How the African Waterbuck Differs from American Deer

Many confuse deer and antelope, believing that deer is an antelope and vice versa. Both animals are even-toed hoofed mammals, which accounts for the prevalent misconception. Deer, on the other hand, belong to a distinct family, whereas antelopes are more of a mishmash. This article aimed to provide readers with a better grasp of the differences between deer and antelope.

The African Water Buck 

First described in 1833 by Irish naturalist William Ogilby, the waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus) is an antelope of Kobus and the family Bovidae. It is a big species, measuring 177-235 cm in length and 120-136 cm in height. The waterbuck is commonly seen along riverbanks and lakes, scavenging for prey. Water is essential to the survival of these creatures, who consume grasses primarily and have a strict tolerance for dehydration. Waterbucks earned their name from the fact that they rely on the water more than other antelopes do and from the fact that they can swim to defend themselves.

One distinctive characteristic of a waterbuck that sets it apart from a deer is its horns. The horn of a waterbuck is made of Keratin, the same component found in nails, hair, claws, and hooves. While they are often mistakenly associated with deer, antelopes don’t shed their horns yearly, unlike deer. Their necks are covered in a mane of thick hair. As they become older, their fur becomes darker and tanner. On the other hand, males are darker than females—white rings above the hooves on the black lower parts of their legs.

In their diet, waterbucks eat a variety of grasses, both long and short. Waterbucks are primarily herbivores, eating 70 to 95 percent of their diet as grasses. Protein is critical to their diet, yet they spend less time-consuming leaves, tiny shoots, and fruits than most grazers. During the hottest part of the day, these animals prefer to rest and ruminate rather than eat. Waterbuck herd is usually composed of six to thirty members, a significant proof that they are social animals that prefer herding in the summer. Herds are frequently made up of nurseries, bachelor, or territorial males. To communicate, waterbucks use flehmen responses for visual and alarm snorts for proper communication because they are mute creatures. 

The American Deer

In the order Artiodactyla, there are 43 hoofed ruminants classified as deer, all of which have two sets of large and tiny hooves on each foot and antlers on all males and one female species, reindeer or caribou. Deer have enormous and sophisticated digestive systems; movable lips; large and intricate teeth; and a wide range of mouth movements. Deer, on the other hand, rely less on coarse-fibred grasses and lack the grazing specializations observed in bovids. When it comes to food, they prefer young grasses and herbs as well as lichens and ensilage—plant food with low fiber but high protein content, toxicity, and digestibility. One notable characteristic of deers is their beautiful antlers, each year, antlers develop and fall off the animal’s body. Velvet, a highly vascularized, nerve-filled skin with short, silky hairs, covers the antlers as they grow. Antlers grow for up to 150 days until the velvet dries and is rubbed off with the antlers against small trees and branches. During the mating season, deer use their antlers as weapons, shields, and display organs. Some tropical deer may keep their antlers for more than a year following the mating season. They breed yearly, and the gestation time ranges from around ten months to a year, depending on the species. A calf’s primary caregiver is its mother. They forage as a collective unit in herds. To get out of the way as soon as possible, they communicate with one another. A deer’s average lifespan is around 20 years.

The Similarities Between a deer and an Antelope

Both deer and antelopes are herbivores belonging to the Artiodactyla family. Artiodactyla are mammals with cloven hooves, and many large land animals are members of this order. A diverse group of animals that includes anything from cattle to deer and even includes giraffes and pig species belong to this group. A significant portion of their diets also includes plant-based ingredients to supplement.

Another distinctive similarity between a deer and an antelope is that young males and females antelope and deer are referred to as “bucks” and “does,” respectively, in the animal kingdom. Moreover, the terms stag (bucks) and hind (does) are both acceptable terms for deer, while the word “fawn” is used in both species to refer to their offspring. Female antelopes and deer tend to be smaller than their male counterparts. 

Deer and antelope are ruminants, which means they eat fermented food from their stomachs as they eat their prey. They regurgitate the meal and re-chew it. Artiodactyla use this as part of their digestive process, which aids their digestion. They are entirely reliant on the microorganisms that emerge during the fermentation process for them to survive.

Furthermore, deer and antelopes, being both members of the Artiodactyla, have evolved exceptionally rapid running ability. Both species have a reputation for being relatively quick runners. Antelopes, on the other hand, have developed significantly faster due to their natural habitat. As prey species, antelope must outrun predators like cheetahs. Antelopes have been observed running at speeds of up to 27 mph over extended periods. They are capable of speeds exceeding 50 mph. For their part, deer can run at speeds of up to 35 mph. They can’t keep up that pace for long periods.

The Notable Differences Between Antelope and a Deer

Despite the similarities of these animals, there are several differences between the two, which can help you identify which is which among the two. Even though deer and antelope are part of the same family tree, their ancestors can be traced back. Deer belong to the Cervidae family, and caribou and moose also fall. At the same time, antelopes are part of the Bovidae family, including bison, sheep, goats, and cattle.

For instance, deer and antelopes can be distinguished by their heads’ development, which can be seen by looking at their ears. Antlers on deer grow and shed each year. Their antlers change in form as they mature, it constantly branches out, creating beautiful patterns. In addition to the fact that antlers are unique to each year of growth, they also tend to become more prominent. A thick layer of woolly fuzz covers the antlers, which become more bulbous as they mature.

Additionally, deer lose their velvety antlers in the fall and winter, revealing the bone crown of this beast beneath the hardened fur. For the most part, antlers can only be found on male deer. Even though it is extremely rare, female deer can develop antlers if there is an abnormally high testosterone level in the herd. Caribou or reindeer are the only deer species whose females may grow antlers.

On the other hand, the horns of antelopes mature into a single shape, making them a distinct species. Various antelope species have horns with a variety of patterns. For instance, some antelopes have horns that are straight and pointed. When it comes to marking, wild goats, on the other hand, have horns that resemble a scimitar. Antelope horns do not branch out and do not shed. This is the most significant distinction between deer antlers and antelope horns. When an antelope breaks its horn, they permanently lost. Horns are an essential part of the antelope’s anatomy for males of all antelope species. Females are also horned, unlike deer, which only have one-third of the population with horns.

Furthermore, the two animals also differ in size and life span; the size of a deer can vary greatly depending on the species they belong to. Some deer-folk, like the moose, are small and light, while others, like the black bear, are enormous and hefty. From ten kilograms to 800 kilograms, the average weight of a deer species might vary widely. A deer may typically live between 10 and 20 years, and Six-year-olds can expect to acquire full maturity. At the same time, a typical antelope weighs anything from 40 to 60 kilograms. They have a somewhat longer life expectancy than deer, but it is not by much. They usually live between 10 and 25 years.

Antelope and deer may be members of the same family of land animals. Because of their likeness, however, they are separate species. The closest they can be compared are second cousins. Look for the horns and antlers to immediately identify the two animals. Although their size and subspecies vary, their horns are the most distinguishing feature.