Even more plentifully scattered across the African plains of the Masai Mara than zebras are impalas.
Every time that I saw one, I could not help myself from saying, “Oh deer!”
What can I say? I am a dad. Dad jokes just make sense.
In all seriousness, though, impalas are not actually deer—even though they sure look like African deer.
Scientifically speaking, deer come from the family Cervidae, a group that includes elk, moose, reindeer, and the roe deer. Antelope come from the family Bovidae, which means they are technically more closely related to cattle, bison, and buffalo than they are to deer.
Even now that I have said it… who knows… what any of that actually meant?!
They still kind of just look like African deer to me. I mean, I’m no expert, but I do have eyeballs.
Did you know:
- Male impalas use their voice for two important actives. Male Impalas serve as the guardians of their herd, which is a role they take seriously. If they sense danger, they will let out a loud, raspy bark to alert the rest of the herd. This bark serves as a warning for the herd to be on the lookout for potential predators. Male impalas also make a unique sound that has been described as a combination of a dog’s bark and a lion’s roar. This sound can be heard from a great distance, and it is believed that this sound is used to attract potential mates and to ward off other males from the same area.
- Male impalas will grow long horns, while the female impalas do not. A herd can be anywhere from a dozen impalas to hundreds of impalas. Typically one male will be surrounded by many, many females.
- Our Tour Guide told us to “look for Solomon” when we encountered a herd of impalas. This was in reference to the Biblical Solomon, who was known for having many wives. During the mating season, the male impala will take many female partners. The female impalas will typically each give birth to a single baby impala.
- Male impalas are more territorial than relational. Rather than migrate, or travel with a herd, they challenge another male impala over a specific territory. If victorious, they begin to rule over the females within their newly acquired territory. They will then spend up to one-quarter of their day guarding their territory and trying to attract more females into the herd within their territory. This activity cuts into their ability to eat well. As a result they quickly become too weak to hold the territory they won in battle. Within a couple of months they will be too weak to fend off a challenging male—often the same male they previously defeated—who is coming back to reclaim his territory.
- Both male and female impalas have scent glands located above their rear hooves, marked by black tufts. When an impala leaps high into the air, the glands excrete a scent that can be followed by the rest of the herd to regroup after a predator scare.