without water for long durations, often surviving on dew present on plants for days. They are shy, and are rarely caught trespassing agricultural lands.
- The Blackbuck or Indian Antelope
One of the most beautiful antelopes residing in Rajasthan, Blackbuck is the true representative of the genus Antilope of Indian subcontinent. The dark gradient black coats with contrasting white fur on face, spiral horns and elaborated eyes, are all those factors that give this elegant gazelle a unique beauty, patrons of which are the animal lovers across the globe.
Locally known as the Kala hiran, black buck also has a sort of religious significance; supposedly being the favorite animal of the folk goddess Karni Mata. Coincidentally, blackbucks are matriarchal, i.e., the herds of blackbucks are led by the oldest and most mature doe or matriarch.
Apart from beauty, this gazelle is also known for its splendid speed, and keen eyesight. They run at a whooping speed of 50 mph and can leap 25 feet in a single bound.
- The Blue Bull or the Nilgai
Endemic to Indian subcontinent, Nilgai or Blue bull is the largest antelope found in Asia. The average height and weight of a Nilgai buck is 4.5 ft. and 500 lbs. respectively. The sturdy girth of the antelope is definitely an important trait, but not the only one. With a sloping body like that of horse, and low rump and face like that of a cow, the appearance of this grayish blue mammal too is captivating.
As compared to the other Asian antelope bucks, Nilgai have stouter horns and a distinct tuft of hair on throat. Nilgai, being a bovidae (a member of cow family) is considered sacred by many communities in Rajasthan, and its meat is rarely consumed by the people of Rajasthan. In fact, hunting Nilgai was considered illegal till the late 20th century; afterwards the increasing cases of cultivated lands’ raiding made the government reconsider the events, and include the mammal into the category of pests.
Despite all these difficulties, Nilgai never changed their eating preferences and are still fond of grazing onto open plains and scrubs rather than dense forests. The favorite food for Nilgai in Rajasthan is ber fruits and leaves and alike black bucks, they too can survive for a long period without water.
- The Sambar
The largest member of deer family, Sāmbhar is a beautiful antelope with big antlers found in the greener parts of Rajasthan. The shaggy coat of the animal makes it difficult for it to survive the hot climatic conditions of the drier regions of the state.
Unlike its previously mentioned counterparts, Sambar prefers eating leaves and wild fruit, though they have no aversion for grass. Another glaring distinction between Sambar and other antelopes found in Rajasthan is that the formers are good swimmers.
Sāmbhars are also quite nimble on land as well. They can leap with incredible swiftness, considering their heavy girth, which can weigh up to 546 kilograms.